Volunteer or Puppeteer

Caring for the others or yourself? What is high school mandated community service really about?

Photo by: Elaine Casap; Source: Unsplash

I have been volunteering since I was about four years old. My mother always felt it was necessary that my brother and I maintain some sense of selflessness in a world that is fairly selfish. I grew up in an area where everyone has more than they need, they have almost everything they could want. They have basketball courts and their own personal drinking fountains. They have pool houses and boats and bentleys and lots of them. So my parents made a conscious effort to keep my brother and me, well, grounded. To let us know not everyone has everything. So since I was four I have been serving food to the elderly on Thanksgiving morning. No matter what, we all wake up, bright eyed and bushy tailed on that Thursday morning to go help others who are less fortunate than ourselves. THAT is volunteering and THAT is community service. But if that is what volunteering is, than what is being mandated in high schools across the nation?What do we call the requirement to help others because it is definitely not being done on a volunteer basis. I agree with the notion that it is important to make people aware of the significance of volunteering, but to what extent? Do we sacrifice the integrity of what it means to help others just to get people involved? The biggest requirement for community service should be motive and heart, not the amount of hours endured written on a piece of paper to turn into school.

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. -Albert Einstein
Not everything can be counted. Photo by: Paul Bergmeir; Source: Unsplash

Receiving four hours from the elderly home on Thanksgiving is more of a slap of a face than a reward. How can you take my act of kindness and give it a number? How can you label and quantify the sentimental significance of the event? What does the mere four hours represent? Does it account for my loyalty and dedication to do this year after year? Does it recognize the time and work I put into rearranging family plans ? Does it consider the fact that I have never left town to visit friends or family on Thanksgiving because I have an obligation to help others? What does it account for? Nothing. It is just four hours towards my “requirement.” You can make people to do things, but you cannot make them care. In this case, the foundation of caring far exceeds in importance than the act of getting something done. The majority of the kids who beat the system, maxing out the amount of community service hours, are not necessarily good, wholesome people. They are simply another player in the game. They do as little as they can to reap the greatest amount of benefits and kudos to them for their strategic approach to high school, but that is where that ends. They do not earn any gratification or recognition for their heart or for their dedication to help others. Intention is important. It is not all about the numbers. We seem to forget that now in days.