I cannot help you fully comprehend what is on my mind because I’m not the best at articulating my thoughts, but I’ll try.
As much as I loved the idea of volunteering and service-learning, I was also just as skeptical of the whole concept. Why did people even participate in service-learning? I mean, what percent of the world’s individuals actually sets aside their time to truly volunteer out of the purity of their hearts? Through the service-learning center, numerous students put in their hours because it is required for their class, whether it is for social work, Spanish, education, or nursing. Some students participate in service-learning for volunteer hours on their transcript, some for their résumé. Some individuals do it for the praise, or to feel better about themselves for their “good deeds.”
There is nothing wrong with the list I gave above; in fact, what the service-learning center and other individuals are doing is marvelous! But I cannot deny the cynical side of me that wished that I could look into the hearts of other individuals and call out their hypocrisy. As for myself, I was no different from the way I imagined the rest of humanity to be. I struggled with the question of my own agenda behind serving (and of course, learning).
But now I know that’s not the point. The point is how an individual develops through the process of engaging in service-learning. It’s that point of transformation we go through where we are no longer spending two hours to go help the poor and marginalized, but are going to visit a friend. I think everyone is capable of experiencing a turning point in their service-learning, where they find their hearts in the right place—without a selfish agenda. Or somewhere along that continuum. For me, it was through meeting a particular refugee family.
I’ll be honest. In the beginning, I wanted to visit the family in order to have a sense of responsibility of making this world a better place. I was satisfying the parts of my heart where I felt helpless and disconnected to the rest of the world.
But it was something about that raw human to human interaction. Cooking with them, eating with them, playing card games with them, reading to them, and sharing stories with them… It was no longer me versus them. This is going be suuuuper cheesy, but “WE” built this deep bond that I cannot quite explain. It’s the feeling of wanting only the best for them. It’s also the feeling of wanting to show them around Grand Rapids. It’s the feeling of joy when you notice their immense progress in English skills. It’s the feeling of wanting to mourn with them, as well as rejoice with them. It’s also the feeling of wanting to fight injustice in this world for them. I know that I have experienced the true reciprocity of the meaning of service-learning by befriending this family.
I am not saying that my actions are purely pure from the purest of my pure heart. I’m a sinner, too. But I feel like I can now say that I am slowly walking closer to the way I want things to be.