Serving Students Through Education What It Means To The Underdogs And The Future Of America

1128 words - 5 pages

To begin, it is important to see, through the materials presented in the class, what service is. According to Merriam-Webster, service is defined as “the work performed by one that serves”, “contribution to the welfare of others”, or “a helpful act” (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2014). These definitions are severely flawed. The first definition focus solely on the action involved. A “server” at a restaurant, by this understanding, would perform service similar to ours, as they are indeed serving. The second is an improvement. Someone’s welfare can greatly be adjusted through service. However, the true impact is unclear. Is it a one-time thing, or changes over time? Does the act just touch ...view middle of the document...

It is easy to see how this is reassuring. “If we help one, we made a difference. Pack up our bags. Let’s go home.” This is not the case, however. Problems in service are not simple, solutions may do no harm than good, and it does not reflect what it means to work with others.
I came to understand this after reading a speech given by Monsignor Ivan Illich. The monsignor was asked to speak to a group of students who were about to embark on a service trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico (To Hell With Good Intentions, 1968). Illich’s speech was honest and brutal. Contextually, the children attending were white, middle-upper class, and many had never left the United States. Illich touched on their hypocrisies, informing them that their sole accomplishment would be more hurtful than helpful: that they would cross their border waving flags of democracy, wealth, happiness these people could never have. He compared it to an invasion, taking what the people knew as life a molding it into the Americans. In essence, they would do nothing to make the citizens’ lives better, and leave them desiring what they cannot have. At the time that I read this piece, I had just returned from a service trip to Tijuana. We helped feed the poor, painted a woman’s house, and held a carnival for some children. But what we did not realize we did was poison them. As each person pulled out their iPhone to take a picture, or put on $200 sunglasses to keep their sun out of their eyes, we showed a group of people what benefits we reaped: luxury and joy. The benefits that Illich spoke about to students just like us. Hurling starfish carelessly one at a time kept us from seeing the real problems underneath. A problem that we could not fix by going there, and in actuality, only made worse.
The true definition of service is to more than an act. It is being self-aware. I have come to define service as “a series of acts, or one lengthy act, that creates long-term benefits to individuals and the community they exist in”. Dissecting this further, we see that service is not just “an act of kindness”. Service is commitment to the betterment of a problem seen in the world. When committing for a long period of time, the true sources of the problem become apparent. We don’t just look at...

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