Over Thanksgiving break, I took part in a college-aged volunteer group in my area, REACH. This group is designated to offer college students with volunteer opportunities over their college breaks and make them ‘reach’ out to the less privileged. Some events include trips to the nursing homes on Valentines Day, and visiting orphanages and hospitals around Christmas time. The group units the community through celebrating the holidays, some people might say that the holidays are the loneliest times of the year, but REACH bridges the community together to act as a family as we celebrate together.
This year for Thanksgiving we helped out at a soup kitchen for the homeless. The soup kitchen offered families a place to go and enjoy a meal with friends and family.
The soup kitchen allowed me to see how the people were satisfied in celebrating Thanksgiving in a local high school cafeteria. It made me appreciate what I have, and let me evaluate that holidays are special because of the people you celebrate it with, not where or when you celebrate it. REACH holds a place in my heart, because we formed a family within the community, and allowed everyone the opportunity to celebrate the holidays in a special way no matter where we are and the amount of money we use to decorate and spend on food.
I really enjoy taking part in the group because it allows me to feel more connected to my community. Not only do the students form a close bond, but we learn a lot about the community we grew up in. Loyola has allowed me to become more interested in the lifestyles around me. Although I have lived in Oakland my whole life, being a part of the Jesuit lifestyle has showed me what is out there, and this volunteer group has opened my eyes to the different realities that have been present in my life, but I never saw until I became a part of the Jesuit tradition.
The Jesuit tradition has left a life long imprint on my life, and allowed me to pass the tradition of service to those around me. The Jesuit lifestyle impacts everyone around you and is contagious. Considering that two of my three sisters decided to join the group, made me feel that I had a Jesuit impact on their life because now they look at the world and question what they can do to assist in the unification of all people. This goes to show that service as an experience has an impact on ones life, not only in the sense of helping the community, but recognizing that we are all alike.
This domino effect of service, made me come to realization that service shouldn’t be like pulling teeth, it should be an experience that you want to take part in. Service is the cycle of life, and by helping others, you help yourself in the understanding of life as a whole. The specific experiences hold a place in your heart forever, and each have an effect on your life, no matter the amount of time you put in, but more importantly the amount of effort and heart you contribute to the experience.