By Sarah Valdes • September 05, 2020•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence, Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life, Other Issues
Can you truly be selfless when you’re doing something good for others? Is there such a thing as a selfless good deed? For those of you of who were philosophy majors, maybe you spent entire semesters debating the morality of your actions. For me, I attribute most of my philosophical musings on whether you can truly be completely selfless to some couch conversations while watching “The Good Place.” Even though I probably didn’t start thinking about how a good deed made me feel until Chidi started teaching us all a little bit more about philosophy, I have always thought about community service as just something you did because it was right. I was raised in the Catholic church and attended a Catholic high school. I am forever grateful for the legacy of service Catholic education left me- though a bit less thrilled about the photographs of me in unflattering uniforms that have ALSO stuck with me. So by now, you may assume I have always been deliberate about making room for service. But somewhere between no longer having to submit a log of hours to a service coordinator for school credit and learning about the wonders of the Socratic method, service to the community stopped being a priority for me.
2020 forced me to think about what I could do to make positive change. It has been just too hard of a year to not try to do something positive for others. Actively engaging in community service helped me not only feel like there was an inkling of hope that things won’t always be this way, but it also helped me not feel so isolated in a world where everything from weekly meetings to weddings are over Zoom. So maybe it’s a little selfish, but right now, that may be ok. Below are some of my tips on how to stay engaged with your community via service for some joy (whether it’s theirs or yours).
Start small. If you haven’t checked out my post on checking with yourself and goal setting, you can do so here. There I discuss the importance of setting goals in different areas of your life. If you’re interested in incorporating more of a commitment to service in your life, start by setting some benchmarks for yourself. You would be surprised how volunteering quarterly can slowly turn into volunteering once a month. Suddenly the idea of volunteering is no longer daunting.
Plug into existing networks. Your local bar associations, church groups, and schools, etc., typically have several initiatives already in place. Next time you see your church’s monthly newsletter, take a few extra moments to see what they have coming down the pipeline.
Make it fun! I live in a COVID hotspot and have made the conscious decision to stay home as much as possible. Sometimes that means that I feel that swear word my mother forbade: “bored”. Don’t be afraid to turn a service project into something fun. Making sandwiches for the homeless can be less of a chore if you do it on a Friday night, complete with some tunes and beverages of your choice!
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I recently learned about how many virtual volunteering opportunities exist. If you want to sharpen those legal skills while giving back, check out those voluntary bar associations for opportunities for pro bono work. If you have a non-legal unique skill or hobby that you’d like to develop, like graphic design or translation, several nonprofits need these services. You can make a difference right from your laptop.
Incorporate your family or friend group. While some may love virtual game nights, others may be growing a little tired of having to repeat their Taboo clues a few times because of bandwidth issues. Why not connect with your loved ones to work on a community service project? Pick a favorite recipe and cook along your friend. Donate your creations to your local food pantry. Get the kiddos involved in a mask-making project to donate to your local homeless shelter. Yes, there are about a thousand other things that you need to do. But it may be a great opportunity to show those around you that we all have the responsibility to help others even, and especially, when times are tough. Do it because it makes you feel good. Do it because it’s right.