As Henry the 8th said to one of his wives, “I won’t keep you long”.
Good evening, members and guests of the Lions Club.
The average American high school student is in school 7 hours a day, from 8AM to 3PM and is asleep 9 hours a day, from 10PM to 7AM. Over the years, I have noticed that San Mateo County high school students are not your average American high school students. Most of us are at school from sunrise to sunset, club meeting here, track meet there, “mom! I’ll be home for dinner by six!” That’s 10 hours a day at school! Thank God I’m graduating soon. And 9 hours of sleep a day? Who sleeps 9 hours a day? I know I don’t, I’ll be lucky to get 6. And now they’re asking us to do community service? On weekends?
Over the years, interest in community service has slowly declined. People are hesitant to give their time and are more likely to point fingers and say, “community service? That’s their job.” Whose job?
Some will say that community service is the government’s responsibility. They have the funds and the manpower. However, we see that the government is slowly abandoning the country’s needy by such actions as welfare reform. In 1996, the states were allowed to cut welfare benefits to those who need them most. Professor Coffin at Harvard University, believes that “governments are not good at creating a fabric of care in communities” anyway, and that THAT should be where the churches come in.
And by some estimates, churches spend a total of $12 billion dollars a year on services for the needy. That number however, does not include the volunteers and their countless hours of service. Yet, community service is still declining. Why?
Some say its because the kids aren’t helping out. Kids these days don’t care about their community. Schools have to make community service a requirement to be able to graduate. Today’s youth should be responsible for community service. They have the energy and the enthusiasm, they have the time, and if anything, they’ll serve the community that they’ll grow up in, and maybe even their children will grow up in.
Or maybe community service should be the responsibility of the citizens who cannot abide by the law of the land. The citizen who jeopardizes the safety of the community should be obligated to give back to the community what he or she has taken from it.
The average number of community service hours ordered for an offense between 1997 and 1998 was 100 hours. Negligent driving was punished by 150 hours of community service, arson 175, and robbery 200 hours. So if you think about it, if a person was driving drunk, decided to rob a store, then got scared and set the store on fire, they would be serving the community 525 hours. Can you imagine? What a citizen! 525 hours of community service! Now that’s admirable, community service must be their responsibility.
President Clinton said in him memorandum to the executive departments and agencies that, “community service is a great American tradition and a profound expression of the civic values that bind us together as a Nation”. So whose responsibility is community service really? It’s mine, its yours, its even the lovely lady in the blue’s responsibility. Those who prosper, use, or simply even live and are safe in our community are obligated to a certain degree to give back to the community.
The people who work in San Mateo County’s businesses can give a small donation to their local Park and Recreation Department, for better uniforms and more equipment. High school students who have reaped the benefits of San Mateo County’s excellent public education can help a nearby elementary schoolteacher correct papers. Children who have a safe place to play can pick up a candy wrapper on the ground here and there. Even the elderly, who finally get to enjoy the beauty and environment of our community, can simply smile at someone who looked like they had a bad day.
Sadly, most people these days don’t have enough time to volunteer. They complain about everyone being so competitive and never reaching out a helping hand. Then they get so depressed and feel so alienated and alone. They feel disconnected from the world, from others, from their community. And you wonder why, what are they doing? Better yet, what are they not doing.
I’d like you to try an activity with me. Imagine, somewhere in the future,that you’re looking back on your life. Think of two thinks you’re glad you did. Don’t try to rationalize and reason, what are the first two things that pop into mind?
Now I learned in psychology, that those two things usually have to do with a sense of helping, belonging, or loving. Maybe you’re glad you bought that dog, maybe you’re glad you married your husband or wife, instead of “so and so”. Or maybe you’re just glad you left work early today, it was beautiful outside today, and hey, it’s Friday. You got to come here and meet the Lions Club members, and even hear us speak. Whatever it may be, studies show that they’re usually not dramatic life-altering acts, but rather, simple random acts of kindness.
Community service is not only an obligation to the community, it is also an obligation to ourselves. Community service satisfies and fulfills a basic human need, a need to help others and be connected. We may not think that we can make a difference, or that community service will make a difference in us, but studies show that community service builds self-confidence, develops a positive attitude, and makes us feel good. Studies show that 89% of teenagers said they volunteer because it makes them feel good. 81% said that they learned skills they wouldn’t have learned elsewhere.
When we feel alienated alone, we can go out and help others, give a little of ourselves. Community service helps us “get out of ourselves” and pay attention to others. It helps us in our relationships with friends, family members, and co-workers. It makes us forget about what we don’t have and be thankful for what we do have.
When we do something for another person, a simple message on a piece of paper, even our mere presence, might make that person’s day. As Geneva Johnson, chief executive officer of Family Services of America said in her speech to Case Western University, “one of the values we profess in America is we believe in commitments and loyalties beyond ourselves. We humans have shown ourselves capable of nobility, of kindness, and of generosity. We must draw on our strength from those who exhibit the best that is in them.”
I’d like to end with a n analogy from Henry Emerson Fos*censored*’s 1920 book on the “meaning of service”. It is an analogy from the Holy Land that talks about rivers, rivers that run parallel to human life.
The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are made of the same water. It flows down, clear and cool, from the heights of Harmon to the roots of the cedars of Lebanon. The Sea of Galilee makes beauty of it, for the Sea of Galilee has an outlet – it gets to give. It gathers in its riches that it may pour them out again to fertilize the Jordan plain – but the Dead Sea, with the same water, makes a horror. For the Dead Sea has no outlet – “it gets to keep”. Notice especially the phrase “it gets to give”. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
Thank you for your time, I wish you ladies good luck, have a wonderful evening.