Thursday, November 17, 2011

Response to "Day of Service"


            Day of Service. It’s the one day each year when you get the opportunity to give back to your community, to help those underprivileged people who you don’t pay attention to the other 364 days. What a noble cause. And look at that, it’s right before Thanksgiving—how perfect. It sounds like a truly great event. And it is, but nothing in this world is as simple as it appears.
            Despite Jake’s enthusiasm for the Day of Service, I see it as a much darker occurrence. Allow me to explain. It’s hyped up to be the day when you have a chance to take place in selfless acts for the benefit of the community. I see no issue with benefitting the community; the problem is with both hyping and selflessness. One half-day of community service does not fulfill your quota for the year. You can’t justify you’ve “given back” after three hours writing greeting cards. The psychology is all wrong. The school acts like it’s such a good thing that we have this day, but the fact that we advertise it as “fun” kind of deflates its significance. People go home afterwards feeling benevolent and satisfied. Sure, you helped, but to really make an impact, it’s gonna take more than a few hours.
            Then there’s the issue of why. Why was this day created? The truth is that it wasn’t created out of necessity, it was created for some other reason. And that makes it almost arbitrary. “Hey, how about, on the day before Thanksgiving break, we have all the kids do community service? It’ll be nice.” That, to me, seems like absolutely the wrong reason to start such a tradition. “We’re being selfless. We’re helping the community.” No, you’re coming in to school and following directions given to you by an adult because that’s what you were told to do. Not to mention, (however clichéd this may be) if you feel good after doing something “selfless”, can’t the case be made that you did it out of self-interest? It seems to be the accursed question of community service, but that’s for another day.
            The Day of Service is not a bad thing, but I question the way it is perceived and what it’s true purpose is. I’m against something that instills a sense of superficial altruism in students. I can’t say, with certainty, that the Day of Service does this, but I ask you to think hard about why you’re actually partaking in it.