I have to admit that I am thankful that Celebrate Service Day (CSD) is over. As I finish up my work on this event for another year, I continue to reflect upon the helpful feedback I got from a number of RAs. From their perspective, it seems that many of you, GC students, don’t understand why we do this whole service day thing. It can seem like a chore–something we do because we have to, or because it’s tradition.As the organizer, I confess that tradition can be a dangerous thing. I get caught up in the organizational details and forget that just because we do it every year doesn’t mean that we are clear on why we do this every year.
Short-term service, especially one day gigs, has a lot of problems. There is the risk that CSD could fall into tokenism where we end up doing service for the press coverage, or maybe to assure ourselves that we are doing something good in the world. But I don’t believe that this is what CSD is all about, so I thought I’d take a moment to share some of the reasons why I see this day as a valuable tradition.
First, while the work may seem trivial and your particular contribution might be slight, I hear from organizations that they are extremely grateful for your help. One host site even said that their gratitude is beyond words. For organizations that are overstretched, getting a few more things off the “to-do” list is very valuable, and sometimes the simple fact that people are willing to take the time to come and offer help is enough to lift spirits.
Second, I recognize that one day ‘drive-by’ service is not ideal. But it is a starting point. Jesus’ instruction to love our neighbours as ourselves is harder to obey if we aren’t familiar with our neighbourhood. I hope that CSD will help you get to know the larger Goshen community better and introduce you to some of the good work that is being done. And hey, if this leads to some of you making regular volunteer work a part of your college experience, fabulous!
There is much more that could be said on this subject, but space is short, so to those of you who participated in CSD this year: thank you. Thanks for your work, for your presence, and for continuing to ask good questions about what service means and why we do what we do.
Tamara Shantz is the Assistant Campus Pastor at Goshen College