Once upon a time, there was an old lady who swore to never step foot in Goshen College.

“No chance I’m going there,” she said stubbornly. “So full of rich people.”

She lived in a rotting house that she maintained paycheck by paycheck, but after being laid off twice, maintenance of any kind was a challenge.

One day, a group of volunteers gave her door a knock, asking if they could do anything for her. She put them to work, having them stack some lumber and load a pile of garbage into her truck bed.

The old lady told amusing stories about her life, and the volunteers listened intently. They hung out and ate barbeque ribs together – the old lady claimed to make the best barbeque.

When it was time to go, the volunteers invited the old lady to a concert on the college campus.

She hesitated for a moment, narrowed her eyes and then looked at them, contemplating. “What time does it start?” she asked.


Back to GC

This wasn’t an anecdote about how to make people warm up to GC, although I guess it was successful in that way, too.

This was a story about what happens when volunteers are active in a community.

The way I see it, two awesome changes happen:

People become engaged in the community because they’re invested in it. All of a sudden that old lady wants to get involved with other things happening in the community because she is the recipient of a gift, and she wants to give back. It’s like experiencing that Christmas cheer, all year round.

Most importantly, I think, everyone gets to know one another.

We all have our prejudices, whether we admit them or not. Especially in the city of Goshen, I’ve heard a lot of prejudices about GC students.

The same thing happens vice versa: some people within GC have prejudices against certain community groups. But when volunteers are active in a community, those prejudices start to break apart.

Everybody gets to know one another on a deeper level, and communities become more united.

I volunteer for several reasons, in no specific order:

1. Shoveling driveways, hauling trash or any other physical labor is a great workout.

2. People genuinely appreciate the help.

3. Aging people love the companionship of young volunteers.

4. I feel good when I know I’m helping somebody. It’s refreshing and life-giving to know that I’m contributing to a greater cause.

5. I believe in leading by example – the best way to instigate change is to be the change.

That last one is the kicker: there’s a lot of talk about the change we desire, and volunteering is a really effective way to put it into action.

This Saturday, Service Club and a group of prospective students will help build a house with La Casa. The event starts at 10:30 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m., and a free meal will be provided. Those interested should email isaacf@goshen.edu.