Why I Serve
The first time I volunteered was when I was sixteen. I learned how fulfilling it is to be useful to other people. I was a highly committed student at the time, and while I loved keeping my nose in a book, my actions really only had an effect on myself (my grades, my education, my life and all its ambitions). When I volunteered, I encountered a new risk and a new incredible joy: the realization that my actions could have an impact on others, a constant truth in all parts of life, but so frequently unobserved.
Sometimes in service, I make mistakes, Sometimes, I am not helpful. This is very hard. But most times, I locate goodness within myself, and more often within others. My attention is called back to, as Mary Oliver puts it, my “place in the family of things.”
How I Serve
I first encountered the L’Arche community when I was in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps NW in Seattle, and I was immediately struck by the warmth and companionship that emanated from everyone I met there. L’Arche is an international organization that has created over a hundred communities for people with and without disabilities. As their website explains, “Those with intellectual disabilities form the heart of our shared life and invite others into mutual relationships. We welcome each person’s unique gifts and challenges, and offer opportunities for personal transformation.”
When I moved to Portland and started my typical nine-to-five, I wondered how to make my evenings more meaningful. I contacted L’Arche and asked if there was some way I could serve their community. In true L’Arche fashion, I was invited over for dinner and once again was overcome by their open-heartedness.
Once a week, I prepare a meal for the community and share my time with the assistants and core members. It provides the community members with an evening where they don’t have to think about cooking dinner, and it provides me the opportunity to share my life with fantastic people. It is a very simple thing. It is consistently the most life-giving part of my week.