What Does Service Mean to Me?
To answer the question presented above, I will start by defining the word “service” as it appears in The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition. The entry for the word is as follows:
Service- n. “Work done for others as an occupation or business; Active devotion; work done for others.”
From a personal perspective, the way that I define “service” has changed recently, which I will get to later. In the past, I would view the word “service” and the word “sacrifice” as two words with the same meaning. To serve something other than oneself, whether it be a cause, a country, people, the planet, anything, requires time, focus, and energy. This is time, focus, and energy that one intentionally forfeits for the sake of something or someone else; and it is usually thought to be for something of a lesser value…usually.
In my case, my year of service as a VISTA has required me to make sacrifices I never saw myself making before now. Sure, I knew this year would be tough financially and I would have to work extra hard to make it work. I knew this beforehand, considered it, and decided it didn’t matter because the opportunity was worth it to me.
Until you actually live it, feel it, and experience it in the present tense, you don’t have any idea of what an experience will actually be like; it’s simply a dream of the future. In my life, I have worked hard and I know what it feels like. In terms of sacrifices this year, I took a pay cut which has required me to work two jobs so that I can support myself financially. Working two jobs requires a person to surrender a lot of personal time and energy, and there are many hard working people who know the meaning and feeling of this sacrifice very well.
Sure, there are times when I don’t want to make sacrifices and I have to remind myself of the bigger picture. I have to remind myself that I make these choices and sacrifices with the intentions of entering a field that will allow me to dedicate my life’s work to the greater good of humanity and the planet. So, service and sacrifice are indeed necessary sometimes.
There is something that I became aware of during my service this year and through the sacrifices that I have made. Through service, I have only gained. I have gained inner strength and I have prevailed against many odds. I have gained opportunities, opportunities to help others, to make others feel that they are important, opportunities for future career paths, opportunities to shine. I have gained friendships that are genuine, beautiful, and supportive. I have gained direction in terms of fulfilling my purpose. I have gained the ability to believe that I truly hold the capacity to create my future and the possibilities are endless.
I have gained hope because I know that I can truly make a difference.
Service may be about sacrifice and devotion, but for me, service has given me so many things of a much greater value.
By: Lindsey Jenkins, Marketing Assistant
2015-2016 AmeriCorps VISTA member