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Friday, June 27, 2008

Looking Inside

But why?
Why am I here? Why this? Why now? But why?
Why have I always done community service?
I feel like I’ve answered this question numerous times in essays and for applications. I’m sure each time I’ve come up with some poignant and satisfying answers but I don’t think I actually know why I dedicate so much of my time to community service. I can say a lot of things, uncover a lot of intentions but deep down inside I don’t know why I do it, I just do it.
In Robert Coles book, he interviews a rabbi who said this:
“That is the big risk – the big egos, the self-satisfaction. I warn myself about all the dangers right in front of the kids, and they listen, get the message – sometimes! I try to make it clear that we’re Jews, struggling to live the way our great teachers, our great rabbis, told us we should live, so if we go to help others, how we go matters as much as (maybe more than) what we bring. If we can learn that lesson and take it to heart, we’re at least on the right track.”
So I wonder about my real motivations, because they’re must be some. Just because I cannot clearly define them does not mean they are not clearly there. They will reveal themselves in my actions and words and will affect who I work with and the work I do. So the ‘but why’ question is one that desperately needs to be answered.
In my race, law class last semester I learned a lot about the history of racism in our country and how it permeates so much of our legal, economic and social systems. Not to mention how it is engrained into our way of being and how we interact with others who appear different from us. The class sharpened my critical consciousness, my ability to perceive the injustices in this world. It lit a fire in me, one that made me excited about my new job. I saw it as an opportunity to ‘right the wrongs’ in our society and fight the system from the bottom up, by empowering and uniting people.
But why me?
Why do I have a greater ability to right the wrongs of society in comparison to the people that live in this city and endure its contradictions and ‘injustices’ everyday?
I don’t know is an inappropriate and irresponsible answer because if I don’t know then I should just quit now and start preparing applications for grad school.
My answer than would be, the fist is mightier than the finger. Meaning that more together are more powerful than one. Let’s face it, the world isn’t ‘fair.’ Perfectly willing and capable people are ignored, pushed down and arbitrarily disadvantaged every day. Their one voice is muffled and silenced by systems of injustice and prejudice that not only thrive in our society today but built our country. If I have a voice and I am willing to speak on someone else’s behalf, I must speak. If I have been privileged and can return what I have been given, then I must do that.
There’s no need to get angry at the system, fight the man, help the little people, I just must do what I can.
My service is not only to the Philadelphia community and myself but to the notion of freedom in this country, the belief in equality and the desire in all of us to live fully in this world.

Song: Everyday by Toby Lightman

Quote: What makes us human is not our mind but our heart, not our ability to think but our ability to love. Henri Nouwen

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