So far in 2013, I have been lucky enough to do good across the country. As a student affairs professional immersed in service learning, I embarked on a trip with 11 college students last week to volunteer with urban youth in the Los Angeles area. The trip was part of our Alternative Breaks program at Rutgers.
I had countless opportunities to do good: not only did I spend my afternoons with children in after-school programs, at-risk and abused young women in a residential facility, and families at the Ronald McDonald House, but I helped to facilitate students’ understanding of urban issues. Beyond just the act of doing good on the trip, I found the process of reflecting on doing good to be even more rewarding. For example, during reflection, one student recognized the fact that homeless people on the street are not “crazy” or “scary”, rather just individuals who have fallen into unfortunate circumstances. She began the trip by running away from people on the street, and ended the trip by giving a homeless man her peanut butter and jelly sandwich on our last night in Los Angeles. Not only that, but we had lengthy discussions about social issues ranging from sex trafficking to the education gap to bullying. I learned more from my students and the community members on this trip than I’ve learned from reading professional development books.
I think the best takeaway from my #oneword2013 so far has been that doing good is not necessarily good on its own. It’s about the conversation, the processing, and the reflection that really makes the act of doing good even better. From palm trees to street performers, Los Angeles was the perfect place for me to take my one word to the next level.
Thanks to student affairs colleagues and the #sachat community, I’ve discovered the one word resolution movement. While I will always have smaller goals for myself each year, I really like the idea of settling on just one word to help define my year and what I’d like to accomplish.
As a perfectionist, I’ve frequently fallen into the trap of feeling immense pressure and guilt about the way I spend my time. I think that someone could be out there is doing the “new hire hustle” better than I am, someone is working harder than me in my fitness classes, I’m spending too much time in front of the TV. So my first thought for a one word resolution was about enjoying life more: enjoy, engage, presence, celebrate.
After contemplating several great words out there, I’ve settled on the one word that was there all along. Something completely different. Good.
I’ve been told that good is one of the least descriptive words in the dictionary and one of the worst responses to the question, “how are you?”. I am here to advocate for being good and doing good. To me, good doesn’t mean that I want to “do a good job at work” or “eat food that is good for me”. Thankfully, my job provides me with the opportunity to take being good to a higher level. I help students find volunteer opportunities in their communities. I find speakers, local businesses, and activities that inspire students to become changemakers on both small and large scales. I provide students with opportunities to reflect and engage with each other around the topic of service learning. While espousing the importance of doing good, I thought it would be important to really take on the cause for myself as well.
Aside from doing good in my work, I am taking on the personal challenge of incorporating it into all aspects of my life. Whether that means volunteering at a soup kitchen on my own time, writing more blogs like this about social causes or inspirational leaders, or performing random acts of kindness for my friends and family members – it can be anything. My hypothesis for this challenge is that going the extra mile to do good will actually improve other areas of my life as well. 2013 will really be my year if doing so much good actually dissipates the guilt and pressure that I place on my own shoulders.
So there it is: good. Let’s do good together.