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.