Go forth to serve

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Confession: I started attending Y-Serve activities because my boyfriend dumped me.

Not seeing the correlation here? Let me explain:

I’ve always associated service with that “warm fuzzy feeling,” and poor broken-hearted me was in desperate need of some warm fuzzies. Guess you could say I started serving, ironically, for somewhat selfish reasons: I wanted to feel better. Plus, in the back of my mind, maybe, just maybe, I would’ve liked to meet a new guy in one of the groups — you know, one who serves. (It’s an attractive quality, OK?)

But my motivations soon deepened. After attending several programs, I made a couple part of my weekly schedule. I started looking forward to visiting my new friends with mental disabilities and singing for my new friends at the nursing home. We all need a bit more of the elderly in our lives, if I say so myself! Not only are they hilarious, but they have way more life experience than we do.

Here’s the sad part of my story: Four times out of five, when I mention the term “Y-Serve organization,” I get blank stares. “What’s that?” people ask. And I understand — I had no idea Y-Serve existed until my professor referenced me there last semester.

The Y Serve Center offers 63 community service programs, all run by student leaders. Whether you enjoy working with children, the elderly or the disabled; whether you can serve through art, music or foreign language experience; tutor, mentor or coach soccer; bowl, swim or ride horses — there’s a place for you.

Most of the organizations meet for an hour each week (several meet on campus, several carpool elsewhere). It’s a great opportunity to meet awesome people — and not just the super peppy kids who obviously did student council in high school (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Or guys, ask a date! (Plus, maybe your date will begin to associate the warm fuzzies she gets while on your date with you — it’s like Pavlovian conditioning, right?)

Community service helps us familiarize ourselves with people of different backgrounds, develop deeper Christlike love and just plain feel good. Nothing’s sweeter than hearing Jack, 80 years old with dementia, proudly play his guitar and sing Beatles songs — surprisingly in tune. Or hearing learning disabled Sherri gush about her date last Friday. Or helping 4-year-old Tessa with Down syndrome splash around in the RB pool.

In church, we always hear how “service can be just doing little things — smiling at a stranger, making your roommate’s bed.” And that’s true. But do we sometimes downplay the importance of organization-based service by emphasizing that service doesn’t have to “be hard” or “take away from our schedules”? True service should require a little sacrifice, take some extra time. But fortunately, it’s always worth it. You’ll never say, “Man, I really wish I didn’t serve today.” Just not going to happen. We don’t have to wait until we graduate to live by the BYU motto: “Go forth to serve.”

By:  ARIANNE LEAVITT

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