Student Service Project Report Summer 2016
Mahatma Gandhi once said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” This quote resonates with me as I feel that it’s important for us to lend a helping hand to others. It’s beneficial to the psyche to show compassion and connect with people, regardless of whether they are strangers or longtime friends. It doesn’t have to be something major, and it doesn’t even have to be for a large group of people, or even for strangers, but giving back in some way every so often is in and of itself its own reward. We can learn so much about ourselves and others by interacting with new people and spending some of our time to make their lives a little easier.
I initially wasn't sure whether or not this was something that I would be excited about. There’s a certain stigma when professors assign outside assignments, and I was worried my success in this class would heavily rest on outside work. I was also worried about whether or not I could successfully accomplish this assignment due to it potentially conflicting with my work schedule. From my first learning of this assignment, I knew that I wanted to use this opportunity to give back to those who needed it most as I was pretty sure that another opportunity like this wouldn't present itself again. Thinking about what I wanted to do actually excited me, and made me feel more connected to the assignment. When Dr. Soldani first posted about the chance to volunteer at the Veteran’s Village, I knew right away that this was what I wanted to do. I volunteered with Dr. Soldani and some other students at the Veteran’s Village serving a barbeque inspired dinner to a handful of military veterans. I was excited to be given the opportunity to do this as interacting with people and cooking are two things I very much enjoy doing. This assignment is very unique, and I feel like it allows you to help other people in your own way, and discover what you can give back to others.
I wanted to make the experience as memorable for the veterans as it would be for me, so I made sure that I cooked my food as perfectly as I could. I wasn’t tasked with anything unachievable, all I needed to utilize was timing and my love of cooking. I bought 14 pounds of prime pork shoulder for my pulled pork. I prepped the pork 24 hours in advance so that it could absorb a good amount of the dry rub I had made. The hard part began with the actual cooking of the pork. Knowing that it would take roughly 12 hours to cook, I strategically started cooking the pork at around 4 in the morning at a constant temperature so that I could assure that it would be done on time. When it was finished cooking, I couldn’t have been happier with how the pork turned out. I unfortunately didn’t get to eat any of my pulled pork at the Veteran’s Village which I guess is a good thing.
This activity was about much more than just food. It was about interacting with and providing for others. I got to meet people from all different walks of life. I met a man with a British accent. He told us stories of places he had been, and had a rather neat pet bird. I met a man who had lived in different parts of the country who told me what it was like for him living in California and Ohio. He went out of his way to be accommodating to us, and helped us with anything that we needed including cleaning up. I met a marine who not only thanked us for the food when he received it, but came back afterwards and thanked us again for the meal. This act truly stood out to me. No matter how much these men and women had sacrificed through their service, they were the ones who were thankful just because I took a little time and money and made them a meal.
This assignment gives me the opportunity to give back, and hopefully in my own way, help someone in need. We don’t really think about the difficulties that a lot of these veterans go through, and by simply cooking for them, I was able to alleviate some of their responsibility for the day. It’s one thing to visualize it in your head, but another thing entirely to put it into practice. Volunteering allows us to connect with others, and in some small way, make their lives a little bit better. I felt no greater honor than having the opportunity to give back to a group of people who have sacrificed so much for me and my country. All I wanted in the end was a better understanding of what it takes to have an impact on someone’s life, and I feel like by the time I had finished my volunteering, that was exactly what I had received. There is no greater feeling than knowing you made someone’s day a little better, especially if you enjoyed doing it during the process.