“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”- Maya Angelou. The importance of community service in the world today is a lot of times forgotten.
I was raised in a home where serving others was not only a good thing to do, it was expected. This past November, I became a published author in a book about goodness around the world. The book is called “Goodness Abounds”. In the passage that I wrote, I explained how my inspiration for Philanthropy stems from my grandparents. They have set an incredible example on the importance of giving back. In 2004, my grandparents, Bill and Cindy Perry opened the Perry Pavilion, attached to the Dr. Phillips Hospital in Orlando, Florida. It is a comforting place for families of patients to stay if they are from out of town and don’t have a hotel. The families are not obligated to pay for their stay, but donations are welcomed. In hospitals, it is not uncommon to see people sleeping in the hallways, or in the uncomfortable chairs in the patient’s room. The Perry Pavilion gives them the option to be in a comfortable living space just steps away from their loved one’s hospital room.
When my grandparents opened the pavilion, I was asked to donate my toys to the play room. My parents told me that the kids who would be playing with my toys are kids whose family member(s) are really sick and toys will brighten their day when they have been sad. Even though I was only five years old, this changed me as a person. I was able to give up some of my most treasured toys for the benefit of other children.
Ever since, I have found myself putting my community on the top of my priority list. I have been a part of many community service projects, mission trips and donations. I was able to be a part of serving dinner to veterans at Veteran’s village with my history class, lead my professor, Dr. Soldani. My professor leads this amazing dinner a few times a month. The veterans who live there know her name and look forward to seeing her every month. I was able to be a part of this amazing event. These men that we served dinner to have given the ultimate sacrifice. They put their life on the line to sustain my freedom. The least I could do for them is serve them dinner. It was an extremely humbling experience. Some men rolled in on wheelchairs, some limped, and others walked. There were men who were very sociable and wanted to talk the night away and others who did not say a word. In both situations, you could tell by the looks on their faces how happy they were for us to be there. They graciously said thank you, as they walked out with a full plate of food and a smile on their face. When I’m serving the community and I get to see the peoples’ reactions, I am reminded of the reason I do what I do.
In the midst of the holiday season, it is crucial to remember how important giving is. Receiving gifts is always fun, but nothing can replace the feeling when someone loves the gift you gave them. My favorite part of the holiday has to do with giving back. It has become a family tradition over the years to do something called “Layaway Angel”. Layaway is where people can go shopping at K-mart and put things on layaway that they cannot pay for at the moment. These people put payments down, when they can, toward the items. Once the item is paid in full, they can take it. My family goes to our local K-mart and heads to the layaway section. A woman named Rachel, who knows what we do every year, takes us into the attic where all the layaways are kept. There are hundreds of items just waiting to be paid for and taken home. During the holiday season, majority of the layaways are toys and things related to Christmas. But, there are always some items that are not. Lots of times there are diapers, baby food, or clothes on layaway. These items are for the people who are neediest. We choose about four or five peoples’ layaway and pay them off completely. These people work so hard to provide for their family, especially during the holidays. It can take several months for them to pay off their items. Rachel calls the customer with the layaway items that we chose and gives them the exciting news that they have a “Layaway Angel” who just paid off their items . The reaction of those customers is the most amazing thing I have ever heard. You can hear the happiness in their voice and tears of joy. Tears fall down our faces also, knowing the difference we just made in someone’s life. They are always so thankful of what they have just been given, and that is the reason we do it.
Serving the community has shaped me as a person. It’s the year 2017 and people are more self-obsessed than ever before. If you think about it, most people today would much rather stare at their iPhone than make conversation with the people around them. As years go on, people become more and more selfish. Even smile or just a simple “how’s your day going” could make someone’s day, but nowadays that could be seen as “awkward”. There are very few people who realize how important community is. Community service makes the world a better place and it should be practiced more often. Once people experience the humbling reactions of giving back, they will want to do it more often. My perfect world is a place where everyone is kind to each other and love one another. The first step of that is community service.