By Lillie Fleshler, '13
I guess if I've learned anything throughout my four years here, it is that wherever I am, I will find something I can be a part of, and be passionate about. It's all about working with what’s around you, and community is key. I have been fortunate enough to belong to various different communities across the globe, and each one has welcomed me in with open arms. Whether I was in Vietnam, Los Angeles, or Ithaca, there was always a cause and a group of people behind it committed to making progress. Sometimes its hard for me to characterize all my experiences under one theme: HIV/AIDS stigma (Vietnam), living wage campaign (IC), animal non-profit (LA), IC human rights?! There's no obvious overarching theme there, except for the one that encompasses all service: start with where you are. Where you are can mean physically, or mentally.
Physically: What's going on with your immediate, local community? Who or what could use a hand? What community structures are already in place through which you could make yourself useful?
Mentally: What's been on your mind? What's an issue you haven't been able to stop thinking about? What's something you want to learn more about, then maybe encourage others to learn about too?
It's all about starting where you are, wherever you are. And whoever you're with. You will meet a lot of incredible people throughout these four years that will change your outlook on life and make you a better person. Take it all in, and constantly refer back to your network of support if you ever feel weary. The community you build through your service and involvements will always have your back, because it will be comprised of people who have been where you are, and where you will be. They get it. That's important, because you will encounter a lot of people who don't. Take advantage of this community and all it has to offer.
Never force yourself into service that isn't genuine. Wherever you are you will find something you are truly passionate about, because it's in your nature to do so. Don't think about what's going to look good, because looking good will come naturally if your heart is really in it. Obviously you're going to make mistakes. When I think back on some of my service involvements I laugh, because I know I wasn't really truly passionate, but I was just trying different things out to see if I could be passionate. After some time, it was clear they weren’t meant to be. Then, things eventually fell into place.
It's okay to try things and make mistakes, but at the end of the
day, just go where your heart is telling you. And always start with
where you are. Service should be very organic. Start with you where
you are, and go where your heart is telling you to go.