Volunteering essential for college students

Volunteering essential for college students

There are a lot of good reasons to wish you could go back to kindergarten. I mean, who doesn’t long for the days when naptime and playtime were official parts of the school day? Personally, I think Calvin should consider establishing its own official naptime, since so many students already participate.

I also believe we could benefit from a review session of what is arguably kindergarten’s most important lesson: how to share. If actions speak louder than words, then it seems many adults have either forgotten this lesson, or ceased to believe in its value for the adult world.

I’d love to see every college teach students about sharing; it is an important part of being in a community. However, it is even more important for us as Christians. In choosing Calvin College, we chose an education that prepares us for not only our careers, but more than that, for service to God in every aspect of our lives.

In order to live out that mission, we must be good sharers of our abilities, possessions, time and money. Developing a culture of this kind of giving takes time, so we need to start sharing what we can right now. Furthermore, we cannot justly wait until after we graduate to start practicing lifestyles of service when there is so much need for service in the Grand Rapids area alone.

Calvin works with many area service organizations to get students involved in the Grand Rapids community. Some Calvin students already take advantage of those opportunities, though many of us miss them because we are too busy.

But perhaps the definition for “too busy” among college students is broader than it should be.

According to a USA Today article, a 2011 study of 1,839 undergraduates found that the average college student checks Facebook six times a day, for a cumulative average of 106 minutes on the site each day. If we can donate 106 minutes a day to Facebook, yet we’re “too busy” to devote an hour a week to serving others, we may need to reevaluate our priorities.

I’ll be the first to admit that my volunteer record at Calvin thus far isn’t stellar. I’ve pleaded “too busy” more times than I care to admit, but starting now, I’m re-evaluating my busyness. In kindergarten, we learned how to share our toys and our chocolate milk. I think we’re ready to advance to sharing our time as well.

The sacrifice doesn’t have to be big. Like money, time isn’t distributed evenly. Some people have less to give than others. Calvin offers many volunteer opportunities with lower time commitments for those with less time to spare. For example, students living in the dorms can get involved with community partnerships. Many of the events only last a few hours, so they’re perfect for busier students.

There are plenty of opportunities for students who don’t live in the dorms as well. I recommend checking the Service-Learning Center website if you’re having a hard time finding something that fits your gifts and schedule. The site offers a wonderful database of volunteer opportunities in the area, which lets you tailor your search to your interests and schedule.

I tried searching the database for volunteer opportunities related to environmental awareness and got 10 different results. The results ranged from environmental education at area high schools, to park clean-up, to volunteering for the Environmental Awareness Food Fest at Calvin. These are all great ways to give back to the Grand Rapids community through environmental stewardship.

Obviously, developing a giving culture is about more than signing up for a lot of volunteer opportunities. A strong culture of service is held up by lifestyles of giving. However, developing that kind of lifestyle isn’t a one-step process. If we learn to share the time in our schedules, our hearts will be primed for the sharing of our talents and treasures, and vice versa.

So once you’ve had your nap, consider pouring yourself a glass of chocolate milk and thinking about how you can embrace your inner kindergartener in the way you spend your time.