Seeking Solidarity: A Service Learning Reflection by Anna R. '25
Anna R. '25

 

The sophomores and juniors spent the morning of October 11 taking the PSAT. I, for one, was drained by the time the test had ended. Despite our stress-inducing morning, we took a trip to Friendly Village Mobile Home Park in Redmond to perform simple yard work tasks for senior, often disabled, residents living on their own.

My group was assigned to pull weeds in a sweet yet solemn lady’s yard. When she opened her door to introduce herself, I could tell her quaint home was well-loved. She had charming decorations on the shelves, “I Love Lucy” playing on her TV, and a small herb garden in the backyard. We spent about an hour weeding before heading back to school.

In the last ten minutes, she came to watch us work. To be frank, her silent observation induced an uneasy feeling in me. But after a few minutes, she started to make comments like, “That looks great! You don’t have to get every single weed.” Her small comments brought a smile to my face. They reminded me that service is not about how well the job is done. It is, as the saying goes, “the thought that counts.”

Sister Roche, an RSCJ and a former Dean of Students at Forest Ridge, brought up a similar idea in her talk with the students. She told the story of her arrest while protesting for The Dream Act, a movement to protect immigrants who came to the US as a child from being deported. She felt it was something that “needed to be done.” She did not expect her arrest to create immediate change. Instead, her arrest was a way for her to stand in solidarity with the Dreamers -- to show even one person that she recognized them and their struggles.

In an article she wrote about the experience, Sr. Roche expressed that the change did not occur in the world but in her heart. Reading these words about the meaning of service felt like putting on glasses I never knew I needed. Acts of service, big or small, are not just about the outcome; they are about the intention. Coincidentally, in my English class, we have been talking about the Machiavellian belief that “the ends justify the means.” I don’t know how Machiavelli spent his free time, but I doubt it was helping others. In service, the means are what count, not the end. It is rewarding if the result is beneficial but not required. Sometimes, our endeavors to help someone end up harming them even more: that doesn’t take away from the authenticity of our intentions. In the words of the insightful author Ursula K. Le Guin, “It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

I seldom actually see the impact of my service, and I don’t need to. It is that pure intention to help others that awakens a warm glow in my heart, one that is not always illuminated in the hustle of high school life. Leaving the comfort of my little bubble to connect with a lovely lady who just needed a little help is an experience for which I am eternally grateful.

Anna R. '25