In American culture, individualism is emphasized along with independence, success, self-reliance, and pursuing individual goals and desires. Being independent is not a problem, nor is pursuing goals and desires. Yet, as human beings who are wired to connect and build relationships, the truth is it’s not all about you. It’s just not possible. Narcissism limits individual potential and growth.
Albert Einstein once said, “Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.” The idea of serving others is so profound because it conflicts with this American mentality of individualism. It encourages a system where people do things for one another and not just for themselves.
Cal State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is the only public university that honors Cesar Chavez Day by encouraging students to perform an act of service in their community. AmeriCorps Volunteer Infrastructure Program (VIP) Member Steven Goings encourages students to participate in the Cesar Chavez Challenge where the goal is to document 3500+ hours of community service starting March 31 to May 5. This challenge involves a minimum of four people in a group, documenting their service with a fun point system as an incentive.
Goings shared a few reasons why this challenge was created. The first reason is that as an AmeriCorps member, they are required to participate in three National Days of Service, and Cesar Chavez Day is one of them. Each member has to bring in at least 50 short term and 50 long term volunteers during these days. He hopes this challenge helps students connect with Cesar Chavez and the service he did for his community. The second reason is that as CSUMB’s Service Opportunities Coordinator, Goings has created a system to help build a community of service. This challenge requires students to utilize and register for service opportunities in the newly developed Purposeful Service Opportunities (PSO) web page, which falls under the CSUMB Service Learning web page. With this requirement, students become more familiar with the system. PSO provides students with multiple volunteer opportunities outside of their required Service Learning, enabling them to build deeper connections with the Monterey community, as well as providing them with “opportunities to discover their unique calling and experience extreme fulfillment.” Let service be a way to find passion and purpose is the message.
When asked why serving others is important, Goings shared, “We are a social species. We can only reach our highest potential through each other.” He explained that if a person relies solely on himself or herself to reach their potential, they are limited to a ceiling created by their individual self. However, that ceiling can be opened to reach infinite potential when you involve other people in your endeavor. “Society is built on helping one another. It’s part of our development as human beings. You can’t reach your potential alone.”
He further explained that it’s not just about helping others – it’s also about understanding one’s self in the relationship. “Service enhances emotions such as love, joy, happiness… there is no loss that occurs in service.” An important thing to also understand, he continued, is that service is not an obligation; it’s something you choose to do. As Mahatma Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
We have multiple opportunities to serve one another in our daily routine. It could take the form of opening a door for somebody, smiling at a random person, and saying thank you to the barista. Less can sometimes be more.