Where Could You Quickly Serve In Your Community?


This past Saturday I had the privilege of working with five amazing college students. They are all Shelton Scholars from the Shelton Leadership Center at NC State University. As one of the senior scholars, my daughter Alex got to choose a service project for her community and chose the local assisted living/nursing home. It was a day of hard work, laughter, and memories of interacting with residents who were so excited to see us painting fences and installing a raised flower bed.

While we at the Shelton Center are preparing you for a lifetime of service, we don’t want you to miss the opportunities in front of you right now.

While eating dinner and reflecting on the day, Dr. Mike Davis, coordinator of scholarships and strategic partnerships with the Shelton Center, posed an interesting challenge to the scholars (and me). He said something like, “Today you saw what can happen when someone looks around in their local community and responds to a specific need. While we at the Shelton Center are preparing you for a lifetime of service, we don’t want you to miss the opportunities in front of you right now.”

Dr. Davis continued the conversation by asking each of the scholars what immediate needs they saw in their community. I was amazed as each one shared specific things they could do (or are already doing) to improve their communities. One spoke about mentoring at their former high school while another talked about building stronger relationships between people of different socioeconomic levels in their neighborhood. Talk about a moment that reaffirmed my hope for the future!

The reason their discussion resonated so much with me is that I too often get caught up in thinking about the BIG ways I’d like to serve my community or area. And because the projects I reflect on are so large, I rationalize that I just don’t have time right now. So I miss the smaller yet just as meaningful opportunities for service that are in front of me-right now!

If you’re like me and need a “kick in the seat of the pants” to make service a higher priority, here are three suggestions to get moving:

  • Look for one-time events instead of ongoing projects or activities. Many people resist getting involved because they don’t want to make long term commitments.
  • Make a list of people you know who lead or manage non-profit organizations. Contact them and say, “How could I be of help to you if I gave you ______________ (insert length of time such as 2 hours, half-day, etc.)?”
  • Use a “service” lens when driving around your community. What needs do you see? What skills do you have that might meet that need in some way?

My day with the Shelton Scholars was a powerful reminder of the joy of service to others… and the need to take action now instead of waiting for the perfect time or perfect opportunity.

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Jones Loflin