I spent my high school years at a Jesuit school in Portland, Oregon. Our school motto was “Age Quod Agis,” a Latin proverb that means, “Do well whatever you do.” Throughout high school, this concept was constantly emphasized by teachers, coaches, and priests. “Study your hardest; you only get to take this test once.” “Leave it all on the field; there are no points for second place.” “God doesn’t care if you have a bad voice; sing loudly with the voice He gave you."
This summer, as I worked in the kitchens of the Chicago Christian Industrial League with other interns from the Interfaith Youth Core, I found myself thinking back to Age Quod Agis, and what it means when it comes to service. I know what it means to study well, to compete well, and to speak well. And though I have never personally accomplished it, I even know what it means to sing well. But what does it mean to serve well? Surely, simply to serve is enough. Or is it?
To answer this question, I began to think about what differentiates doing anything well from simply doing it. I came to the conclusion that it comes to a question of heart. Without heart, a powerful speech becomes empty words. Without heart, a courageous athletic performance becomes a silly game. And without heart, our service in the kitchens of CCIL becomes a bothersome chore. Heart belongs at the center of service. Heart demands that we focus not just on the task at hand, but the people for whom that task is performed. Age Quod Agis means diving-in, immersing ourselves completely in whatever pursuit we seek.
Service learning, to me, is incredibly important to personal development and growth. My past experiences of service have taught me an immense amount about myself, but more importantly, have provided me with a new lens through which to view interpersonal connections and relationships. The framework of service, as it relates to human relationships, has a transformative power that forces people to see one another in a different light. The IFYC seemed like a way to very intentionally look at interfaith and service, two things that have played important roles in my life, but things I had never intentionally sought out before. When I’m at CCIL, I’m not just feeding homeless people, but getting to know Chicagoans who are working towards overcoming addiction, and learning from their efforts. Eboo Patel, the founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core, is right; we are each other’s business.
On June 16th, President Obama echoed this. Announcing the United We Serve campaign, Obama called on each of us to “make volunteerism and community service part of your daily life and the life of this nation.” Seeking to revitalize the nation through service, Obama has embraced that we are bound by a collective fate; whether Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, or Christian, we must recognize that we are connected by our common humanity. United We Serve seeks to add a new chapter to the unlikely story that is America, one that emphasizes not just the rugged individual, but also the compassionate community. With service as the lifeblood of this nation, it is up to us – the people – to be the heart. We must put both love and force into our service. By doing so, our efforts cease to be isolated actions and instead flow outward to become part of a larger service movement. Obama believes that this movement can transform the nation. I am inclined to agree.
One of my primary responsibilities at the IFYC is to organize a service project for an upcoming conference on interfaith youth work. While direct service is both personally rewarding and socially relevant, I believe that the best way for me to further the mission of service is to provide others with meaningful opportunities to serve. The event I am working on planning not only provides conference participants with this very opportunity, it also seeks to spark dialogue around the topic of service, and how it is essential to the interfaith work the IFYC does.
By sharing my experience of service and by creating opportunities for others to serve, I believe I can play a part (even a small one) in transforming the way our society sees our responsibility to one another. Through ministering one another, we realize the reality of an ever more perfect union, and strengthen our mutual bonds of humanity. While this is indeed a lofty goal, I believe that I have a part to play in this movement.
Lucas is a rising college senior spending his summer interning with the Interfaith Youth Core. To learn more about IFYC, visit www.ifyc.org. To find similar opportunities to serve, search keyword: “internship” “event planning” “soup kitchen” “food pantry”
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