September 30, 2014

MISSION MATTERS: Walking Together

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Growing up. I was always encouraged to think for myself and to make my own decisions, except when it came to the university I would attend. It was instilled into my sisters and me that we would all attend a Jesuit institution: the choice of which one, however, would be ours.

As I entered high school, service was something that was encouraged and pushed. Spending short-term service trips ranging from the Dominican Republic to Uganda were encouraged at my high school. With these trips, reflection did come, but I did not have any inkling of what it meant to serve humanity.

When I entered SLU, I immediately joined the Micah Program learning community. My older sister had been a part of it, so why wouldn't I? I did service throughout high school, so it must be something that I have to do in college. Little did I know the wall I was about to hit!

At dinner with my sister on one of my first nights, we started to talk about what service really meant. She, being her usual blunt self, said she disliked the word service. It comes with a connotation that "I am here to serve you; I am better than you." She told me she liked the words practicum site because they better suited what you were supposed to do, which was be in community with, to form a relationship with. I vaguely understood what she meant, but it was not until I encountered a little girl at Kingdom House that first year did I realize what this truly meant.

I started my "service" at Kingdom House that next week with the goal to be intentional with my words and actions. That first day I met a little girl who just wanted to play with me. We were supposed to be doing homework, but she did not have any. The next week we just played again. This pattern continued over the next two months. Finally, I asked the coordinator if I was doing the right thing. He looked at me and said all she wants is your attention. That sentence stopped me in my tracks. All the little girl desired was my attention and affection. She did not want me to come in and help her get all of the right answers on her homework, she wanted a companion.

When I reflect on what it means to serve humanity I become overwhelmed. I then think back to that time at Kingdom House. The service of humanity is being in community with people. That is the real service, not building a house or donating money, though those are still things I do.

Connecting on a personal level, being a partner on a journey, is what service of humanity means to me. It is not about saving the world through monetary donations, but walking next to another person sharing the journey together.

—Ann Knezetic, Senior in the College of Education and Public Service
and president of the Student Government Association

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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