“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches,
butto reveal to him his own.” Benjamin Disraeli
One of the cornerstones of a healthy community is involvement on thepart
of its residents. When we make an effort to get to know others better,
wehave an expanded and more complex view of our community.
Young people involved in community service are less likely to beengaged
in the destructive behaviors of using drugs, joining gangs, and gettingpregnant.
Their school dropout rate is lower and they are motivated to achievehigher
grades in high school.
Community service also helps children and teens to learn about anabundance
of social issues such as understanding of the environment andinteraction
with diverse groups of people. Most important, in my opinion, is theawareness
of their own interdependence with other people in the society.
Some programs through which young people and their families cancontribute
their time include homes for the disabled and aging, libraries,hospitals,
homeless shelters, and schools.
But it is not necessary to join a structured program in order to participate
ina form of community service. Individuals can do any number of things
to connect with others toward the end of touching and improving their lives:
send a note or card of encouragement to a friend or family member, call
a lonely person, do a household chore or shopping for somebody who needs
assistance, or brighten another person’s day with flowers. Individual tutoring
of a younger neighborhood child who needs help with reading, writing or
math is a fine way to enhance the self esteem of the people on both sides
of the equation.
Albert Einstein said, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
This leads to one of the greatest benefits of community service, especially
for teenagers: it gets them to take the focus off themselves and onto others.
Time and thought spent away from shopping, clothing, appearance, television,
movies, and dating can be channeled into the needs and circumstances of
This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children
Well: A Teacher’s Advice for Parents.