By Rachel Cychosz, AmeriCorps alum
Throughout my childhood, I was taught the value of giving back. Whether it was at church and school or in the community, spending time helping others was always highly encouraged. Despite volunteering throughout high school and college, it wasn’t until I worked as an AmeriCorps member with Habitat for Humanity that I realized the true value of service.
During my year at Habitat, I saw — and in small ways began to understand — the struggles that families and individuals were facing, right there in my own city. I met single parents working three jobs just to cover the cost of rent and food. I visited with Somalian refugee families living in cramped two-bedroom apartments. I came across families who were forced to continue living in mold-infested, flood-ravaged homes because they couldn’t afford to move.
I also had the opportunity to see a 5-year-old’s smile when she walked into her own room for the very first time and the tears of joy on a new homeowner’s face when he was handed the keys to his new house. I can’t quite explain the depth of joy I felt knowing that I was a part of the next chapter for these families. Serving them warmed both my heart and soul.
On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, I hope you’ll consider taking a few minutes, an hour or the whole day to give back to those who aren’t as fortunate. I think you’ll find that it benefits you just as much as it helps them. I think Dr. King best described the value in community service when he observed that a person “has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”