Hello! My name is Jack Paris and I am a senior at Saint Joseph’s University. While thinking back over the last few years at Saint Joseph’s I think that my experiences in different service programs have allowed me to learn and grow in so many different ways than I ever would have expected from myself. I am fortunate enough to say that I have been involved with PSIP (Philadelphia Service Immerision Program), three semesters of service-learning classes, weekly service, APEX (Appalachian Experience), the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, Collegiate Challenge through Habitat for Humanity, and I went to Peru through WIP (Winter Immersion Program) this January.
Service for me has been a two way street. I can confidently say that the people I have met at service have taught me more, helped me grow, and served me in so many more ways than I ever could have imagined. Through all these service programs here at Saint Joe’s, I have grown a love for people, a passion for doing things greater than myself, and developed a zest for life that I never knew I had in me. What I love most about doing service is making connections and forming relationships with those I am lucky enough to encounter. I am now going to share a few experiences I have had with some of the many individuals I have been lucky enough to have met over the past few years.
For my freshman year, I think of Jaylen. Coming into freshman year I found myself taking a service-learning class. I would spend three hours every monday morning with the 5th grade class at Our Mother of Sorrows School. One of the students I met there was Jaylen. Jaylen was always excited to see me, and after a few weeks I think I became even more excited to see him. We had a good balance of joking around, talking and getting to know each other, and of course getting school-work done. Throughout the year, Jaylen taught me how service was about growing together rather than helping another. This also sparked in me a passion for education.
For my Sophomore year, I think of Gene, who I met on APEX in Greenbier County, West Virginia. Gene showed me the beauty in finding a balance between working with charity and for social justice. Although he was a contractor on homes, he had a relationship-based approach. He knew that in order for our work to be significant in our lives we needed to form relationships with the owners of the homes we would be working on. Gene knew that connecting with one another and truly building those relationships is much more meaningful and impactful than just strictly working on the homes themselves. Gene also shared with my group a quote from T.S. Elliot that I still remember to this day: “We shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring we shall arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. This quote reminds me that I am always growing and learning. This sparked a passion for going out and seeing the beautiful world we live in and growing in it.
For my Junior year, I think of Sister Jean. I met Sister Jean at the Simpson House during PSIP. Sister Jean had dementia and was not able to form coherent and complete sentences, she was only able to say some words and phrases that did not go together. She also was not able to understand any meaning in what I would say to her. This did not stop us from having conversations and building a friendship together. We would just say words and phrases back and forth to each other that made no sense but she found it really fun and funny that I was responding and communicating even if no real thoughts were exchanged. We laughed and laughed together all day. This taught me the importance in having a light heart, having fun, growing in solidarity, and making connections in any way I can through service.
For my Senior year, I’m not sure who I will think of as the person who has most impacted me at service. Maybe it will be Steve Beans, a contractor for Habitat for Humanity who I met over the summer in Arizona. Maybe it will be someone I will meet on WIP in Peru next month. Maybe it will be someone I meet in Saint Paul, Virginia on APEX this March. Maybe it will be the people in the Philadelphia community that I share a smile with as I pass by on my runs on the weekends. Maybe the person I’m impacted by most will be myself. Either way, I consider myself extremely blessed to have all these service opportunities here at SJU and will always continue to grow, learn, and enjoy the beauty in the relationships I form at service in the future.
Jack Paris, ’19