There’s art therapy, music therapy, pet therapy…what about community service therapy?
One of the biggest characteristics about Saint Joe’s that set it apart from my previous university are all of its amazing community service opportunities. At my old school, any sort of service program was done primarily through Greek life, and if you were very non-Greeky like myself, then you would not be able to participate.
Being Jesuit, SJU promotes the help of others. This is done through multiple programs such as APEX, Collegiate Challenge, Weekly Service, and a variety of service learning courses. I became involved with the weekly service club here on campus, an organization that sends volunteers to numerous locations such as spending time with the elderly, tutoring children, working in soup kitchens, and exercising with the homeless. My program is CLYDE, an after school program at a school in West Philly where volunteers spend a few hours each week tutoring and playing with the children.
Let’s be real: school = stress
This whole experience has made me view service more like therapy. My previous school would bring in animals each semester during finals week as a way for students to relax and lose some stress, which is an example of pet therapy. Art and music therapy are other similar therapy strategies that encourage a person to express him or herself through painting, drawing, or playing an instrument. These therapy techniques are ways in which people lose stress, anxiety, and increase their overall mood. For me, my therapy is service.
It’s weird how every week I find myself looking forward to my Thursday afternoons when I get to leave campus for a little and spend time with the children of CLYDE. I think the only week I wasn’t stressed out about something was my first week here. Since then, there has been so much going on that I find comfort in my weekly service program. I leave school, hang out with other SJU students, turn off my phone, and spend time with children who, even though I’ve only known them for a couple of weeks, I’ve already come to care for immensely. Not only does this service opportunity allow me to help others, but it gives me a chance to relax (something I desperately need to learn how to do more often). Last week we split the kids into teams and played football in the gym. Being able to run around and be goofy was exactly the medicine I needed after trying to get back into the swing of things after being on spring break.
Considering the Jesuit ideology of living a life through helping others makes me think that perhaps the Jesuits were on to something. Giving back to the community is one of the few things a person can do that not only helps others but also helps him or herself. Coming home each week from CLYDE, I feel much more relaxed and also a sense of satisfaction that I spent time helping others instead of just worrying about myself. Those few hours I spend with the children of CLYDE not only benefits them, but provides me with my own community service therapy.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”