Quality over quantity

Chronicle Staff

Community service is obviously important, and we are obliged by both the administration and our consciences to do it. But when did this duty become trendy? Shouldn’t community service be something that we do to help others, not to help ourselves gain style points? Activism has become as fashionable as skinny jeans, and that takes away from the true meaning of charity.

I know people who do community service out of the goodness of their hearts. They are impassioned and driven and filled with desire to incite change in the world. Unfortunately, activists of that breed are rare.

It seems that the only people who get in on the social protest action have ulterior motives. They jump onto the bandwagon of whatever charity Nicole Richie donated her baby shower gifts to one month and whatever cause Angelina Jolie editorializes on in the Washington Post the next. But what about the causes that aren’t cool, the ones that Oprah doesn’t publicize on her show? Those causes are just as important as the ones that celebs preach about, if not more so, but don’t get nearly the amount of attention that they deserve because they aren’t trendy.

The Community Service Fair held last month demonstrated that social action has lost its true meaning. I certainly can’t question the goodness of intent of the Prefect Council and whoever else organized the event, because I’m all for good deeds. The issue I had with the fair was the shallowness of its nature. I just don’t believe in going from booth to booth to be lured by store-bought brownies and leftover Halloween candy into volunteering for a group’s event. It was a feeding frenzy as everyone tried to find the coolest people manning the booth of the coolest cause.

Once I managed to escape from the pack of ravenous wolves searching for college application boosters and an upped share of superbadness, I overheard a girl bragging to her friend about how many events she had signed up to volunteer for. It sickened me. I just wanted to scream that old axiom, “quality, not quantity,” to high heaven. Volunteering for one event and taking the time to understand the cause that the event is supporting in order to give your best effort is far more charitable than volunteering for 20 and not being fully devoted to any.

Being charitable shouldn’t be cool. It should make you feel good, but it shouldn’t be trendy, and to hold a Community Service Fair to help students “find” a cause to support is ridiculous. You shouldn’t have to search for an issue that you feel strongly about — it should be inherent.

Instead of holding the fair again next year, the Prefect Council and the administration should foster a greater understanding of social causes because the best way to support a cause is to understand the issues at hand and to truly relate to one. It’s a unique kind of understanding, one that can only be acquired through experience.

I’m not saying that relating to a cause should be the sole criterion for supporting that cause. I just believe that protest can be more productive and poignant if there is true fire and passion behind it.
I’m sure that there are some of you out there who feel that you don’t have a cause that you truly relate to. I say get out and find something that you believe in. And if you don’t have strong opinions about a social issue in this country, it’s time to get some.