Service Day: Being in Community with Others
Students step away from their academic studies for one day in October to participate in Oak Knoll’s annual Service Day. Though it is a day devoted to learning about and performing service acts, more broadly it is a day to remind students that being in service is a mindset that should be ever present rather than an activity that is performed for others.
As the Catholic Social Teaching Website explains, “The Catholic Church has a history of social teaching that goes back centuries and provides a compelling challenge for living responsibly and building a just society.” Among several key themes in that tradition are the beliefs that every human life has value and dignity, and that it is our responsibility to care for God’s creation.
“What I like about Catholic Social Teaching,” said Michele Van Kalsbeck, Director of Campus Ministry and Theology Teacher, “is that it’s an aspect of the faith that people can agree with regardless of their faith background or lack thereof. It speaks to issues beyond the Catholic faith and to which most people around the world can relate.”
Depending on their grade level, students are assigned to a variety of field trips and activities. The field trips are organized around activities that benefit the environment. Those remaining on campus participate in projects benefiting various organizations that support the homeless, those in poverty, or those in medical need. Thus the day is rooted in the value of service to fellow humans and care for God’s creation.
On a deeper level though, Van Kalsbeck strives to ingrain in students that a service mindset is not task oriented. We were created to be in a relationship with each other. Just being a member of our human family is one of the reasons we do service. “Our dignity as a whole is only realized in a world where every single human being is flourishing, thriving, and living their best life,” said Van Kalsbeck to the students in a Service Day assembly. “All you have to do is take a quick look around you to realize that we don’t live in that world today. That’s part of the reason we do service so that others’ dignity may be realized. Only when the dignity of all others across the world is fully realized will our own be fully realized as well. Service is caring about rather than caring for others.”
She noted that, “Service Day is a reminder that we should be in service all year. In a true community there is no us and them. In a service experience, we are not taking someone somewhere or doing something for someone, we are going somewhere or doing something together. Our job is not to do things for other people. Our job is to be in community with each other.”
For more on Oak Knoll’s Community Service philosophy visit the Faith Life section of our website.