Two weeks ago, I signed up for USC Alumni Scervice Day and it was probably one of the most rewarding decisions I've made all year. In high school, everyone knew me as a couple of things. 1) the manager on the girl's basketball team 2) that ASB chick who does the morning news announcement 3) Key Club. While I'm proud of all three, if I had to choose to be under one category (granted in life you never have to really be just one thing), I'd choose to be a member of an organization that gives back to their community. I didn't have to be in Key Club for me to know that I've been madly deeply in love with service. After being rejected my freshman year and later accepted as a member my sophomore year, my life changed. Weekends were dedicated to nearby projects and in some cases, workshops and conventions. What started out as a hobby later became one of my passions. I loved waking up early in the morning and found my sole purpose in life, which is essentially to make this world a better place. I know it sounds like one of those cliche lines I got from the Internet, but it's true. I've always lived with the mantra to leave things better than when I found them. Whether it would be crafting with kids at CHOC Hospital or helping breast cancer survivors find their gowns for their big day, I enjoyed interacting with people. They always have a story to tell and a bright smile on their faces as they are telling it, making it even harder to not be inspired by them.
This past weekend, I took a day off from work so I could participate in a wonderful USC family tradition. Being a career woman, I never try to place myself in any position that would jeopardize my hard work, but I knew very well that I had to find that balance between doing what I love and giving back when I can. Therefore, I made a new initiative this year and that is to pay it forward at least once a week. It might seem minuscule compared to my high school days, but it's a start for me. Along with 50 other alumni yesterday afternoon, we packed over 1,100 food boxes that will be later distributed to senior families and low-income homes.
Here are two things I learned from this one experience.
- There are three (basic) fundamental things you can give in order to serve your community.
1. time 2. money 3. food
Don't get me wrong here. You definitely don't have to be Warren Buffett in order to make a difference. That act of giving is as grand or as simple as you'd like to make it. So if you can, give when you can.
- Volunteering serves not only others, but also your soul.
As soon as I packed my very last box, I felt like I just won a gold medal. While I only volunteered for five hours, I couldn't imagine how difficult it would be had I worked eight hours a day, five days a week at the cold warehouse. On a more positive note, doing for others not only provides you physical rewards (yay endorphins!), it can also give you a perspective and an even greater appreciation for your own life.
When I went home later that day, my mom gave me a little talk about the decision that I made aka giving up a workday in order to do something I've always done in the past and how it might not necessarily be the wisest choice. Although I respect her opinion, I knew that the rebel in me would have chosen what felt right. And you know what? Being at Orange County Food Bank that day felt right. I was empowered by the Trojans I met. There were pharmacists, engineers, business men and women. I was empowered by the people who dedicate all their time to these causes. And of course, I was even more empowered to do bigger and better so that I can give give more and be more.
I'll end this post by leaving you a quote that has inspired the high school Khanh and this one is from Mahatma Gandhi.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.