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Service is not simple.

This is a concept we have already established from the last sessions discussion, but it is explored even more in Ivan Illichs To Hell with Good Intentions, and K. Mortons The Irony of Service and Starfish Hurling and Community Service. These articles further explore the meaning of service and dig up even more complexities of what service is and what service does. Service involves power, privilege and most importantly relationships in a number of ways. It involves power because we each have the power to bring about change. Power operates on both individual levels and community levels. In Mortons starfish hurling article he says that one of the flaws of the story was the fact that there is only one person on the beach throwing the star fish one at a time back into the ocean. He says that random acts of individual kindness are not effective for bringing about change for a whole group, and he advises his readers not to go charging into a situation without knowledge of how to actually help first. I both agree and disagree with him. I think that having a thorough understanding of the situation and how to fix it is majorly important, and working together with others will definitely bring about more change than working alone. However, I also admire passion. I think a single act of passion from one person charging into a situation because they just cannot bear to not do something can inspire others. One passionate, impulsive act of kindness can generate many acts of kindness. It can motivate people to band together and take on the problem starting at its root in the structures of society. It can start something revolutionary. Every individual has the power to bring about change. Whether it is bringing about change for another person, or bringing about change for an entire community of people. In Mortons article The Irony of Service, he mentions a survey he gave to students about the ir views of service. The results showed that the majority of the survey takers picked providing direct service to another person as the biggest way they had made an impact in their lives. I think that most of his students selected this as their answer because it is something they had experienced. Yes, changing the social systems and the structural problems of society is revolutionary and produces a more widespread change, but we cannot do that individually and most of us have not had the chance to get involved with something like that yet; something that big takes a team of people who have spent a significant amount of time studying the problems and coming up with the best solution for the problem. As students, most people probably have not had the chance to take part in an organization set on changing the structures of society, but that does not render us powerless to make change. We can make change on a personal level. We can impact peoples lives by giving them personal attention and personal service, which is what we did on our brigade. In the end, our brigade did not change the structure of the Ghanaian society. It did not bring down the systems that leave so many citizens living in poverty. But it did change lives. We were able to provide personalized, individual service to 918+ people by giving them our time, attention, and love. The next part of the survey asked what students thought the greatest way they would make an impact over their life would be,

and the most majority of students picked helping to set up and support community service organizations that are addressing immediate community needs. This shows that while right now students are not involved in the organizations to make a major, large-scale change, they plan to in the future. I think that perhaps our individual brigade was not able to have a large impact on the country of Ghana as a whole, but overtime, with all the work the work that Global Brigades Inc. does, they may make a huge impact on the world. And the brigaders that have the opportunity to go to these other countries and see what needs to be changed, can continue with their educations and get involved with, or maybe even start, the organizations that are going to change the world. Service is about privilege as well. Some might say that we live a privileged lifestyle, us rich, middle class Americans, which we do. We were born into a part of society with a lot of luxuries and privileges that not everyone in the world has. But I think service does not involve those types of privileges, rather I think we are privileged to be able to travel to other countries, meet other people, see other cultures, and to serve and give love as well as receive service, hospitality, and love in return. However, Illich talks about how our privilege is rubbed in the faces of those we help and we are actually just reinforcing the status quo and maintaining our privileges. Illich says that volunteers from America are vacationing salesmen and we are disillusioned into thinking that democracy is the best and that we need to help other countries develop. Personally I found Illichs declarations infuriating. He does not understand service. At all. We did not go on our brigade to rub our American wealth in their faces. We did not go on our brigade to reinforce the status quo. We did not go on our brigade to develop their country or to try to change their way of life. We went on our brigade to help. We did not judge their way of life or try to make them feel bad about how they live. Maybe they live in poverty and maybe we live in the upper-middle class of America, but that does not make either of us better or worse than the other. We are all just people. In Mortons article about the irony of service, he mentions that one of the things he was told while doing service in Bangladesh was that he should never do something for someone that they could do themselves. In a way, I think this is a good rule to follow when we go to other areas to serve, we should make sure not treat them like they are helpless, because they are not. They are incredibly capable and strong people. By making sure that we do not treat them like they are unintelligent, dependent life forms, we are enabling a community of equality between the servants and the served. Our privilege is the privilege to have the opportunity to meet such amazing people, and to hopefully have impacted them in a positive way just like they impacted us in a magnificently positive and life-changing way. This brings me to the most important part of service: relationships. Our privilege is the opportunity to develop relationships with both the people we serve alongside of as well as with the people we served. Our service is developing meaningful, unforgettable

relationships with the people we met on our brigade and letting them know someone loves them and someone cares. Our reason for pursuing social change is the individuals we spent time with on our brigade. I agree with Mortons idea that usually service starts out with the emotional side, and then ones emotions push es them to do something on a macro level. Our personal relationships with those we met in Ghana can be the fuel to our fires. Morton quoted Elisabeth Griffiths idea of the cycle of service and transformation as anger, anguish, analysis, action. I think this is a pretty accurate description of the flow of service to social change, however instead of anger I would just say emotion. On our brigade, the emotions I felt when meeting and getting to know the families living there were more than just anger. I felt anger because they were in pain and suffering from diseases like malaria that can so easily be cured for us, but can take lives in other parts of the world. I felt deep sorrow when I used the infant size blood pressure cuff on a 94 year old woman who weighed only 67 pounds. I felt terrific joy when I taught a group of children how to play thumb wars without even being able to communicate verbally. I felt overwhelming gratitude during the open and closing ceremonies of our brigade. It is each of these emotions and more that pushes people to do. First comes emotion, and then anguish at the feeling of helplessness, which I think each of us brigaders felt during our brigade. We felt helpless because their problems are rooted in something so complex, they are rooted in society. However, after the anguish comes analysis. People take the time to reflect on the relationships they developed and to reflect on why those they met were in their circumstances in the first place. We begin to research, to analyze, and to understand how the structures of society and environment result in poverty, illiteracy, hunger, lack of water sources, disease and other issues. Once we have the knowledge and the understanding of what causes the issues, action follows. Once we know how to break apart the problem, that is exactly what can happen, we can break apart and get rid of the problem. It is not easy. It takes time, effort, cooperation, funds, and knowledge but it can be done, and it is fueled by the relationships established from the very beginning as well as the relationships developed during the process of bringing about the social change. As I mentioned before, we cannot change the world on our own, it takes teamwork. Relationships are the foundation for transformation and essential for bringing about political change. Service is not simple. It has a multitude of factors going into it, and any number of results coming out of it. Service has some possible bad parts, but I believe it has mostly amazingly good parts. Service involves power, the power to change people. We have the power to change the lives of those we serve and those we serve have the power to change our lives. We have the privilege to have met the families and children we served in Ghana, and we have the privilege to try to help them. The power and privilege involved with service is based in the most important part of service, they are based in relationships. Our relationships are what cause change. Working together, to

understand the social issues and to learn how to bring them down, we can change the lives of the people we met, the people who changed our lives.