Use your privilege to serve and empower others

Heath Koch

At this time of year, the word “service” gets thrown around about as often as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” plays on the radio. But what exactly is service, and why do we do it?

To some, service is innate and simply a tenet of human nature. To others, service is learned and observed over time. Yet, a fundamental desire for community and to help others within these communities transcends any other differences we may have. Service, at its core, is a way to take the opportunities and privileges we have been afforded and use them to empower others in the pursuit of a
better world.

The holiday season — as we are reminded of our fortune and as we engage more deeply with our communities — is the perfect occasion for this renewed emphasis on service. We encourage Longhorns to take an active role in serving over the coming weeks, whether during a quick break from studying or over an extended period over winter break. Here are some of our favorite principles of service and recommendations for places to serve over the
coming weeks:

 Consistent Service 

Volunteering once can help build a community up, but consistency encourages faster and more impactful growth. By showing up consistently, stronger ties to the community are built and can generate better advocates for those who have difficulty being able to advocate
for themselves.

 Service is Not Glamorous

And that’s what makes it great. One of the biggest misconceptions of service can arise from feeling like service doesn’t make a genuine impact on the community. However, thankless service is necessary and often some of the most meaningful. It’s difficult, it’s gritty and sometimes it’s hard to see the value when the results are not immediate.

The Central Texas Food Bank provides meals and services to people in need in the Central Texas area, and the food bank always has the capacity for more volunteers. Students can become involved by volunteering to work a shift at their warehouse in southeast Austin and by organizing either a canned food drive or an online
donation drive.

Feed My People, a program hosted by First United Methodist Church in Austin, has volunteers preparing and serving breakfast for members of the homeless community from 4:45 to 7:15 every Tuesday and Thursday morning. Volunteers are also able and encouraged to talk to patrons, which can extend the community building even further.

Blackland CDC is an organization dedicated to rehoming displaced members of the East Austin community. Volunteers can help with neighborhood beautification projects, as well as the construction and cleaning of homes in the neighborhood. Through this organization, volunteers are able to help prevent the displacement of families from their homes.

There are countless ways to serve over the coming weeks, from joining the hundreds of student organizations like our own to spontaneously gathering a group of friends and signing up for a shift at the food bank. We encourage Longhorns to empathize with their community and its needs this holiday season and find a way to empower the individuals around them — after singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” of course. 

Koch is a chemical engineering senior and the Vice Chair of Membership for the Texas Blazers.