September 7, 2016

Eye-Opening Service

There is no better way to open the academic year than getting into the community and working with our neighbors. Learning how to give, gain and grow through service is lesson one at Guilford College. This year, Guilford’s Day of Service afforded me the privilege of joining 300 volunteers who connected with 40 nonprofit organizations throughout the Triad.

My time with the Glen Haven community offered a glimpse into a world of rich diversity. I had the chance to engage with refugees and immigrants from Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Nepal and Mexico. At the same time, I saw a community of people seriously challenged to survive and struggling to make lives in Greensboro for themselves and their families.

Our Bonner program, celebrating its 25th year at Guilford as a lead exemplar of service engagement, has worked hard to build a rewarding relationship with the Glen Haven community. As Bonner Scholar Elliott Jarrett ’18 shared with me, creating community is “how we put our Core Values into practice.”

And, as the Bonner program models, it’s not a one and done experience. Building community requires an ongoing investment in partnering with people to achieve positive change.

On my Saturday at Glen Haven, I got a taste of what a shared labor of love looks like: flourishing gardens nourished with compost, families receiving fresh vegetables from the Guilford College farm, children creating crafts and receiving school supplies, and a team effort to clean up the grounds.

Most of all, I sensed the great hope and deep pride of the Glen Haven community. Stories of trial, tribulation and triumph moved me, and I was inspired by the infectious enthusiasm of the children. We could not always speak the same language, but we connected through our eyes.

Now that our eyes are opened, the challenge for all of us at Guilford is what are we going to do about what we see? That’s a question I’ll explore in next month’s blog as we begin to look anew at what our seven core values call us to do.