Universally, giving is the basis for all community service projects. Whether someone is offering their time, goods, services, money, etc., volunteers give up part of their lives in order to better those of others. Since the beginning of my Catholic education, service requirements have taken me out of my comfort zone in order to give to others. But, for me, what was completely unexpected was the utter generosity displayed by the different communities that I have helped. Of course, the one that made the most profound impression on me was the town of El Piché in the Dominican Republic.
From the second the members of my trip and I pulled up to the center of the town in the rain, to the goodbyes and final moments where we rode down the mountain in the back of pick-up trucks, the members of the community of El Piché continually gave us anything they felt we needed. It began with a very warm welcome, where the men, women, and kids of the town convened in the middle of their main road with speakers and signs, allowing us to begin our 9 day journey on the right foot. At first, I didn't think much of that small gesture, but as the trip continued, I came to realize that the people of this town offered us whatever they could, proving that giving does not equate to money and material goods but love and compassion.
As my fellow volunteers and I would work for hours in the blistering July heat, the kids and elders of the town would offer us Dominican fruit and delicacies such as fresh cacao and aguacate. Meanwhile, the men would teach us to use pickaxes and shovel through kilometers of soil, rocks, and roots as the women accompanied those who cooled off in the shade. One community member who stuck out the most was an older woman named Juana, who cooked lunch and dinner for us every day. Although she had to take care of her family in a humble home with limited electricity and a very small reserve of clean water, she still sacrificed ample time each day to prepare our food and even sat with us at some of our meals. It was during our visit one night to Juana's humble abode that I finally fully understood the concept of giving, no matter what you have.
Many see "giving without having" exactly how I described it in my previous anecdotes: although one might not have a significant amount of money or material possessions, they offer their goods or services to others. But I have come to the conclusion that those views are slightly skewed. What I was able to realize while sitting in that house, surrounded by some of my best friends and some of my new friends, is that "giving" is not justified by material items; privileged people are not the only ones who can help others out. Anyone can offer help, whether it is a small scale favor for a friend, a 9 day trip where a group of kids totally emerge themselves in a service project, talking to someone after a bad day, or funding the cure for cancer. If you love your neighbor as yourself, and you find happiness in changing communities for the better, then you already have what it takes to give.