Rethinking the Definition of Service: Washington, DC

From Jeanie ’15, Arielle ’14, Haleigh ’14, and Scarlett ’14

Over the past two days, we have been working with Brad Ogilvie and a few interns at the William Penn House. When we first met Brad, he sat us down and talked to us about what service truly means in his eyes. He described our inner struggle pertaining to service as “ego verses grace” and then went on to explain that, “service only happens by making comfortable people uncomfortable”. He meant that we, the George School volunteers, need to go out of our comfort zone in order to provide genuine service. Brad also emphasized the need to build a personal connection to those we are serving and to build a friendship. Even just sharing our experiences with one another and listening to each other’s stories could be considered “service.” His point of view was very different from anything we had talked about before and it was eye-opening for each of us. The lesson Brad had shared made all of us rethink the way we approached our service in the beginning of the week, and it resonated with us powerfully.

At the end of day four, we had the privilege of meeting Janie, a longtime friend of Brad. She has devoted the last sixty-two years of her life to bettering the community through standing up for the rights of the poor in Washington, DC. Janie’s mission is to improve the lives of those who are just one paycheck away from homelessness. Therefore, Janie is very passionate about gardening and teaching others how to grow organic vegetables for themselves in order to promote a nutritious lifestyle. Janie also gives so much of what she has to others. She said, “everything that I have two of in my pantry, I give one to someone else who needs it,” while also noting that she barely has enough money to support herself.

The next day we went to Capitol Hill Methodist Church to help out another of Brad’s friends, Rob, who runs a breakfast kitchen Monday through Friday for anyone who wants to come and share a meal together. We helped prepare the food and then we sat down to eat with those who were in need of a meal. During that time Rob read a couple of excerpts from the bible to enlighten us, and eventually shared his story with us. Rob told us about how he now shares his house with seven other people who he once brought in as strangers. After reflecting on the past few days, we realize that service is not something we should only do on special occasions and trips like this one. It is something we have to do on a daily basis and integrate into our lives and communities. We must break down the barriers we put up between ourselves and those we are serving, and true service will be mutually beneficial.

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