Looking back on my semester of CBL service, I will take away one important thing if nothing else. Sometimes, our help is not always warranted, and sometimes, volunteers can be more of a burden on an organization than a help.
On my last trip to Rubicon, I was tired. I had pulled an all-nighter the night before studying. As I walked to the service shuttle, I debated even going, wanting to take a nap to be refreshed for more volunteering later that afternoon for my Bonner service site. However, wanting to gain some more insights (selfishly), I went anyway.
As I walked into conference room 307 for group, the heater was blasting. The heat was almost like being in a womb or cocoon, very conducive for sleeping. The room was also dark. Not the best combination for a sleep-deprived college student.
I tried my best to be alert and help facilitate conversation, however, I found myself resting my head on my hand and having to pinch myself to stay awake. I was of no service to Rubicon that day. The most I did was round up the clients from their dorms as usual and make sure they were in the conference room by 1:15. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I was being more of a nuisance to the organization than a help.
In general, I felt my time at Rubicon this semester was not super useful to the organization. Perhaps that’s because of the short time period I was there, rather than my 3 years at my Bonner site during which I have grown close to the kids and staff and have taken leadership roles within the organization. Perhaps I should have been more assertive in asking to play a bigger role in facilitating discussion during group talks. Perhaps it was just the time of day I was volunteering. However, hearing some of the things clients had to say about their struggles with anger and substance abuse gave me great insights, ideas for my final paper, and generally made me feel lucky for the life I live. I definitely feel this is selfish in a way. I gained more from this experience than I gave, and realistically, none of the clients I encountered this semester will remember me. And perhaps the kids I’ve mentored for three years won’t, either. But I do think there is merit in service learning. Sustained over time, I think volunteering at nonprofits can be beneficial to both parties. We just need to be realistic and not have such a narcissistic view on how we can “change the world.” I am grateful that Rubicon let me be a part of their organization this semester, and I can only hope that if anything, I can help spread the word about the insights I gained about mental health, which is a sorely overlooked topic nowadays.