Too stressed or busy to do service? You might be missing the answer.

When I meet with students about their Christian service hours, a similar answer resounds as to why hours are not done. “I am too busy.” “I don’t have enough time.” “I am too stressed with school and sports and extracurriculars.”

As an alumna of Santa Margarita and the University of Notre Dame, I know well the pressures of competitive academics and athletics. I know well the feeling of simply not having enough time to do everything being asked of you.

This feeling can become overwhelming, or it can become an opportunity. An opportunity to decide what your priorities are, and to get back to basics that your well-being as a person and what you bring to others is actually the most important thing. Who am I? What am I here for? What matters most? What matters least? (See Matthew Kelly’s books to dive more into these questions.)

Here’s what I’ve seen and experienced personally when service becomes a priority:

  • Doing service makes you feel like you have more time. When you set aside time for doing good that benefits others, time seems to gift itself back to you. The most important things come to light, and the least important things fall away. It often takes stepping away and stepping out of ourselves to be able to see what is not as important as we thought it was.
  • Doing service gives you an increased sense of confidence. When students engage in service, it can initially be uncomfortable. You want me to go where and do what?! Moving through discomfort, engaging with people and place that are different than the norm, requires students to adapt. When this adaptation occurs, students learn new things about themselves and feel empowered. It is a beautiful thing to see.
  • Doing service increases your Emotional Intelligence. Ah, the value of EI! It is a gift to our relationships, our schools, our colleagues at work, the folks we meet at the grocery store and everyone in between. Engaging in service builds empathy and decreases our judgment of others by allowing us to enter into the life stories of those we would otherwise not know.
  • Doing service increases your happiness and sense of being loved. When we engage in service, we see the joys and challenges of others lives. More often than not, the first response of students is, “I have so much to be grateful for.” When we engage in service, we learn to love and to receive love.

One of my biggest role models for life had it right in her “Simple Path.”

“The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.” -Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta

So, stop and take a deep breathe with me, and consider, “How can I be of service to those in most need today?”


*This blog post was written first for parents and students at a Catholic high school in Orange County.

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