Before I was a student at Rutgers, I did not understand that one small action could make a difference. A prime example of that is when I participated in Leadership Quest the summer of 2009; all forty of the students spent the afternoon volunteering at Rutgers Gardens. While Rutgers Gardens is affiliated with the University, they are fully self-sustaining and only have a few full-time staff members. They rely heavily on the volunteer efforts of their supporters and the Rutgers students that frequently volunteer there.
Our task for the day was to weed a large flower garden to help get the Gardens ready for their open house. Myself and the other students did not feel fulfilled. We did not feel like our service action that day really made a difference. All we did was weed, right? So it is reasonable to understand why I was not excited to participate in a service activity at Rutgers Gardens again.
This summer as a Leadership Quest Guide, I was a site leader for 6 of the students during a clean up at the Gardens. We were performing actions similar to when I participated in the service project three years before. All of us participated by digging up overgrown grass and weeding an herb garden. However, this time around I felt like we were all making a difference. I felt that the work we were doing was really making an impact.
During the few hours we were at the Gardens, two of their full-time staff members were working right along side us. Having the two of them share their experiences with us really made all of the difference. We got to learn more about the day-to-day operations of the Gardens and why they value the help we were giving them. They helped us understand that the work our small group, along with the other two groups that were with us, were doing would take them days to complete because there is so many other projects that need to be completed.
Picking weeds may not have changed the world, but we made a difference in the Rutgers community. We helped the workers who run the gardens year round, the guests that would visit the Gardens and see the work we had completed, and the garden itself. This service project helped us all understand the importance of and the impact that servant leadership can make. Those workers may be compensated for what they do, but at the same time, they are working there to make a difference in the community and provide a service to that community. They have taken their needs out of the equation and focus solely on the wants and needs of others.
After learning more about how much small actions can impact a community, I have begun to think of the actions I make on campus as exhibiting servant leadership. I am a member of the Residence Hall Association because I want to contribute to making the experience of living on campus better for every student who chooses to live in the Residence Halls at Rutgers. I hope that the actions I perform in RHA can one day make an impact like the weeding we did at Rutgers Gardens.
This video was made by Michelle Deutsch and consists of her thoughts on the Servant Leadership mindset.