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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Paul's Perspective: Is community service in your genes?

  • Earlier this month, I took part in an activity that I normally only report about – community service.
    As part of the Leadership Phelps County group, I helped make felt shapes and felt boards for children in the Early Care and Education program with The Community Partnership.
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  • Earlier this month, I took part in an activity that I normally only report about – community service.
    As part of the Leadership Phelps County group, I helped make felt shapes and felt boards for children in the Early Care and Education program with The Community Partnership.
    Danielle Barr, Educare coordinator with the program, explained that purchasing such items can be expensive, so my classmates and I went the home-made route and using cardboard, die-cutting machines — and what seemed like a lot of glue — we completed the project.
    Now the children in the program can learn about shapes.
    And we, as a team, helped them be able to do so.
    On the van ride over to The Community Partnership, there was speculation that we would take part in some activity. Maybe it was wrapping presents or some other way to help others.
    It was a good feeling to make the felt shapes and boards. And I didn’t even need to see the look on the children’s faces to feel good about what I did.
    The Rolla Daily News usually publishes these good deeds, but I’m usually on the other side of the notepad or camera lens. I’m usually just observing people doing nice things for others and then I report on them.
    So it was a different feeling when I got the chance to help others.
    Community service was the theme of the day for my classmates and I, who are learning how to be leaders.
    It wasn’t just at The Community Partnership where we saw community service in action. We also went to Great Circle in St. James and heard from both staff who are helping foster youth there and some teenagers themselves  who are learning how to become independent.
    We also heard from Ben Smith, of Camp David of the Ozarks, a place for children whose parents are in prison.
    There are several other organizations in the area that help others.
    It got me wondering…what is it that draws people to community service?
    I recently heard about a study recently published in the journal Social Neuroscience, in which researchers found that people who perform selfless acts for others are genetically-inclined to do so.
    The study found that a single variation in a genotype seems to affect whether or not a person engages in pro-social acts.
    Individuals who have one variation of the genotype have a tendency toward social anxiety and are less likely to help others in ways that involve personal interaction.
    Those who have another variation, in contrast, not only were less anxious, but also were more likely to be helpful.
    Page 2 of 2 - So if this is true, maybe community service isn’t for everyone. My only “beef” with community service is when it is required.
    Don’t get me wrong — we need people with that genotype who want to help others.
    But using community service as a requirement for high school students or as a form of punishment for criminals may not be the best idea.
    Volunteering should be done because you want to do it.
    Community service, in the end, should be left to those with the genes for it — and the people at The Community Partnership, Great Circle and Camp David of the Ozarks that I met certainly have those genes.

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