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Fireworks exploded in the sky. Coloring the sky in hues of red and blue. The temple was holding its annual Diwali celebrations. Everyone was invited to partake in the festivities, observe age-old traditions, and head down to the basement where I, along with several other volunteers, served food free of charge.

I glanced down at my watch to check the time read 8:30 P.M. I had been volunteering since noon and began to feel the strain on my body. Feeling drained, I made my way out, ready to call it a night until two kids ran and bumped into me. They could not have been more than eight years old. After giving me a flimsy apology, the children looked at each other, laughed, and ran away. After noticing how ecstatic they were, I took another look around at my surroundings. Parents were sitting in groups having discussions about their past, and their future. Kids were exuberant as they waved their sparklers, and for a moment everything seemed to feel like it was in bliss. At that moment I remembered why I was volunteering in the first place and went back to my serving station to continue helping the other volunteers.

Looking back, I would have always considered myself to be a creature of habit. My daily agenda never varied: I came home, ate a snack, watched some television, and then started working on my homework. Although I considered myself at this stage ‘fulfilled’ something was missing. I realized it wasn’t a material aspect I was devoid of, but a social one: community service.

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Around middle school, however, that all changed. My dad introduced me to the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh organization, a nonprofit organization that is not only interested in preserving the Hindu culture but also in providing community service programs and creating relief programs for those in need. Through HSS, I had become instituted as a member of the youth board where we helped organize much larger scale events to promote the temple’s public image and raise awareness for issues such as mental health and drug abuse.

Aside from giving back to the community, I value volunteering and community service because it allows me to connect with others on a deeper level. Several months ago I had gone to the volunteer at the temple to go do some landscaping to improve the overall aesthetic of the temple. While I was pulling weeds from the front bed, another volunteer began to engage me in a conversation. At first, I was irritated, we were supposed to be working, but as time went by, I began to appreciate the interaction a lot more. His name was Haragopal Parsa, Director of the International Business major at the University of Denver. Dr. Parsa told me that he was in awe of what I was doing and that it was pleasant to see the youth outside contributing to society in their ways. Feeling more comfortable, I asked him a question, “Why? What are you here?”.It was rare how successful people like Dr. Parsa to partake in volunteer work without just sponsoring them instead. He responded with, “ It widens my network and most importantly it connects me to my community. See the conversation you and I are having right now would be very hard to have if done in a professional environment.”

Usually, when people think about community service, they assume that volunteering is just ‘ hours we need to be able to graduate’. Community service is more than just hours; community service is based on the acts performed by an individual to help or bring benefits to his or her community. Community service is a vital life force to many communities as they depend on their aid to effectively expand. Every time I go and volunteer, I contribute a piece of my time and energy for the betterment of the community.

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