Two weeks or so ago, I had the opportunity of performing with the Friends Jazz I ensemble as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Benefit Concert. The goal of the event, which happens around the same time each year, is to raise money for the Friends Shelter, a nightly 14-bed homeless shelter run out of the Friends common room. Our band opened for the Meetinghouse Jazz Band, a professional big band led by Bob Rosen, joined by tenor saxophonist Steve Wilson. When I think of community service, what generally first comes to mind is planting bulbs in a park or working in a homeless shelter. As a result, playing in the MLK concert each of the last four years has been a unique service experience for me—I’ve gotten to serve our community by doing something I love doing regardless of whether there’s a charitable cause involved.
I wonder, does service have to “feel” like service for it to be valuable to those doing the service? The way I see it, a large part of the reason we do service at Friends, in addition to helping others, is to grow from the experience of putting ourselves into often uncomfortable positions for others’ sake. I personally enjoy playing jazz regardless of whether my performance is for a good cause. But, given how much money and awareness the benefit concert raised, perhaps there’s nothing wrong with serving yourself in serving others.