Service

The word service is often used by religious communities in reference to an almost sacred duty to offer oneself and one's resources to others in need.  Many who are nonreligious find similar value in service as well.  The Peace Corps founded during the Kennedy Administration, followed by Americorps, established the “virtue” of service by young adults and in recent decades “service learning” - required or encouraged community service - has become standard in many public schools and in higher education.   Community service is sometimes imposed by courts as punishment.  And “going into the service” as always meant joining the military.  Other than the latter, some would say that the degree to which a cultural value is placed on civically organized voluntary service (unpaid or low paid) is a distinct characteristic of American society not fully duplicated in Europe and elsewhere.

At the same time, in other contexts “service” is understood to refer to professional, paid-for service(s) - e.g., from doctors, lawyers, accountants or anyone else-  drycleaners, dog-walkers, caterers - providing a particular service to the paying public, giving rise to the term “service industry.”  

QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:

- How would you express the value of service (the first meaning) to the person doing it as well as to Society?

- Do you think young people benefit from being required to engage in service (by their church or school)?

Contributors: 

Mary Jacksteit

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