"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
February 6, 2013
The Donut Service - by Michela Hunter
by College Voices
Michela Hunter
Freshman, Brigham Young University

I had never had donuts that were as delicious as these glazed ones. I guess it had been a while since I’d had donuts, or maybe it was just because they were free; either way, I was pretty happy I’d made it to the Wilk in time to get them, even though that had meant getting out of bed at eight on my long-anticipated day off from classes.

I munched on the donuts happily as I talked with Tiffanie, Kylie, Kaitlynn, Ben, and Brandon, looking around interestedly at all of the other students filling the Wilkinson Center ballroom. Long rows of seats had been set up facing the stage, as though in preparation for a speaker or presentation of some kind; the chatter of hundreds of students filled the room.

A lot of people sure were willing to get up early on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for free donuts, I thought, craning my neck at all of them and trying to see from my seat in the front of the room if there was anyone I recognized in the crowd. There were a few people from my ward, but most of them appeared to be older students or students from other freshman wards.

That was when a man in a brown suit approached me and Kylie and, smiling and shaking our hands, asked, “Why are you here?”

She appeared taken aback. “Um...why are we here?” she asked. I almost piped up with a snarky free donuts, of course but then thought better of it.

“Yeah,” he said, smiling. “Why do you serve?”

“Um, because...service...is...good?” said Kylie, who had obviously been caught off guard.

The man laughed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to put you under pressure,” he said kindly. “I’m just the speaker this morning and wanted to get some perspectives from some of the students. Enjoy your donuts!”

He walked away. Pretty soon, the attention of all the students in the ballroom was called: several students introduced themselves, spoke for a few moments on the importance of service, and then introduced the man we had just been talking to. He, too, began to speak on the importance of service, as well as how impressed he was that so many of us had turned up to serve on a morning when we didn’t have to be in class.

“So...I think these donuts were supposed to be for people who came here to do service projects today,” I finally said, turning to look at Kylie to see what she thought of our mistake. Kylie, however, didn’t look at all surprised at the man’s presentation. I looked around at Tiffanie and the others; none of them were surprised, either.

For reasons that will be obvious to anyone who knows me, I was the only one in my group of friends who had missed the part about there being service projects in conjunction with the free donuts when Tiff had suggested going to the Wilk the night before. Well, now I knew what all of those sign-up booths set up outside of the ballroom were for. I also felt kind of like a gluttonous jerk.

I hadn’t been planning on giving service that day, but I had already gotten up early, duped these good people into thinking I was there out of the kindness of my heart, and eaten their donuts, so I decided to stay and help out (I hadn’t been planning on not giving service that day, either). Ben and Brandon (who were kind-hearted souls come for the service opportunities, not the donuts) had already signed up for a project, so Kylie, Tiff, Kaitlynn, and I joined them.

What we ended up doing was completely different from any service project I’d ever participated in: we were provided with huge bags filled with plastic Ziplock baggies containing sets of educational flashcards. These flashcard sets had been used in schools in India, and were now old, beat-up, and covered with a fine coating of dirt and who-knew-what-else; so, we had to wipe down each card, throw out the old baggies, and put each card set into a new baggie. Very gross, but simple, easy, and a lot of fun once we got to talking with one another and with the other volunteers at the table.

It was mid-afternoon once we had finished, and though we’d spent a good few hours wiping down grimy flashcards, they definitely didn’t feel like hours wasted. It ended up being a pretty good day; it had been a while since I’d gotten involved in a service project like that, and I’d forgotten how much fun it was.

BYU is much more of a service-oriented university than I’d at first realized. It isn’t just the student-organized service projects that occur on Martin Luther King Jr. Day; students are very much encouraged to engage in service projects and activities, and many do. There is a certain atmosphere that permeates all we do here. It has something to do with the service office in the Wilk, the temple and Missionary Training Center up the street, and the motto I sometimes see around campus, reminding me to “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.”

I’m probably not the best example of the devoted service-giver who goes out of their way to get involved in huge service projects; I tend to get distracted—by school, life, and sometimes just stupid things (i.e. during the ward Family Search Indexing activity that was held last week in place of FHE, I ended up slugging it out with Cade in Super Smash Bros. after completing a few batches of names). Whenever I do find time to stop thinking about myself and get involved in service, I never regret it; but lately, with the opportunity to participate in and emphasis on various service projects around campus, I’ve been changing the way I think about service projects.

It’s been fun to build off of that motto I see everywhere when I’m least expecting it. But by taking it to heart, I’ve been able to start making it an integral part of my education and college experience. Instead of taking it to mean that I have to take a chunk out of a Saturday afternoon to do a huge service project (which is never a bad thing), I try to make service a part of my everyday life.

It’s amazing what you notice if you keep your eyes and ears open and then seize the chance to serve someone who needs it. And how much easier it is to tackle homework and other assignments if you feel good about something you did that morning, someone you served in secrecy or a couple of hours you spent in the temple up the street; you feel a little more empowered than you did before.

It’s a weird feeling, but good; and more importantly, it’s helping me find ways to use what I’m learning here to serve other people who might not be as talented in the areas where my greatest strengths lie.

And if that’s the only thing that I take away from my time here, I’m okay with that. Who knows? I may even get a few more free donuts in the process.


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