Hundreds of Hillsdale students flooded the community on Saturday for the college’s “Day of Service.” This week, hundreds more will raise money for philanthropy during “Greek Week,” when sororities compete to raise funds.
These events accomplish good things — but we shouldn’t let them check our charity boxes. Instead, these bursts of goodwill should kickstart habits of giving and awareness that may be less noticeable but, in the long run, have more impact.
Short-term aid can have problems if it doesn’t have a long-term perspective. Researchers have documented the problems with short-term mission trips that give quick-fix solutions and leave communities in the dust, or projects that focus on bandaging material needs while neglecting deeper relational problems.
So make Saturday’s volunteer project a habit. Join the GOAL program you helped for a day. Donate every month to the charity you support during Greek Week. Give your time, not just money. And invest in the Hillsdale community in other ways, by giving it your business and taking interest in its affairs. It has more to offer you than you have to offer it.
The Day of Service and Greek-life philanthropy are good things, but they don’t make Hillsdale students good students. It’s easy to do the right thing when everyone’s doing it together and when you can post a ‘selfie’ of it on Instagram. Let these events encourage you to join volunteer programs or meet needs you’ve witnessed habitually — in a humble, quiet fashion.