University of Delaware

Service Redefined

The Stigma of Service

The definition of “service” is strikingly surprising to the general population, especially the student population on our campus. In my time as a Community Engagement Ambassador and a member of the service-heavy Blue Hen Leadership Program, I have heard many interpretations of service falling along the lines of “volunteering” or “getting out into the community and helping people.” This may be true, but this exact definition is what can be poisonous when thinking about service. If one were to say you must be in one of Hollywood’s movies to ever be considered a good actor, then the amount of “good” actors and actresses in the world would decrease dramatically. The stigma of service being this picture of students serving food at a homeless shelter has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Expanding the Definition

Service’s magnitude has no bounds. While it is incredible to build houses, run nonprofits, and physically improve your community every day through service, this should not be considered the definition. Everyone has the potential to serve in almost every waking minute of the day. A TED talk called “Everyday Leadership” featuring Drew Dudley knocks this idea out of the park: even something you do that may seem small can change someone’s life forever. Whether you pick up a pencil for someone who dropped one, pay a compliment to someone who is having a rough day, or tip the hardworking server at a local restaurant, you are performing service and could be making a much greater impact than you think. Moving a piece of trash to a nearby trashcan is improving your community the same way as someone who hauls pounds of trash every day. Just because the scale is different does not diminish its importance.

A United Effort

You have the tools and capability to change the world around you at any moment no matter how big or small. Becoming aware that you can walk out the door right now and do something that makes your community a better place to be in, or makes someone’s life better, is becoming aware of what service leadership really means. A united effort to look for those small but impactful opportunities on a daily basis is what helps support a thriving community. Pennies on the ground always add up to dollars; simple acts of service always add up to an improved community. Be the change you can be right now. Serve as much as you can. Service is not over when the soup ladles are put away.


Article by Ronald Phillips. Ronald Phillips is a pre-medical senior neuroscience and biological sciences double major with a minor in biochemistry from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania. In addition to being a Community Engagement Ambassador, he is involved heavily with the Blue Hen Leadership Program and QUEST, the Harrington Theatre Arts Company, and the Council of Student Leaders. He also performs clinical research in the emergency department at Christiana Hospital.