So you want to give back to your community, you want to help others and improve yourself at the same time. You feel that by helping out you are fulfilling your duties and gaining sense of self-gratification. Helping out in the community comes in various forms from those who organise trips and activities to those that are well versed in speech and so give lectures. The plate is empty and it can be filled with anything you want it to be and so the mass advantage of the community is that no matter what identity you hold at school/college or university, the community can be a place where you really excel. However there are pros and cons in getting involved and one must realise this because when one is oblivious of this then it hits them hard when their expectations are not met. When others may dislike their work and criticise them, do they take this personally and become upset or do they take it on a whim and continue with what they wish to achieve.
In this short writing I will attempt to define the characteristics of one who wishes to help out in his/her community,the benefits and finally conclude with some final remarks. Hopefully this may give a well rounded introduction to one who would like to get a little bit more involved.
The attributes of one who engages in community work
- Prioritises his/her workload – It can be stressful and at times clash with your own personal goals whether it is studies or work related it is important that one is able to manage and prioritise in order of importance as to which tasks to carry out. Too many times one notices that an individual has neglected their school work in order to organise the next majlis or help out with putting up the decoration of an event. One must realise that community work is important but it will not excel him/her in their pursuit for success, it will help but the real areas of focus are that of studies as the famous saying goes ‘knowledge is power’
- Exercises Patience with ego – When entering community work one may find him/herself ‘in the limelight’ and at first they may enjoy this but over time patience is required in various areas, firstly in dealing with ones ego, the individual must seek to set down his/her ego and realise that his actions or work is all held in the intention. He/She must not let themselves get carried away with who they may become and must always keep in mind Allah. This is because you will be praised and if your good will be praised often and so one must learn to take on that praise but also set it aside and tell themselves ‘this praise is that of the people but the true praise is that of the hereafter’.
- Exercises patience with ‘difference’ -There will be times where people will differ with your opinions or sense of direction and thus it is paramount that anger is controlled. Anger is a negative faculty that can have detrimental effects and so when one is faced with differences of opinion the winner is always the one who remains cool when fire surrounds him.
- Exercises patience with jealously – Naturally humans can fall into this trap and one may find others will ask themselves ‘why is he/she becoming known and not me’, jealously can manifest itself either publicly or behind third party entities. One may find himself embroiled in accusations against them or find his/her name being mentioned negatively. Indeed this can hurt the soul and lead one to tell themselves ‘why should I be involved in the community if I get treated badly by it’. Well the flaw here is blaming the community, it is not its fault that a minority may act unjustly towards you rather the intention should be brought to the forefront and the self should ask ‘why am I doing this work, who is it for?, the truthful soul will question if the work is for the people or for a higher being’
- Is a friend of all and not a few – Often one finds that humans are naturally split into groups of friends and so one may only associate themselves with a limited number of people. As one who works for the community you will find yourself quickly forming new friendships and expanding your connections, some will be closer to you and others not but what binds you between all of them is that you maintain a friendly relationship. When moments of confrontation or misunderstanding occur you will be he one who dampen down any forms of hatred as hatred is that path that starts with miscommunication and ends in isolation.
- Does not expect to be paid – There is this growing trend where individuals expect to be paid for the actions they undertake, whether they design a poster or develop a website, when it comes to giving back is should come from the heart, from the love one holds for their follow humans. It is argued that money adds a sense of value to ones work which is perhaps true but when one is seeking to start fresh with his/her community work then it needs to be with a sincere intention and if they are paid then that is a positive and if not then that is also a positive.
Benefits of Community work
- Confidence – It increases your self confidence and allows for various skill sets to be exploited, don’t ever limit yourself by building an image that you are only one type of person. Rather explore your potential and expand your area of comfort, the more you expand the more you gain,
- Vocational Boost – Employers look for unique skills in people, attributes that will set them apart from others. If one applies for a role that requires finance skills, what better experience than highlighting that one for example was the treasurer of his/her local community initiative. Skill sets backed by evidence is vital and the community can provide this and a whole lot more
- Sense of Worth – Sometimes we feel ‘useless’ we tell ourselves ‘what I have achieved outside of my studies?’ , ‘is my studies all that I am worth?’ The key phrase to take on board here is ‘helping others’, this has a massive effect on the soul. when one is feeling down or depressed often it is their ‘sense of worth’ that is at a all time low and thus giving back to the community increases this and has a positive effect.
- Knowledge – As one increasingly finds themselves at the forefront of events they naturally begin to learn about the religion they follow. They spend more time with speakers or scholars and thus increase their knowledge. They also are in a sense ‘forced’ to read up on Islamic history or jurisprudence as others may ask them questions or they get involved in colourful dialogues.
I have only presented a very brief outlook of what one may expect to face but what I want to try to emphasise is that community work is of great importance it empowers us on many various levels and in return empowers those around us. Often families look down upon community work they are fearful of ‘backbiting’ against their offspring or fearful of their reputation being tarnished in any way or form. When a community is brought together it serves as a reminder of how great the sense of a ‘community’ can feel, none more so than the passing away of our dear brother Yousef Zayni (al fatiha). Look how it shook our souls and caused us to question our value and worth. People wanted to give back and the air was perfumed in positive energy for a tragedy caused flowers to blossom from its loss. I shall finish with a hadith from the prophet where he was asked
‘What actions are most excellent?’
“To gladden the heart of a human being, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the wrongs of the injured.” He also said: “He who tries to remove the want of his brother, whether he be successful or not, God will forgive his sins.”