Reflection is something that may seem unappealing to many at first glance. To some it may seem unnecessary or cringe, to others it may seem to force meaning into things that do not have much of it. During the majority of my first year, I easily fell under this category. Although I understood that the reflection aspect of service was important and was able to participate in related exercises, I never was able to truly find its significance within myself.
Once I became a CBL intern, my job was to lead reflections and other discussions in a plethora of CBL classes. These were mostly Montserrat classes for first-years that were in positions similar to mine just a year ago. Much like my first-year self, many first-years understand that participating in CBL and doing service is good, but have yet to discover how much it can really do for them and for others. The way I discovered this was by embracing the process of reflection.
You may be asking, “How exactly can I ‘embrace the process’ of reflection?” While it may seem straightforward, embracing the process of reflection is something that I always struggled with. Being a discussion leader as a CBL intern I’ve learned the importance of being an active participant in discussions and finding meaningful ways to interpret my experiences as well as learning from the experiences that others may have at their sites. Understanding that you can learn directly from the experiences of others is also key to gaining meaning from reflections. When sharing my experiences, I’ve learned to focus on the impact of stories that I share and less on the actions themselves. Many students go into reflections with the intentions of telling interesting stories or acts of kindness that they performed or someone did for them. While these actions are important, focusing on how these stories made you or someone else feel is how we grow from the reflection process. This is embracing the process. Being able to bring out your emotions to learn about yourself from your service experience as well as how certain actions can impact the lives and feelings of others. By letting our guards down and accessing our true thoughts we are able to reflect more productively on our encounters and mature as humans. That is how we learn from our CBL experiences and how CBL reflections have changed my life for the better.
In my CBL site at the Nativity School of Worcester I have been tutoring middle school students once a week this past school year. At first, I knew that what I was doing was good, but I wasn’t sure why it was beneath the surface. Once I started reflecting on my experiences with others, I found the true meaning in my service. For example, I often draw with some of the students when they finish their homework as opposed to forcing them to do extra math problems. The action itself seemed rather insignificant to me. However, by reflecting on the story, I realized that doing this made the students really happy which in turn brought me joy as well. This is because I was building true connections with the students I was tutoring, which made both them and myself feel part of a greater community and friendship.
Reflecting on my experiences has allowed me to discover why I do service. Being able to reflect has allowed me to find purpose in my life and my everyday activities. While service can seem very surface-level at first, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and express your emotions through reflection can make a once a week experience last a lifetime.