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Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Commentary: The need for a renewed attitude concerning service

Khyle+Wooten%2C+director+of+choral+activities%2C+writes+about+the+importance+of+service+and+encourages+others+to+dedicate+themselves+to+serving+their+community.+
Alec Schlesinger
Khyle Wooten, director of choral activities, writes about the importance of service and encourages others to dedicate themselves to serving their community.

Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to U.S. Congress, once said “service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.” This quote was thrown at me quite a bit as a youth. I had a limited view of service as a spoiled, then only child in the heart of West Philadelphia. If I helped my block pick up the trash on Community Clean-Up Saturdays, I thought I was doing my part. If I handed my spare change to my neighborhood’s houseless, I felt good to do a “service” to them. Because I was spoiled rotten while living in poverty, my view on service was nothing more than kind acts of service that reserved one’s seat in heaven. I remember feeling such a way about this between ages nine and 10. Being increasingly closer to 40, I would tell that version of Khyle to sit down and take 30 years worth of notes. I’ll stick to two brief points here.

How can you BE of service?

While serving obviously denotes action, Sis. Chisholm was onto something. We get to live on this earth for a limited time. Since we’re here, we are well able to do wonderful things with our time. Service is not a testament to our physical fitness, the superior nature of our capabilities or the strength of our moral fiber. When we serve, it’s for others. When we give, it is to bless others. When we work our divinely given purpose toward humankind, it’s to honor, restore and connect to the souls and spirits of others. “Paying the rent” is an action, but it eventually becomes who we are if we lovingly allow it. Doing a service yields far less output than BEING of service. There are certainly boundaries to be employed with this embodiment as one simply cannot give what they don’t have. Pouring into one’s self to overflowing is a practice that never goes out of style. It’s a practice that is its own reward.

Worldview Matters

My heart is made glad when talking to my students about their work and dreams. In their eyes and voices, I can sense all the earnest passion that goes into becoming a musician and educator of the 21st century. I’m always overjoyed to connect with students as they transition from campus life to professional life if only to share in all the energy and courage it takes to take full ownership of their degree program. Readers, I submit that the same energy and courage will be of use to you as you engage the Ithaca College community. Furthermore, our view on service will only expand as our worldview expands. What do you love about yourself, your community, your tribe, your work, your world? How do you see yourself in the work by which you’re inspired? How can you make room to receive help and build with those whose experiences are different from yours? When your worldview grows, you make room for service. When there’s plenty of room, you’ll need plenty of hands (see Langston Hughes’ “Freedom’s Plow”). “Paying the rent” takes work, but it takes all of us to do it.

Service is both rewarding and thankless. Service is sometimes inconvenient but life-giving. Service is always in the business of building a better world. I believe with all my heart that service is what makes our institution special and set apart. I wish for all of us a renewed zeal for reaching a big world with a big heart. New ideas, new plans and new strategies are headed our way! Let’s get ready, readers! Get your dollars and cents in order. THE RENT IS ALWAYS DUE!

Here with you, 

Dr. Wooten

Khyle Wooten (he/they) is the director of choral activities. Contact them at [email protected].

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