Art by Madeline Duvall
Welcome back to the controlled chaos of a new year, new classes and new resolutions. As Pepperdine’s many hills and staircases teem again with student life, many might be feeling compelled to somehow make 2018 a better year than the one we just left behind. The good news: Pepperdine students have a chance to do that. Before this sentiment fades into yet another ghost of new year’s resolutions past, consider Peace, Hope and Justice Week, an opportunity to engage in the community that is just on your doorstep. While it is great for students to be aware of the opportunities happening around them, it is more important that they actually get involved. This week is a good way for anyone to get their start in volunteering, but it should be only the beginning.
Peace, Hope and Justice Week takes place from Jan. 15 to 19, kicking off with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the National Day of Service, a national volunteering effort on MLK Day to honor the legacy of Dr. King and the emphasis he placed on serving the community.
The Pepperdine Volunteer Center and Intercultural Affairs have teamed up each year for the past 20 years or so to put together a week’s worth of volunteer and educational opportunities centering on the idea of social justice. In the past, events during this week ranged from a trip to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, to a social justice-themed art workshop, to an on-campus Peace, Hope and Justice fair that featured many humanitarian and non-profit organizations.
This week has special significance for many organizations and colleges nationwide. Multiple colleges around the country hold a celebration or commemoration in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. The National Day of Service offers opportunities for people all over the United States to find volunteer opportunities near them on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Even some of our neighbor schools like the University of Southern California host a day of volunteering for their students.
This year’s events included a chance to volunteer through Pepperdine with L.A. Works on Monday, Jan. 15, where students will help restore and beautify the Lincoln High School campus, a key part of the city’s history of Civil Rights activism. Multiple chapels throughout the week, including MLK Chapel, Wednesday morning Chapel and Celebration Chapel will tie into the themes of social change, equality and justice.
Those who wish to engage in some meaningful conversation or broaden their worldview can attend a faculty panel on “The Cross, Race & Free Speech” on Wednesday, Jan. 17 and a discussion on gun violence prevention in the United States on Thursday, Jan. 18.
As classes get off to a running start and schedules fill up, it might seem overwhelming to add more items to the to-do list, but these opportunities allow students and faculty alike to start 2018 off on a proactive note.
From the hands-on work of the National Day of Service to the thought-provoking discussions, there are a variety of ways in which everyone can be involved in this week. Not only is Peace, Hope and Justice Week an accessible way to engage with the historical context and message of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other influential leaders in the peace movement, this message can help address feelings of hopelessness that may have arisen from the events of 2017.
Multiple studies have shown that volunteering even just two hours per week could help alleviate feelings of loneliness or social isolation, and could have other mental health benefits. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom recently recognized volunteering as part of their health policy. Often, especially in younger age brackets, people are deterred from volunteering because they might not feel they have enough time, according to an article from the Guardian.
Luckily, with organized events like those offered for the coming week, the time commitment is very minimal, offering a chance for even the busiest of students to take a day to give back and be involved in the community. This represents a chance for everyone to take just a little time to feel like they’ve actually contributed and made a tangible difference by their very participation. By taking advantage of all that Peace, Hope and Justice Week has to offer, people can expand their knowledge on the issues of social change and equity that will stay with them long after the week has ended. Dedicating the slightest amount of time to this week can help spread awareness and allow its message to become even more impactful.
So before one runs out of steam this year and considers giving up on that do-better feeling, they should consider adding one or more of these events to their planner.
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