The little girl’s face had distinct pink and dark patches, the kind one sees from a survivor of a fire. The outer ends of her lower and upper eyelids bore evidence of stitches — perhaps just removed that day. She was laughing and smiling as she worked on decorating the foam crown I had handed to her. I sat next to her, along with other children working on their own crafts in the waiting area of the Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Earlier, at another table, I sat with a little girl who was strapped to a motorized chair. Her head bobbed back and forth, as I tried to put a foam crown on her head. Her father told me she probably would not keep the crown on — and she didn’t, but I wanted to provide an opportunity for the little girl (and her father) to realize that “every little girl is as beautiful as a princess.”
Mother Teresa said, “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”
I was fortunate to have grown up with loving parents who instilled in me a strong set of lifelong values. Of these many values, I learned that to serve is to love, and to love is to serve. From the moment I realized I could make a difference in my community, I have always felt a calling to serve those in need. To me, community service is an investment of time and love, and is undoubtedly an eye opening experience.
While a member of the National Honor Society at my high school, the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA), I took part in an event called the “O2 Breathe Walk” for individuals with pulmonary hypertension. I helped set up and clean up information booths and food stations. Additionally, I cheered on and hydrated the people who were walking for a great cause. This event helped raise awareness of pulmonary hypertension in the local community. Through observation and personal anecdotes, I gained new knowledge of this disease, as well as a new appreciation for my own life and well-being. Furthermore, as a proud, comfortable introvert who focuses deeply on my studies, I had the chance to talk with students and adults whom I would not normally converse with in my everyday life. This allowed me to improve my social skills, open up to new people, and learn a little about other people’s life stories. As an individual who values family, this experience also showed me how much community service truly brings people together. My fellow OCSA students and I worked together to achieve a common goal, and families united to pay respects to their deceased loved ones. By the end of that day, my heart smiled with gratitude because I realized that I benefited not only the families and officials, but myself as well.
It is very unfortunate when people in my generation perform community service with an unwilling attitude. Community service can and should allow for people to give back. Having been blessed with artistic talents, I realized that I could serve others while doing the things I love. I recall performing at the Santa Ana Zoo for children with leukemia. Several other actors and I performed “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. Engaging with the kids, and seeing their beautiful, smiling faces made me realize that community service is a selfless enterprise. Having participated in service such as singing at hospitals and homeless shelters, I cannot help but feel a powerful sense of accomplishment.
I can affirm from personal experience that community service fosters personal growth and self-efficacy.
This all goes to say that community service can be positively driven by intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. As I use my artistic performance to lift people up — not just providing fleeting entertainment — I know now that I do not need an official title such as “ambassador” in order to give back to the community. I can give back as an artist. I can give back as a counseling psychologist. I can give back as an individual with a passion to help people and to encourage others to do the same.
Lorenzo Rangel-Santos, California State Ambassador 2015
Lorenzo is a senior at Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, California. He has extensive training in voice, dance and acting and is a third-degree black belt in Taekwondo. He takes pride in service activities that involve using his talents at his church and performing for various fundraising events.