Often times I get caught up in the stress of my service site and my life. I find myself complaining too much instead of being grateful for what I have and what I have accomplished. Yes, I am going to be cliché and write about being grateful and thinking about others immediately after Thanksgiving. I think it is important to take a step back and realize how good I actually have it.

Like many of the other Lasallian Volunteers in my cohort, my role at my service site  can be very demanding. We all have those difficult students, families, clients and elderly people we serve. With that being said, it is easy to get caught up in the thought that they should make it easier on us because we’re giving up a year or more away from our families to serve them. I often find myself complaining to Julia, my lovely community member and fellow LV, about these difficult students and families I encounter. Asking her things like, “Why? Why won’t this student follow directions or listen to me? Why won’t this parent respond to my emails or letter home? Why does this student not like me, not respect me?” I am forgetting that these students and families have lives outside of school just like me. They have things going on that I do not know about and I cannot begin to understand.

I need to remind myself to take a step back and remember the reasons why I am here. I did not do this because I thought it would be fun or it would be easy. I decided to do these years of service because these people deserve it. The people we serve deserve to be treated better and to have better lives. Doing service is not about you, it’s about who you are serving. If I didn’t decide to step up and give back, who would? It starts with me and that’s why I am here in Concord, California. The fact that I even have the privilege to do a service year—two actually—is reason enough to do so.

Unlike some of my students and families, I come from a loving, supportive home where I am safe and never hungry. I live with two amazing Christian Brothers and another LV who will go above and beyond for me. These are things I need to keep in mind when working with a difficult student or family. They deserve all of my love and support because they may not be getting it elsewhere.

Although at times service can be difficult, I am experiencing so much—lifelong relationships and love I could not get anywhere else. As people, we naturally expect things to be easy and to be perfect, but I think the beauty of doing service is that it’s hard. The challenges I face now are going to make me a better teacher and even a better person. With over a year under my belt already, I have already become so much better than I was before.

This past week, I visited my high school and talked about what I do as an LV and my experiences thus far. One of the girls asked me, “What gave you the courage to do a second year?” Initially, I said, “the love and support of my family,” but I have been thinking about it. Honestly, what I do is not nearly as courageous as the challenges that our students, families, clients and elderly face and overcome every day. It’s actually humbling to see what they have to deal with and how well they do so.

Ashley Weinberger is a second-year Lasallian Volunteer serving at De La Salle Academy in Concord, California. She is a 2017 graduate of La Salle University.