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When I first heard that San Antonio was under shelter-in-place orders and that classes would be held remotely, I was excited about the prospect of being able to wake up whenever I chose, do my school work at my pace, and then play video games for hours on end. Quarantine is going to be fun, I thought. But I had forgotten a crucial variable that would soon enter the equation: boredom. The illusion of an indefinite summer vacation quickly evaporated and morphed into a depressing world in which seeing friends, going on dates, and traveling were outlawed.
Because I was a pretty busy guy before quarantine, boredom hit me hard and quickly led to boredom-based anxiety. This anxiety caused me to become lazy and depressed. Had I not been scrolling through Instagram one morning (probably at around 3 a.m.), I would most likely still be in that state of lethargic unproductiveness.
What I saw on Instagram that morning was a post by SOS San Antonio, advertising its SOS From Home volunteer program. SOS was giving service hours to students who made short videos thanking health care workers. I knew I would need service hours for my upcoming school year, and my schedule was empty, so I got to work on a video. It probably only took 30 minutes to make, but those were the most rejuvenating 30 minutes I had experienced in months.
The feeling I got by doing something for others and by being productive for the first time in a while snapped me out of my boredom-induced coma and got me thinking about what else I could do to help others. Armed with an abundance of spare time and youthful optimism, I began brainstorming ways to help my community.
After a bit of thinking, I came up with a pretty ambitious idea. In the past, I have partnered with SOS San Antonio, and it’s White House-recognized Make It Happen initiative, to come up with and orchestrate service projects of my own, which have included two donation drives to raise money, diapers, and awareness for the Texas Diaper Bank. My past donation drives involved putting donation bins in schools and businesses and giving speeches at big venues to raise awareness for the cause, but due to quarantine and social distancing guidelines, it was not feasible to do such things.
My idea was to do a donation drive for the Texas Diaper Bank, but tailor it to our current situation. Instead of putting bins in schools and businesses, I would put them in my friends’ front yards, and instead of giving speeches at big venues to drum up support, I would take to social media and raise awareness that way. I figured that unprecedented times called for unprecedented measures, and so I reached out to SOS San Antonio and asked if they were willing to help me with my idea.
And so began the planning, strategizing, and coordinating. I had to find friends who were willing to let me turn their yards into donation sites, come up with ways to effectively market and promote my project on social media, and devise a plan to transport all of the diapers we would get to the Texas Diaper Bank once the project finished. For the first time in a while, I was busy doing something productive that I knew would help my community.
All that work was worth it. The project was a smashing success! We got tremendous traction on social media, and as a result, we accumulated over 7,000 diapers, 5,000 baby wipes, and hundreds of bottles of formula for the Texas Diaper Bank. Because of this service project, so many Texas families were supplied with infant-care products that will keep their babies healthy. As much as this service project helped the Texas Diaper Bank and Texas families, I feel like the person that benefited the most from this project was myself. I learned that volunteering gives me purpose and a voice, and that my creativity and dynamic way of thinking isn’t a bad thing, but instead something that can tremendously benefit my community.
Young people have incredible potential to make a real impact on their communities, and I urge them to join me in giving back through an organization like SOS San Antonio or any of the many local organizations working hard to take care of our city. It will not only brighten the lives of the people in your community, but also your own.