When my older son was in high school in Louisiana, one of the prerequisites for graduation was to make some contribution to society in the form of community service. As a ham radio operator he worked with me to provide communications for the American Red Cross in emergencies and for public service events. At the time I thought that it was a great idea to get young adults acclimated to the idea that they owed something to their neighbors and the community. That life wasn’t just about them.
Now, when you hear of “community service” we tend to think of some celebrity being forced to give a free concert or such; this is so celebrities don’t have to go to jail when they do something the rest of us get punished for. That’s a shame.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many celebrities who perform service out of a sense of purpose or obligation. The USO benefits from Charlie Daniels or Gary Sinise’s “Lieutenant Dan’s Band.” Sheryl Crowe just donated a classic 1959 Mercedes Roadster to be auctioned off for the benefit of Joplin, Missouri schools to help them recover from the devastating tornado that destroyed the town. That is what community service should be.
I firmly believe each of us owes something to those around us. I also believe that most of us plain, ordinary people tend to feel this way. You see the volunteers at church, volunteer coaches at kids’ sporting events and lined up at the blood drive. (Okay, you do get cookies after giving blood, but they aren’t THAT good.) You see people helping out at bicycle races or fun runs. You see volunteer firefighters, Coast Guard Auxiliary and volunteer Paramedics. That’s community service.
Maybe we need a new label for either what the good guys (you know, us “little people”) do or else a new one for what is doled out in lieu of punishment for those with high priced attorneys. Personally, I believe that the good guys have seniority on this issue, so they should get to keep the name, “community service.”
Therefore we will need to rename what Lindsay Lohan and company are sentenced to. Maybe we should call it “slumming with the little people in lieu of jail.” It’s an honest, if not particularly attractive description.
I heard a story in which a celebrity was discussing his contract with his agent. The celebrity believed that if he earned money from an activity not negotiated by the agent, he would not have to pay the agent his commisssion. The agent set him straight by telling him, “If you get a blood transfusion, I get my percentage of that.”
Maybe it would be good if the celebrities’ agents would be required to perform their percentage of “slumming with the little people in lieu of jail” alongside their clients. Could prove to be a great incentive to help their clients stay out of trouble.