Editor's note: This essay won first place for 10th-graders in the annual Community Services Essay Contest, sponsored by the Traverse City Kiwanis Club.
Most often when we think of community service, we think of a volunteer effort. Some examples in our community would be helping out at the senior citizens center or volunteering for a nonprofit organization.
My experience with community service always has been as a volunteer. I spent seventh- and eighth-grade summers volunteering each day at the Great Lakes Children's Museum, reading stories to children and dressing up in character costumes, such as Curious George and Miss Spider.
I have worked with the Boardman River cleanup, such as picking up along the river bank and moving branches off the pathway and giving time to the Traverse City Children's Theatre by setting up lights and running them for a couple of shows. I also have visited senior centers such as the Pavilions and Orchard Creek. In my experience community service always has been a pleasure. Up to this point in my essay, I have answered this in an English formulaic manner. I would like to speak from my heart concerning how I personally feel about community service.
Traverse City brings people from nearby towns as well as the rest of the country. We have the Cherry Festival, Film Festival, Winter Fest and the new Comedy Festival. We also have Friday Night Live downtown and other fun community events. My experience as a guest in another town inspired me to find a way to entertain people at Traverse City events.
Three years ago, in Venice, Italy, I was standing in a long line with my family, and while we were waiting we were entertained by a street performer dressed up as Charlie Chaplin. We laughed, talked to people around us and felt comfortable in their community. After returning home to Traverse City, I wanted to make our friendly community even friendlier and make our guests feel just as accepted and welcomed here as I was in Venice.
To do this, I went to Goodwill and bought some baggy clothes, a derby hat, a cane, big shoes and some makeup. I became Charlie Chaplin, the Traverse City version. My debut was at the Film Festival. I found people smiling to each other while I performed. They would turn to the other people in line and ask them to take their picture with me. People who did not know each other would start talking and have a good time. Even after I would move on, people would continue to laugh, talk and start up joyful conversations. I knew that our community would become a friendly part of their memories. Since then I have performed at many festivals and events.
Community service not only involves giving something to the community, but it also means the volunteer receives something back. I have been asked by many people why I perform for free. I tell them my reward is making people smile. That is a great feeling, and it is the pay I get from the community.
Harold Kranick is a sophomore at St. Francis High School.