The Group

This was the first meeting (of five) with a youth service group in a small Northeastern city. We met over lunch for an hour and a half. Volunteers had not received their books before the discussion, so I chose two short readings to begin.

The Program

We used the texts by Maimonides and Brecht to focus on how we perform service, whether there are better and worse ways to serve others.


I began with a bit of ice-breaking—having volunteers introduce each other to the larger group. Then we read the Maimonides piece and I asked about the issue of a hierarchy of serving and what justifies this ranking. We also focused on the benefits and problems around anonymity in giving. The group was able to disagree about this and felt more comfortable with themselves having done that. Before turning to the Brecht poem, I asked how volunteers responded to someone begging on the street corner. Then we read the poem and we talked about whether it was necessary or beneficial to experience what those you serve experience. Volunteers (paid poverty wages) had a lot to say about this, they were able to disagree about this topic too, and it yielded a very fruitful discussion.

Next Time

I would be sure to talk about the issue of whether volunteers should experience poverty in order to help ameliorate it. A very rich discussion.

Final Thoughts

I always find it very helpful to begin discussions in pairs talking about a related topic. This breaks the ice and helps more people become comfortable before we convene in a larger group.

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