Through my time in Nicaragua and the reflective summer after; I have come to the conclusion that the best kind of service is the one that you invest much into. This does not only mean time, this means that one’s entire body, mind, and soul must be purposeful into the act that is being performed. The way that I do this is through riding my bike when I am on my own. By riding a bike to get from point A to point B, I am intentionally opening myself to many opportunities to talk to someone or get to know someone as this is how service begins; you have to know someone who can then later tell you about the issues that need some attention.
It is through biking that I found myself being involved at The Stepping Stones Center, the Holloway Hope Community garden, Catholic Refugee Resettlement Services, and a shelter for substance abusers that I did not know existed, all in one summer. This made for long days because I had a part- time job, but it helped make service a part of my lifestyle which I am very much enjoying. Today I do not have to make any advanced plans to be engaged in service. All I have to do is take a ride to South Cumminsville and get to work, whether it is checking in with the African Youth in Millvale, attending a meeting organizing around a neighborhood watch, or helping a kid do his/her math homework; the possibilities for service are endless and constantly around us.
Thanks to biking and the limitless possibilities it opens in terms of observing and identifying the needs of different communities; the amount of service I am able to do has increased and become a part of my life. I plan to keep service as an integral part of my life and at present focus on building lasting and helpful relationships with African youth of Millvale and other areas of Cincinnati who are looking for mentors to help them through new experiences and trials that are ahead.
Upon graduating, the first thing I will continue doing is riding my bike to get around because it is a fantastic way to learn and run into unexpected situations that may impact you in strong ways. I plan to keep myself vulnerable and not be afraid of new or unfamiliar grounds. I plan to keep doing community work whether it is employment in South Cumminsville or working with refugees in Columbus to help them build their dreams. The overall message is that I plan to follow my heart with a realistic stubbornness that will not leave me evicted from a home someday because no matter what; you still have to pay bills. But I am very faithful in believing that where there is a will, there is a way.
This transition of applying what I have learned and want to the independent or ‘real’ world is something that I have given lots of thought to and have gradually been letting the transition happen. The truth is that you do not know until you try it. So I will keep on trying my ideal lifestyle while I am still here at Xavier. But when the training wheels come off, I will do my best to keep on riding and eventually get to exactly where I want to be. I am excited for today and God Willing excited for the future; but mostly, excited for today.
Ismael “Iso” Tidjani is a graduating senior with a deep fondness of bike riding. Among may other contributions to campus life, he served as the NeXus garden coordinator, a Summer Service Intern and spent a semester in Nicaragua. His ability to gather a community and make anyone feel welcome will be deeply missed on campus.