In the eighth grade, my tiny kindergarten through eighth grade school required that all students complete 10 hours of community service in order to attend the class field trip, at the end of the year.

At the time, 10 hours seemed like devoting your entire life to a cause. Then in high school, I participated in a program that required me to complete at least 100 hours of community service. Needless to say, I longed to be back in eighth grade.

Both of my grade school conundrums represent a current trend in the way our generation views community service.

We have institutionalized service to such an extent that it no longer operates the way it should. Rather than being selfless and altruistic, it has become a means to reaching a selfish end. Our provisional assistance to someone or something is meant to serve a more permanent purpose in our own lives rather than someone else’s.

This is not to say that examples of selfless community service do not exist, or that everyone who participates in community service is an inherently selfish person.

However, this is meant to say that the moment we create a system that makes community service an obligatory responsibility, it ceases to be the very thing we mean for it to be.

Growing up, my father consistently drew a line in the sand whenever I had a crisis over whatever it is that teenagers go through—the line separated what I wanted versus what I needed.

Most of the time, it is important to choose what you need. You need to do your homework rather than go out with your friends. You need to save your money, rather than spend it on going to the movies.

With community service, we must foster a system where it is something people want to do, not something people need do.

Service of any kind is better than none, but service that is rooted in generosity and selflessness does more than the kind that is driven by personal devices.