Service

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.
Rabindranath Tagore

Many of us are mistaken in our ideas about service. We want to serve humanity in some way, but we think that the only way to do so is to donate large amounts of money or time. We mistake service for volunteerism, believing that serving others is defined by the things we do, like getting up on Thanksgiving morning and going to work in a soup kitchen, or sacrificing our Sunday afternoons to coach a baseball team of disadvantaged kids. And because we think this way, we say, “No, I can’t dedicate myself to service now. I’ll do it later, when I have more time.”  And so we postpone doing the one thing that guarantees joy and fulfillment in our lives.

How do you live a life of service? You begin by understanding that “service” is neither grandiosity nor self-sacrifice (which are too often just ways to feed our egos or assuage our guilt,) nor is it a series of actions and behaviors that you set time aside to complete. Service is a way of life, a way of approaching other people with gentleness and compassion and awareness of their basic human needs. You perform a service when you smile at a stranger, or look a homeless person in the eyes instead of turning away.  You perform a service when you hold your tongue, and, instead of snapping at the child who is demanding your attention, ask him gently and respectfully how you can help. You perform a service when you don’t honk your horn, or scream an obscenity at the guy in the car that just cut you off. Every time you act with kindness, generosity, respect and compassion, you make the world a better place.

It sounds corny, and it sounds trite, but it is true. Service is making kindness and compassion your life’s work.

“Protect your enthusiasm from the negativity and fear of others. Never decide to do nothing just because you can only do little. Do what you can. You would be surprised at what “little” acts have done for our world.” ~ Steve Maraboli

Journaling Exercise

Beginning tonight, every evening before you go to sleep make a list of the acts of service you performed that day. Don’t hold back because you think something was small or unimportant. If you let someone cut in front of you in the supermarket, write it down. If you gave up your favorite TV program to help your son with his homework (without complaining), write it down. Then, spend a few minutes reflecting on how these acts of service and compassion made you feel. Kind acts are their own reward; but journaling about them allows you to re-experience the rewards again and again, building your self-esteem, and filling your heart with more kindness and more love.

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