The following is an experience a colleague shared with me. It is told by her as she related the event.
“One evening as we sat around the dinner table my husband said he wanted to share with the children what he believed is the foundation to happiness in life. He told the children that he believes that as you provide authentic service to others, you find that place within you of your own light and goodness.
My husband is a man who likes to give freely but be in the background. He doesn’t appreciate nor desire accolades. He is the one up early in the morning shoveling the widow’s driveway, and in the evening he can be found fixing the single mom’s washer.
His job is a service-oriented profession. He has found great joy in serving others. Despite years of sharing this wisdom through example, that night he wanted to put it into words. The kids were not thrilled at what their dad had to say. One teenager rolled his eyes while another checked a text message on her cell phone. Despite my children’s apathy, I was deeply touched by my husband’s words. The words rang true to my soul. I listened to the experiences he shared with a feeling of reverence.
The more self-centered we are, the less we have joy. The more you authentically give from the heart, the deeper you feel the meaning of life and the joy life so freely gives to you in return. Many give with a hidden agenda: a sense of duty, to show how good they are, or out of fear. All service is good; but authentic, heartfelt service strengthens the receiver and the giver equally. Service seems to expand the soul and lead to the light that each person has within. Service takes the blinders off and allows people to see the light within each other.”
My colleague seemed to be so moved by her husbands words because when you strengthen the life around you, it follows that you strengthen the life within you. Service reveals the goodness in each other.
Such giving can be in small and simple ways: really listening to someone, a non-judgmental attitude, and waving to a neighbor. Other forms of service may be large such as helping a neighbor replace their roof, watching a friend’s children while they have a needed break, sitting with a friend during a crisis, or stopping to help someone on the freeway with a flat tire. Some service is for those you know and love while other acts may be for strangers, for the community, or for the world. Each movement toward the goodness within us is an act of service. Each act of service is important.
True service does not keep score. It is not a ledger to be balanced on a quarterly basis–weighing what you have received in return for what you have given. It has been said that even after all of its shining, the sun never says to the earth “You owe me.” Nature is our ultimate example of unconditional service. The rain is not selective about whose land it falls on. It gives to all without conditions. We do not have to earn the right for it to fall on our fields. It does so willingly. The fruit tree does not reserve its bounty of goodness only for the deserving. It makes its fruit available to all. The soil in your garden does not reserve its nutrients for some vegetables and not for others.
All plants are unconditional recipients of the soil’s wholesome goodness. The rain, fruit tree, and soil never say “You owe me.” Then why is it that we say some are worthy of our service while others are not? Who are we to say that others owe us for what we give them in service? The harvests of the field give so much more in return to the farmer than he gives the field.
The harvest gives because it is what it is destined to do. If it were to withhold its bearings, it would ruin and die. This is the antithesis of happiness. This principle is beautifully defined in the chapter, “On Giving,” in Kahlil Gibran’s book The Prophet. A poem by the poet Gabriela Mistral further exemplifies this principle.
“Then said a rich man, Speak to us of Giving.
And he answered:You give but little when you give of your It has been said that even after all of its shining, the sun never says to the earth “You owe me.”ossessions
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give….
There are those who give little of the much which they have–and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward!…”
It is actually in our nature to serve. While attending grad school, a professor showed videos of experiments with one- to two-year-old children. Several small children were placed in a safe room behind a one-way viewing mirror without their parents. One of the children would become upset and start to cry. Soon one of the other children would come over and either cry with, or try to comfort, the child. Other people’s needs or troubles naturally resonate within us, and we reach out to comfort them. However, as we grow up this natural ability can be conditioned out of us through hard experiences. Sometimes we become cold and cynical. Even if it takes extra effort, serving others is the best way to get back in touch with this natural tendency and increase your overall sense of well-being.