Experience the joy of service.

“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” ― Kahlil Gibran

I like that little saying. This is the time of the year when churches observe Lent, the precursor to Easter. During Lent our church, like many others, holds a soup supper. We do a round-robin exchange of soup suppers with several other churches in the area.

For the last few years (I can’t even recall how many now) I volunteer to be what is washing dishesessentially the busboy during our church’s turn to host the soup supper. I originally did that because no one else wanted that job. I quickly discovered a great sense of fulfillment and joy out of taking that little role of service to others and have volunteered for that role ever since.

For me and for many people whom I have met over time, there is real joy to be found in serving others. There is an even greater sense of satisfaction to be found in taking on roles of service that no one else wants to do. Usually those are the jobs in the background in which the people toil away and never get any recognition for their efforts. They don’t do it for recognition; they do it because it must be done and someone must do it. Why not them?

There is another saying that I’ve struggled with how to use in a blog post, this one by George Bernard Shaw – Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness. I guess that I disagree with Shaw on one point; doing what must be done, especially in service to others can also be happiness.

helping elderlyThere are a great many of these little, unheralded or behind the scenes jobs out there just looking for someone to do them. It could be visiting with a shut-in or someone in a nursing home with no family nearby. It could be serving meals at a homeless shelter. It could be offering to shovel off the walk and drive for an elderly neighbor. Maybe it’s standing out in the cold with a bucket and collecting for a charity. Maybe it’s picking up the morning paper from the drive an placing it on the door step of an elder neighbor. One program locally that can always use volunteer help is the Huron Valley Youth Assistance Program, which provides counseling and mentoring to at risk youth in the community. See my earlier post on that program.

Not every job is the one that the newspaper prints a picture of or that makes the evening tutoringTV news. For every one of those there are a hundred jobs in the background that must also be done. Look around and find those little jobs, especially the ones that no one else wants to do; and take them on. You’ll be amazed at how good you’ll feel about it and it will put a smile on your face that others will see and respond to with a smile back.

This saying by Mahatma Gandhi – “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”  – points to a side benefit of serving others. You may well find yourself in the process, find out what you are made of and find purpose in your life. Many people go through life with much material success – money, homes, cars, etc. – and yet live with a nagging sense of emptiness a lack of the sense of fulfillment. Committing yourself to acts of service to others, without any expectation of reward or remuneration, can go a long way towards filling that void.

Finally, I found this quote, which I thought is an appropriate way to sum this up – “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”  ―  Martin Luther King Jr.

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