What is so spiritual about being of service to others? I mean, why do it? It’s not convenient. It may take lots of effort to do so, and it may even cost us time and money we don’t care to spend. Serving others is very commonplace – meaning, those that do it, are usually not awarded a high level of prestige or even honor. There’s not much personal gain from doing for others with no expectation of return for ourselves. So again, I ask – why do it, if there’s supposedly little return on my investment? And the answer? Service to others, or serving others, may be the single greatest act we can do for our souls and for all of humanity.
Serving Others For Fun and For Free
I am normally an anxious traveler. Yesterday I had to navigate the airport with my three kids in tow, which is stressful on a good day. Add in the stress of mask-wearing, and little latex gloves because they are so tactile, they insist on touching every surface. I stood in the TSA line and saw an elderly couple. The man was pushing the woman in a wheelchair. As I struggled to get my too tightly laced sneakers back on my feet, I realized they had dropped their itinerary with all of their car rental information. Although my children at that moment decided they had to go to the bathroom and it couldn’t wait, I was anxious. I knew I had to return this lost itinerary to them but where were they? As my children took forever in the bathroom, I peeked at the information. San Diego. That was their destination. I checked the Southwest departure gate information as I rocked anxiously back and forth on my legs. Where were my kids? Did they fall in? Did they decide to have a water fight in the bathroom?
Finally, they emerged from the bathroom and I told my 16 year old to get them to gate 25. That I had to dash to gate 14 to find the owners of this itinerary because I knew they probably wouldn’t have this information on their phone. So I ran like OJ Simpson through the airport, (If you are over 50 years old, you will understand this reference. For those who are younger, I’m sure it’s now a meme…)
When I got to the gate, I had to give the information to the woman standing there. Although the plane was not to leave for 10 minutes, the gate was closed. I can only hope that the elderly couple received their lost information. The takeaway is that my sons got to understand the lengths we have to go to to help others. And, what should have been an anxious airport experience actually was quite pleasant. I had done something thoughtful for another with no personal gain in it for me. The benefit I received was that I had time to focus on another and was spared some time of thinking only of myself.
Service To Others Can Save Our Lives
My friend David is a World War II Veteran. He served on the USS Franklin – a boat with a rich history. https://wgntv.com/news/features/wwii-veteran-revisits-major-navy-disaster-he-barely-survived/
The morning his aircraft carrier was bombed, he remembers seeing all of the crewmen lined up for breakfast. He had a premonition that it was dangerous to stand there in the open when the day before, they had been attacked by a Japanese fighter plane. David decided to walk in the opposite direction. “Breakfast could wait,” he told himself. A few minutes after his premonition, he heard fighters overhead and then a loud explosion. The men he’d seen standing on the breakfast line, minutes before, were drawn into a ball of explosive fire. David felt the boat begin to list to the right and he had to make a decision. He wasn’t sure what to do. To remain on the boat seemed like a death sentence and yet would he survive if he were to jump into the cold water – what was his choice? David recalled that he felt it was best to jump, so he did. And when he regained his bearings, he found himself floating next to a soldier who had been thrown off the deck in the initial blast. The soldier was disoriented and frightened, and both of his legs were broken. David remained with him and kept him engaged until they were both rescued hours later.
When David sat with me at breakfast last week, he recalled that moment. He told me that he learned the universal secret in that moment. David believe that he survived that experience because for those few hours, his focus was simple – help this soldier survive until rescue. And by doing so, David survived as well.
The Commitment to Service to Others Continues
David lives in a retirement community today where he continues to serve others. Pre-COVID-19, he created a hug program where they gave out “Hug” coupons to residents who could present the coupon when they felt they needed a hug. The program was so successful, it expanded from the residential area to the medical and memory care divisions. David also implemented a “give a rose to every resident program.” He was walking through the grocery store one day and realized that he could buy the entire supply of roses and give them out to each resident in his building. He didn’t have to use his social security dollars to do that, but he wanted to bring joy to his neighbors. When the residence administration found out he’d done that, they purchased more roses the following week for the entire community. Before COVID, David found ways to bring joy to others, despite the toll on his time and financial commitment.
Once COVID hit and he could no longer hug or give presents, he began a podcast for his community. David had a successful career as a psychologist. He used his background as a way to bring peace and comfort to the residents during this time of great anxiety and isolation. David understands that serving others is the foundation of his life and from that value, he finds ways to be of service to others.
Did I mention that David turns 94 years old next week? He once asked me why God allowed him to live that fateful day of the Franklin. I didn’t have a good answer, but I offered this possibility: God gave you a choice. You chose to jump into the unknown. Once there, you found someone to help and serve. Since then, you’ve continued to serve. I think God still needs you around to help others.
Here’s my charge to you: Give freely, look for opportunities to serve and get out of self. It will cure a multitude of ills and sorrows. And until we meet again, may you be blessed on your spiritual journey!
More blog posts about getting out of self: