Many religious and spiritual practices speak of service. Service is a key piece of 12 step programs and many say they didn’t really get sober until they were able to give back. It was the act of service that helped them realize the bigger picture and reason for sobriety. Most of us talk a good game regarding service, however many of us do not perform much service.
One reason we do not offer acts of service as much as we might like is because we haven’t set our lives up to give back. It takes time more than anything and it’s much easier to write a check than it is to spend the day working with someone who needs help. Work to structure time to give back into your life. It will make your life more purposeful and help fight diseases, depression, anxiety, and stress in your own life.
Another reason we skip the service aspect is because we do not know what to do. We feel that it must be BIG to be any good, and the opposite is really true. It is the small, everyday acts of grace and kindness that make the greatest differences in our lives and those we reach out to. These small acts help us realize we are not alone. They help us feel connected and part of something larger than ourselves. Again, keeping us more healthy over the long haul.
Today challenge yourself to perform as many acts of service to another as you can. A little secret is … when you work to make others happy, you actually make yourself happy. The Dali Lama says “if you want others to be happy, be compassionate. If you want to be happy, be compassionate”. Today make your goal to give as much as you can. See how happy you can make yourself by helping others. Notice how doing nice things for other people changes you, gives you different perspective, or helps you see something you hadn’t noticed before. When we give to others we begin to see how similar we are, not how different. We are more the same than not. It’s hard to hate others when you realize this. When you hate less or fear others ideas, actions, and motivations less your life gets better. You start to see the beauty that surrounds you instead of all the things you negatively judge.
Here are some ideas to get out there, get connected, and offer help:
- Hold the door open for someone
- Smile at everyone you meet
- Give the driver in front of you the benefit of the doubt.
- Listen. Really listen as your partner, kids, or co-worker talks to you – without coming up with your response while they speak.
- Shovel, cut the grass, rake, sweep the sidewalk for your neighbor. You are already doing your own, just go a little farther.
- Teach something to someone who wants to learn what you already know how to do. Be patient and let them learn at their own pace. Work to enjoy watching their progress as a support person not the director.
- Play with your dog, your kid, your friend … go out have a good time and laugh and laugh and laugh.
- Tell your family and friends how much they mean to you. Maybe even send them a handwritten note, flowers, or let them know in another way that would be special to them.
- Offer to help with the car pool, cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc for a group you are a part of, a friend, neighbor, or your family member who usually does those tasks.
- Read to someone – a kid, a person who can no longer read for themselves due to failing eyesight or other disease, or someone who never learned to read.
- Volunteer in your community. Many communities have a volunteer listing where organizations list what they need help with. Look it up and volunteer your skill set to help them out.
- Help set up a fundraising event for a group you are interested in. Big commitment, but it sure feels good when you come together with a team of people and accomplish something for the greater good.
- Do something nice for yourself. You can’t take care of anyone, if you haven’t taken care of you first. Make sure to include yourself on your acts of service list. It helps you be a better person, less stressed, and ready to help others if you have been taken care of too. Do not forget about you.