Service as a Way of Life

I encourage you to think about how you offer service.  Service is a value that we don’t often hear about, but if it weren’t for service, how could we survive?  In the United States, as the last year of our living with COVID-19 unfolded, how could we have continued without the service of health care workers, of postal workers, of grocery store staff? 

When I was a teenager, I was preoccupied with finding “the meaning of life.”  Why are we here?  “What’s it all about, Alfie?”  I can’t remember my reasoning, how I came to this thought, but I began to think that we are all here to help one another, to serve one another, to make one another’s path easier.  That sounds like an easy recipe for life to me, and perhaps it is – but in my life, service has been an important value, a value I hold, even today.

Service as a value has enlivened how I have treated others, no matter the work or the play I am involved in.  In my first career after graduating from college with a BA in English – I was a Claims Representative for the Social Security Administration, beginning in 1973, when SSI was being implemented.  I went to training in Minneapolis for three months before beginning my work as a “CR” in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  My class of trainees, hired at the same time as I was hired, was filled with “teacher wannabes.”  At that time, the grounding of our training was that we were working to serve the public, the people who came into any Social Security office to apply for benefits of any kind.

I left my work at SSA to go to seminary, beginning my studies in 1981, in Berkeley, CA.  I had thought for a long time about entering the ministry – at a time when the presence of women pastors was not widely known – or accepted (a fact that is still true today, unfortunately).  My heart was in the path I followed as a reflection of my continuing to value service – to God, to one another, to the community.

Through the years, I’ve learned that one of the guiding principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, a movement that has saved millions of lives, is “service.”  Service is a tool and a cornerstone on the path to recovery for those in AA’s Program.  It’s as simple as that.  No matter how one arrives in AA, no matter how little they seem to bring with them, they are guided to serve others, in simple ways, in more profound ways.  In service lies healing.

In our service lies our healing, as well.  And – maybe this is a dream that I am unwilling to let go – in our service lies the healing of others, as well. 

A good friend recently challenged me to observe how my own acts of service have evolved, even as I’ve entered retirement years.  I can be a welcoming presence in my community, in the city, where often there is no sense of welcoming.  I can be kind to whoever comes across my path.  I can listen when a friend calls, troubled about something.  I don’t give advice, I listen.  That’s service.  My friend invited me to consider the simple, profound ways I carry on my value of service.

I invite you to think about how you offer service to others.  The good folks who write here for Karma Compass are performing acts of service by sharing their experience, their wisdom, their own view of the world.  Edissa Nicolas-Huntsman has offered acts of service by bringing her vision to life in creating Karma Compass. 

How can you serve, wherever you are?  How have you served the community, today?  How are you giving back to the community out of which you have come?  To me, “giving back” is a value that is mentioned – frequently – in the African-American community. That value is a gift to us all. Maybe, like me, you have to re-frame your idea of service.  Do it!  Think about how you are living your life, today.  How are you serving?  How will you serve?  How can you serve the greater good?  The world, our world, needs your kindness, your service.

Wearing a mask – an act of service, to serve the whole community. photo by Mary Elyn Bahlert, 5/2021

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