What gives some people a sense of service? This thought struck me this week on hearing of the death of Pat Hume (widow of the late John Hume). She was someone who committed so much of her life to serving people in her community as well as society at large.
Being of service means that you have chosen to engage without expectation of reciprocation. Giving without expectation of receiving is the truest definition of being of service. In John 13:1-10, Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. This act of humility and service was shocking to his followers. They were the ones who should have been going out and washing people’s feet in service to them. But when questioned about it, “Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part of me.’”
An attitude of service should be part of all that we do but how. When we approach our life in an attitude of service, we find that it becomes much more meaningful.
- Treat your job as your act of service. Most of us view our jobs as ways to make money but when we think about our work, we should view it as part of our service to the world. Whether you are a lawyer, a joiner, a shop assistant or a nurse your job in some way impacts others. So, how you do your job matters. When you do your job well and treat your colleagues with kindness and respect, you make your part of the world a much better place.
Moreover, your job becomes more enjoyable when you view it as an act of service to the world. You will also approach your job with greater enthusiasm when you view it not just as a job, but as your way of serving others.
- Treat every task as important. We tend to value tasks based on how much we can get paid for doing them. It is likely that no one pays you to clean your bathroom or to do the washing up. Therefore, we view those tasks as unimportant. But in fact, the opposite is true! Every task is important, especially when it involves making other people’s lives better. The more directly you serve another human being, the more valuable that task is. Taking care of someone is showing how much you love them. Do even those small tasks well and with love.
- Be on the alert for ways to serve. Most people have difficulty asking for help; typically, people don’t want to impose on anyone else. As a result, if you see someone struggling, don’t just offer to help. That person likely won’t take you up on it.
Try out simple acts of kindness this week. Make serving others an activity that you naturally seek out throughout your day.
- Serve without expectation of thanks. If you help others with an expectation of gratitude or in order to receive something in return, you have missed the entire point. A life of service is a reward unto itself.
When we serve others, it changes us for the better.
Service also keeps us humble. In a world in which we often are being served, we easily can go down the misguided path of thinking that we are superior. It is important sometimes to be the person who serves, so that we keep our egos in check.
It also helps us to make a connection with other people. When you serve another person, you are offering more than tangible assistance. You are offering love. And when that other person accepts, you’ve made a new connection.
In the recently deceased Pat Hume we had a great mentor in how to give service. She did not seek fame, political office or accolades. She was happy to serve and actively found opportunities to do so.
May she continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart
To serve the call of courage and live.
John O’Donohue, ‘Benedictus’.