Life is short – so make it count! Get inspired, go beyond your comfort zone, and give your time and energy to something larger than yourself.
The beloved writer and naturalist Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote – “It is one of the beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
Indeed, if you have ever donated your time to someone else (even in a small way), you have probably noticed that something happens when you are done helping – you feel good about yourself! Of course you do – as humans we are hardwired to help others. And when we put that feeling to work, using our hands and minds in the name of love, we awaken to the true selfless nature that belies our regular old egos.
Service is the salvation of the self. The more we give away, the more we gain in the long run. Call it karma. Call it kismet. Call it magic. But whatever you call it, don’t stop listening to that voice inside that inspires you to serve – here’s why it just might save you:
1. You might find out who you really are.
Remember this quote – “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Even the smallest actions (like shopping or cleaning for someone who cannot) can lead the body, soul and mind away from isolation and towards laughter, gratitude, and prayer.
2. You might heal yourself.
We all suffer individual challenges and setbacks, but in serving others (perhaps those with greater setbacks than our own) we reconnect to the shared human experience. We realize that healing isn’t a personal gift from heaven but something that we all need and can approach with humility and love.
3. You might discover a talent.
On our own, we never know just how much we are capable of. When we let go and stop fearing embarrassment, however, it can be amazing how much easier it is to sing, paint, dance, or play with someone (maybe a lonely senior citizen) who needs a lift.
4. You might take chances.
Many philosophies and religions insist, “For those who knock, the door will always be opened.” Once you begin to serve others, you will be amazed by the kindness of people who appear to help and further your journey of self-discovery.
5. You might expand your horizons.
There are many good service programs (like the Peace Corps, and Doctors Without Borders, for example) in our country and in the world that send volunteers to faraway places to learn, grow, and serve those in need. If you’re unsure what to do after graduation or a career change, consider an immersive service experience. Even if you volunteer close to home, you’re sure to meet new people!
6. You might become part of something larger than yourself.
Serving an organization or institution is different than sending a check to charity (although sometimes that is also a great way to help!). Real hands-on service gives you an identity, a group of people where you belong and feel that you contribute! Remember what Mother Theresa said – “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
7. You might leave your mark.
Who knows what it might be. Who knows what lives you might change. Who knows how different a person you might be. All that can be known for sure is that among all of us who seek happiness, the ones who find it will be the ones who learn to serve.