“Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.”
― Shirley Chisholm
Service means to be of help, use or benefit. It is work the contributes to the welfare of others. When we serve we create value and contribute to the world.
Being of service not only benefits those we serve, but it is also good for the one who serves. Meaning and well-being are found in life when we use our strengths to serve something greater than ourselves.
To serve we must find a cause we care about, or a problem we are passionate about. Then use our skills, strengths and capacities to work to make a difference in that area.
There is an afghan story that tells of a mean and arrogant King who sat on the throne far removed from the masses of his people. He saw his subjects simply as pawns that he could control and manipulate. He inflicts unjust taxes on them and cares little for their welfare.
One day the Afghan king went out hunting a Gazelle. The Gazelle was fast and lead the King into unknown places deep within the forest. The King runs and runs chasing his prey until he realises he is completely lost. The Gazelle has led him right to the edge of a desert. A dust storm surrounds him and blows relentlessly for three days. The King stubbornly continues to move, searching for a way out.
After three days the storm abates. The dust has torn the King’s clothes and his face is weary with tiredness and terror. Eventually he happens upon some nomads passing through the desert. When he informs them that he is the King they laugh at him. Nevertheless, they direct him to the palace where he lives.
When he arrives there his own guards don’t even recognise him and take him for a crazed fool. From behind the gates the king can see the substitute King, a mysterious figure who has taken his place. He is mean in spirit, cruel, arrogant and indifferent.
Time passes and the King becomes accustomed to his new life living in poverty amongst the general populace. He manages to get by but never without the help of others. People offer him food, shelter and support when he needs it. A subtle change begins to dawn on him and he finds himself in turn helping those around him whenever he can. Once he helps a boy from a burning fire; another time he gives food to one hungrier than he. His experience amongst the people help him realise that others are just like him and that people need to care and look after each other in life.
As he continues to care for and help others, in his heart is kindled a kinship and a love for his fellow human beings. Not only does his behaviour change but, as this love for the life around him grows, so too does his perception of the world change. Everything becomes richer, more vivid and beautiful.
The King who has taken his place is simply a benevolent spirit, the angel of humility, who, when she sees that the King has learnt his lesson hands back the throne to him. From that day forward the King rules justly and wisely with great care and concern for the Kingdom.
How does the theme of ‘service’ show up and play out in the story? What is the lesson the king learns?
When choosing something to serve we must look to the needs of the world. Ask yourself the question: What problems exist in the world that I would like to help solve?
Make a list of these different problems/ challenges (Climate change, poverty, mental health etc.) Which of these do you care most about? Which causes do you feel motivated to work for?
Another way to clarify this is with the question: If I could make one change in the world what would that be?
Each day try asking yourself the question: What do I want my life to be in service to? Who or what shall I serve?