“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.”
― Shirley Chisholm

The essence of the meaningful life is using your strengths to serve something greater than yourself. Our lives are all in service to something. When we live a life that is only in service to narrow self-interest, we live a lessened life. A larger life means giving yourself to the world. It involves find a cause you care about, or a problem you are passionate about and then using your skills, strengths and capacities to work to make a difference in that area.

Here are some examples:

  • Poverty
  • Climate change
  • Inequality
  • Animal rights
  • Homelessness
  • Mental health
  • Education
  • Health
  • War
  • Disease

The following is story that illustrates what service is about:

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 envelopes 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 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 reciprocating by 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 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.


Discuss or think about the ‘learning journey’ that the King went through. How did he change? How does the theme of ‘service’ show up and play out in the story?

At different times of the day ask yourself the question: What shall I serve? What do I want my life to be in service to?