Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Being of Service

I believe it was Priscilla Shirer who pointed this out to me again recently. This thing called "service": what it is, what it should be, and what it has often become. Her presentation then became an interesting discussion in our bible study group.

The dictionary defines service as "work done by one person or group that benefits another". Basic. Simple. True. What Priscilla talked about - and we later expounded upon - was the why's and how's of service.

I have been 'serving' others for years. I would do for others - but my motives were all wrong. I'd do for them, hoping they'd do similarly for me - and become angry and resentful when they didn't. I was a definite ' box checker '. Much of what I did was because I felt I "had to" or I "should" (*big sigh*). It was obligatory, for sure.

As I began my growth process, I was told that service should be a gift - a TRUE gift - that is given without the expectation of it being returned. I was given 'service assignments': set up chairs before a meeting, help set up the coffee, clean up afterwards. Honestly, it started out as work - hard work. I was an isolater, remember - and very shy. I soon learned that I enjoyed the interaction with others on a mutual task. Getting "out of my self" was good for me, and I enjoyed their reactions - smiles, thank yous, obvious relief with an overwhelming task. (MUCH later, I realized I had already been given much more than I was doing!!)

Not long after that, the movie "Pay it Forward" came out. I thought, "my God, this boy is a genius!". If you haven't seen it, it's a good one. The premise is that Trevor - an 11 year old boy - is given a social studies class assignment: "Think of a way to change our world and put it into action". His plan: "Pay it Forward". If he helps 3 people today do something they couldn't do on their own, and they each help 3 people the next day, and so on and so forth, the results would be astonishing. In two weeks, he projects that 4,782,969 people's lives would be changed for the better.

Coupled with the book "Random Acts of Kindness", that I had also recently discovered, I was sent into an all out service frenzy. My favorite was paying the toll of the car behind me. That year, I travelled half the length of the state of Massachusetts, on the Mass Pike. I started at the very first toll booth. The toll taker gave me a quizzical look when I asked to pay for the car behind me as well. When I insisted, he said "whatevah", and I was on my way. For the duration of the trip, I'm not sure what was more exciting - going to visit Amherst and my friends, or knowing that I'd soon have another opportunity to "pay it forward".

This is when I truly began to appreciate service. To see it with a different heart. Yes, there will be things that I will do, not so much because I want to, but because they need to be done. And, then there will be service that I love beyond measure. Either way, I want to serve with a grateful heart - as an extension and expression of all that has been given to me, thus far.

I want my doing to be truly "service" - something I do because of the love, and grace that I have been blessed with. I want it to be a natural outpouring of these, and not an obligatory 'box to check'.

May my life overflow with Your love. May I pass it on to others through service.

No comments: