by Pete Ferguson
As a college intern for the Utah Governor’s Office, my job was to promote volunteerism among State residents. Often I heard then Lt. Governor Olene Walker proclaim “Whenever I feel down or depressed, I just look for someone who is worse off than I am and I find a way to serve them and I no longer feel so bad about myself.”
Often, opportunities to serve do not seem to surface at ideal times – I think that is part of the test of our true measure as humans.
One very memorable and pivotal opportunity in my life happened when I was in the eighth grade in College Station, Texas. It was early spring and the rains would come for days on end it seemed. I was on my way to school – on my bicycle – and I could barely see, the rain was coming down so hard.
Ahead of me I saw an Asian woman trying to fix a flat tire. She had a small child in the car as I recall, and was shaking from the cold and likely from the frustration. I was already at risk of being late to school, but I could tell that she had no idea what she was doing and likely wasn’t going to make much progress on her own. This was well before the days of cell phones, and I knew she would be stuck for a long time if I didn’t help.
I still remember the look of relief in her eyes. We couldn’t communicate much, her English was very limited. All she knew was “thank you, thank you!” I made quick work of the task, and sent her on her way. I felt so great inside, I literally felt like I was floating.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others ~ Ghandi
Unfortunately, the jubilation was not shared by the woman in the attendance office who assigned me detention that day, but I couldn’t stop smiling. The teacher for the class I was late for also was not too impressed, but I didn’t let that weigh me down – although I couldn’t understand why others were not impressed by what I’d done and were definitely not sharing in the joyous feeling that had come over me.
That’s when I learned a very important life lesson. Service is personal, it has to be done because you want to help another individual – not because you are looking for applause or recognition. And that is okay, because the feeling is so rewarding.
When I look at my career, the raises, promotions, and bonuses have all been nice. But the moments I’ll remember when I’m 80 are going to be the brief one-on-one mentoring moments or when I just listened to a coworker in a time of need.
Paradise is often seen as a final destination. A place. Somewhere you only go occasionally at great expense and planning. But when you lose yourself in serving others, paradise is here. Paradise is now. Paradise is today.
Learn: This one is tricky – service is an action. You can schedule time for a service project, but mostly service is in the moment.
Act: When you see the opportunity, take it! Prepare by having extra water, a pair of gloves, and coolant in your trunk. Otherwise there isn’t much you can do.
Share: Service is usually best kept within, get a journal. Share the wealth by giving more.
Photo Credit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2011/jan/20/cycling-weather-rain