We have heard the story of the taxi driver who never waited in the long cab lines to gain a new customer. This driver learned what exceptional service meant to those needing a ride. When he picked up a customer, he greeted them with warmth, provided current reading materials, asked what music, if any, they were interested in, offered them a drink of water or soda, set the temperature at their comfort level, and on request suggested what would be of interest to the new guest while in the area. He put himself in their position, asking himself, “How would I want to be treated?”
When this taxi driver dropped off his passengers, he would offer his card and suggest if they needed his service while visiting, he would be available. This outrageous service he provided led to repeat business and referrals. When travelers would come to town, they would call him. Because of his level of service, he was never in want of business.
In for-profit service industries, it is easy to see what motivates individuals to act: profit, recognition, and reward. Extraordinary service brings satisfaction and security to employment. Profit often inspires a higher level of service from the service provider.
In our society, many other service opportunities often go without willing participants. This is service in the “nonprofit” world or in the selfless service of others. The service could be working in a food bank, offering advice, painting a neighbor’s home, serving on a nonprofit board, reading a book to someone, offering a talent for free, providing assistance to someone in need, or just sharing a smile with someone feeling down, etc.
So why do we sometimes have needs unmet with so many capable to lend a hand? My thought is that those who are not participating at all or on a limited basis either never learned or have forgotten the feelings they gained while serving. They may not see or understand the value of selfless service. Certainly, a recipient has a keen awareness of service as a beneficiary and has personal gratification as they are being served (loved). These times of service may come to an individual at a time their life is being changed; without this service, their life would have diverged on a different path.
I remember a story of an individual who was planning suicide and had gone to school to gather their belongings. This individual did not want to leave this world a burden to anyone. They went to school and cleaned their locker so no one would have to do it after they were gone. While walking home to accomplish their goal and having a lot to carry, this person dropped part of the heavy load. An individual witnessed the burden of this person and, rather than walking on, stopped to help. They picked up the articles dropped and began to walk with this person to their destination. While en route, their conversation gave the person who had contemplated suicide new hope as the stranger gave them trust and self-worth in the depth of their despair. This simple act of kindness altered the life path of one in need. The recipient of this kindness later offered much to the world as they knew the value of offering oneself to another in time of need.
Do we really understand the abundance of the world? It is taught, “It is better to give than receive.” What does this really mean? In the “for profit” world, a monetary acknowledgment is given to service as discussed. We don’t realize that selfless service to others has far greater benefits than the “for profit” world. One gains a deep love of fellow beings, an intense understanding of life, and an ability to move through a personal crisis. Talents are improved, education is gained, and an experience leading to greater capability is lived.
As a family, my wife and I have taken our children across the world to provide service to a country with people in great need. This trip, from a world’s perspective, cost a great deal of money and “was not worth it.” Many may think there are many things one would want to do before spending the time, effort, and money to do what we did. As it turns out, our lives were changed by the experience. Each of us, from the adults to the youngest child. All the money in the world would not have given us the experience and education we received from our adventure. Our children know that there is a big world out there and that not all have been given the same opportunities. They have great sympathy for the less privileged and a desire to help. Their understanding of how easily one can alter another in their life course has been enhanced. The knowledge that they can make a difference was born. Our children are now unafraid to offer help, ideas, or assistance. No college could give us the education we received. No talk could have inspired greater convictions. No reading could have solidified a deeper intense and more sincere love for others.
I have committed hours to service in my industry through our association, in my church, and in public on various commissions and boards. Many fellow workers often scoff at the hours spent and suggest if I would spend the same hours working, I would be better off. Only understanding through experience can offer advice that differs from these comments. If I took away from my life the friendships gained, the knowledge acquired, the skills learned, or the exposure to new thoughts and ideas, I shudder at the idea of who I would be. As a result of committing myself to serve, I have received tenfold in what I have gained versus the time given. I hope that I will find enough time in my schedule to continue serving. My desire is to inspire others to find the same gift.
Ask yourself if you have given to someone in need and hoped the gift would make a difference. Know that whether it was time, money, advice, or just being there, your efforts redirected lives. Do we think at the time we give a gift, we may someday be on the receiving end of this gift? Indeed, we are better recipients of gifts, having participated in providing these gifts through service. By giving, we experience one of life’s richest blessings and are able to understand one of life’s secrets. Intense feelings of love and admiration come while serving our fellow beings. It is addictive. As we give, we receive. Being the giver or the recipient of this love hits the core of our existence. We find ourselves losing ourselves in the service of others. Our service does not have to be complete dedication as in the life of Mother Teresa. Service can be as simple as visiting a friend in need, smiling at a stranger, or acknowledging good deeds.
We are experiencing a time today that leaves many with a feeling of hopelessness. These extraordinary times are new to many, if not all, and we need the optimism of a brighter day. Our society needs those who have served to continue to serve and those who have not yet served to offer their time and talent to improve the world around us. We need a collective energy to enlighten, teach, and give hope. There is a promise. As you give, you will receive. Your life will be richly blessed and magnified tenfold. Test it, live it, and experience it. You will alter and change for good the life of someone in need and, while doing so, change your own life.
When we serve we experience, when we experience we teach, when we teach we learn, when we learn our lives are permanently changed, and as our lives are changed, we are enriched beyond our wildest dreams. May God bless us all to understand better the gift of giving, the gift of service, which is the gift of love. Volunteer where and when you can. Offer your time, your talents, and your resources. Find inner peace and gratitude for yourself and others in this critical time of need. Friends loved ones, and strangers pray for your involvement in their life. Act on it!