During this time of giving, service is precious gift
By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. -
‘Tis the season of giving. So what do we usually give? Money? Toys? Physical presents? I would like to suggest one of the best gifts we can share is “service.” Before every meal, my father (an ordained minister) would end almost every prayer with, “And may we be of service to others in everything we think, say and do.” It is no surprise then, that as an adult, I have been Rotarian for almost 20 years.
Rotary International is a worldwide voluntary service organization giving valuable service to others throughout the planet. However, it is not alone. There are thousands of service organizations performing people giving service to others.
Successful businesses offer “customer service” as one element upon which their growth is dependent. Organizations of all kinds thrive on collegial internal service to fellow workers. Effective parents provide all kinds of service to their children, at least until their offspring can provide for themselves. In his book, “Uplifting Service,” Ron Kaufman writes, “We have roadside service, desk-side service, counter service, delivery service, and self-service. In our communities, we depend on the civil service, public service, government service, military service, and foreign service. When we gather to worship it’s called a religious service, and when someone dies there is a memorial service.” As a psychologist, I ask myself, “Why do we engage in so much service?”
Kaufman writes, “Service is present in every aspect of our lives from the moment we are born. Longer than any other species on earth, young people are dependent on constant service from parents, teachers, doctors, and community leaders. As we grow, we go to work, become professionals, and get jobs, earning money and building our careers in successful service to others. When we become parents, we are service providers to the next generation. And when we become caregivers to our own parents, the roles are reversed and we are service providers to those who first served us.” Indeed, valuable service is infused in all aspects of our daily lives. So why don’t people become better servants? Why do we so often disparage the “servant leader?”
I define service as “engaging in activities that create positive value for someone else.” I believe that such service benefits not only the receiver, but also the giver. Providing positive service enriches our relationships, strengthens teamwork, builds supportive social networks, provides for the “common good,” and most of all improves our mental and emotional health. After all, the person who never serves others is labeled with a mental illness called “narcissism.”
Narcissus was a mythical character who spent his entire daily activity gazing at his own image in a pond. He was totally and exclusively self-centered. The narcissist is incapable of experiencing how anybody else feels, thinks or reacts to the world. He is exclusively focused on his own feelings, thoughts and behavior. He has no awareness of the impact his behavior has on anyone else but himself. He is defined as “mentally ill.”
Physician and Nobel Prize winner, Albert Schweitzer, once wrote, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but this I know: the only ones amongst you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found a way to serve.” During this holiday season of giving to others, we will also increase our own happiness and joy by giving of ourselves in service to others. May your holidays be the happiest ever!
Dr. Thomas is a licensed psychologist, author, speaker, and life coachfrom Wellington, Colo.