“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
–Marten Luther King,Jr.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
—Robert F. Kennedy
“We need to find the courage to say NO to the things and people that are not serving us if we want to rediscover ourselves and live our lives with authenticity.”
—Barbara de Angelis
SOME PEOPLE ASKED me in which way they could serve in the best possible way, – and I smiled because they asked me.
For those who don’t know, I serve my patients from a comfortable position being paid as a Family Physician in Australia. However I love what I do and look with gratitude on the things I received and still receive, – knowing that in all of this I am dependent on the work many people did before I was born, and during the time of my life until the present.
The best answer on the question as how to serve in the best possible ways can be given by those who serve or served best.
Those who went out in any kind of wilderness, – lacking money and recourses and build up their heartfelt dreams.
There are different ways of serving.
I have neither vivid memory on my school friend who died to early at the age of 6 as due to childhood cancer, nor do I remember his face, – but he “served” me in the way he died with a peace you don’t often see.
Besides this he left me with one of Bach‘s most beautiful organ plays, played by Albert Schweitzer. This left me at an early place in life with a memory on something different from life itself. I am still grateful that this old school friend passed my way, not because of what he was, – but of what he was able to “plant” without knowing it.
Sometimes, many years later, we do realise. In a way this is a secret of a kind we need to cherish, not by speaking about it when we do realise, but by allowing it to grow. So are human encounters at times of a nature we better not speak about, but our “awareness” is enough on its own and as such we respect life as it is without touching it. On other occasions we do good to show our gratitude at least ten times more than we tend to do.
There are 100 billionaires all over the world who could wipe out hunger with little more contribution. The difference between rich and poor is getting bigger and bigger. Some of them indeed do contribute but they are not the people who work in the front line against poverty, against war and against various abuses of human rights. If people ask me as how to serve, I tend to say to look at those people who do and find the answer in your own heart.
We are limited perhaps in our potential as due to nature and living conditions but there is neither limit nor ceiling to our potential to love and work our imagination the desired direction in our own circumstances.
It is as Albert Schweitzer once wrote about his work in Lambarena less then 100 years ago, – that anybody can create his or her’s own Lambarena. An affirmation only to illustrate that everyone can create his or her’s domain of care, and serve as such. Those who care do serve and the options are endless. Many examples are not seen by the world or valued for what they are.
Child soldiers who lost their innocence at an age far too young. Many of them did do terrible things but some of them reacted amazingly well by saving lives. People who fight the cruelty in central Africa, – within the domain of strong discomfort but perhaps with peace at heart. People who reach out without fame or name, saving friends and family amidst war.
Fire- fighters entering houses with people, children, at risk to be burned, and they do this at risk for their own life. People providing aid in Syria now. Fathers and mothers protecting their children in the Congo, without caring for themselves anymore. People providing polio vaccinations in Pakistan despite Taliban death threats. Journalists working at the forefront of all those things to bring the news, at risk of their own life.
Human encounters are essential before being able to serve as the memory of some people may enlarge what we are able to do.
And in our memory those people deserve honour.
The question as how to serve best is an interesting question, but much depends on the situation where you are and on both your desires and imagination, besides the level of love you feel for those desires.
Sometimes people may be put in a situation where they have no other choice than to serve as staying on the side line would be betrayal of one’s own conscience. Sometimes people go out and meet those situations by
Again it’s hard to say.
One thing is sure, we can’t wait for the moment everything and everything is ready because in such case we are not likely to begin to serve or reach out.
The other thing is true as well, – true that if we want to work on a dream, to build a ship, – that it is no point to drum up the people to collect the wood and other material. That there is no point to give them tasks of the work due to be done. Working this way is an error of judgement, as the starting point is to help people see what you see, and teach them the ways to get the dream into a reality, – to help them to buy into the endeavour themselves, and then it’s time to collect the wood and all the other things.
Faith is to believe the things you don’t see, rewarded at times by seeing the things you believe. Time might seem to be a limiting factor but not where it comes to the frequency of love. Love is the prime substance of both our life and nature, the prime substance of both earth and heaven. Without this love there would be neither cosmos nor sun, neither earth nor life.
“For everything there is a time and place”, – so to say.
The other thing being true is that you don’t travel as you think, but you think as you travel. Neither is it true that as you attract you do love, – but as you love you do attract. True love and real care are indispensable and we don’t always touch what is beautiful, neither do we lose the opportunity to see anything which is beautiful, – whether it is a fair face or a plant, a fair sky or a dark cloud. We absorb the seeds in our own soul and this gives life, – and may give direction as where to go, as alert we need to be. One spark of fire may light ourselves and from that fire we may light the world. None of us is too small to serve and freedom can be gained by giving more of ourselves.
Real love may reach the frequency of “the universe”, the last which may transform us as a transitional “human-being”, – through the awesome grace of God.
Paul Alexander Wolf
- Ex-homeless man now serves those in need (TBO.com)
- A week of Sundays? (blowfisharmageddon.com)
- Beyond The Walls (echothechurch.wordpress.com)
- Lost Girl 4.07 – La Fae Epoque (weareunaligned.com)
- Mortality Salience Awareness (nplusonemag.com)
- True Change- A Call to G-d (xntricproductions.wordpress.com)
- 365 Quotes to Inspire You in 2014 (inc.com)
- 2013 To 2014: Rekindle Another’s Spirit (kdhhealthcomm.wordpress.com)
- Just beyond the Mile…… (redzhis.com)
- 365 Quotes to Inspire You in 2014 (jeremiahtillman.wordpress.com)
6 thoughts on “The Question As How To Serve…”
“Give great importance to the little services in life because we never know what is big and what is small in the eyes of God.” Dorothy Baker
“The great importance of small deeds” by Dr. John Killnger
George Bernard Shaw once put up a monument in the church yard at Windlesham in Surrey, England, in memory of Clara and Henry Higgs, a couple who had worked for him at Ayot St. Lawrence in Hertfordshire.
For many years, the monument said, they had kept his home and garden, setting him free to do his work as a dramatist. No playwright, it testifies, was ever better served. Clara and Henry Higgs belong to a great army of people who never do anything big or famous themselves, but whose service is indispensable to others.
The same might be said for the people at Philippi who were the nameless partners of the Apostle Paul, supplying money and gifts for his missionary journeys, and for Epaphroditus, the person who brought their gifts to him while he was in prison. The name of Epaphroditus would have been entirely unknown to history had he not made this visit to Paul in behalf of the people at Philippi.
The names of all the others were lost. Yet Paul looked upon what they had done for him as a “fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”
How often our own lives are sweetened and sustained by the little acts of human kindness performed by people who names will never go down in history or be inscribed on any plaque. Do you remember, in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, the scene in the courtroom after Dmitri has been sentenced to imprisonment in Siberia? He is so exhausted that he falls asleep on a bench, and, when he awakens, he finds that someone has placed a pillow under his head.
He doesn’t know who has done it, but he is elated. It is a sign of the goodness of life. He will go to prison, he says, and keep God’s name alive there, because he knows that God is in the world. The nameless, selfless act of someone who did him a small kindness is guarantee of that.
Kagewa, the great Japanese labor leader, went to jail for thirteen days during the early strikes in Kobe. He blessed the unknown man who planted a morning glory beside the window of his cell, so that it grew up and kept him company in his loneliness.
Little deeds hold the world together. They may not receive the press that big deeds get, but they are essential to the ongoing of everything.
Paul was an important witness to the Christian faith — perhaps the most important witness after the birth of the church in Jerusalem. He carried the gospel to kings and governors. He planted churches all over the world of that day. But he could not have done what he did without the kindness of all the nameless people in Philippi and Ephesus and Corinth who cared enough to send him gifts like the one brought by Epaphroditus.
I often think of this in our church. We have majestic worship services and operate a large and extensive program and send significant gifts around the world. But we could not do it without the deeds of countless people who perform their services without recognition or remuneration.
Think of the receptionists and flower arrangers and committee members who do their work without acknowledgment or publicity; the cooks and servers and ushers and teachers who work unselfishly from month to month to make things go, to fill the gaps, to see that the kingdom marches on.
It isn’t the ten-talent people that heaven will belong to; it’s the one- or two-talent people who gladly use their talents for God. They are the ones who hold everything together and make it work. They are the unsung heroes.
Last summer I read Anthony Trollope’s autobiography. Trollope, you may recall, was one of the most prolific novelists of nineteenth century England. Several of his novels, such as The Warden and Barchester Towers, were combined in a beautiful BBC television series called The Barchester Chronicles, starring Donald Pleasance.
When he wrote his autobiography, this eminent man of letters paid an outstanding compliment to his old groom. Without this man, said Trollope, he would never have written anything, for it was his task to be up before Trollope, waken his master at 5:30 each morning and bring him his coffee, so that Trollope could get in his two hours of writing before going off to his work in the post office. All those beautiful novels, dependent on that one unseen fellow whose job it was to waken the writer in the morning!
It is people like this man, people who wash and clean and take care of lawns and handle our errands and look after the rest of us, who really hold the world together.
There is something else about little deeds. Little deeds we do give order and meaning to our own lives, as well as to the lives of others.
Have you ever considered that? It isn’t the big things we achieve that matter most in our lives, it’s the little things. They are the things that clarify our existence and say who we are — like the teacher taking time to help a poor child in her class, or a surgeon paying attention to the needs of a nurse in the hospital, or a banker stopping to assist an unfortunate person in the bank.
Epaphroditus may have been an important man in his city. He may have been a professor renowned for his wisdom or an athlete famous for his skills in the arena. Whoever he was, the thing that really gave shape to his life was his faithfulness in carrying out small assignments like this one of bringing a gift to Paul in prison.
Haven’t you always found the same to be true in your life? Isn’t life meaningful in proportion to how careful you are to be a good servant in small things?
Someone gave me a magazine article that says it all. It is the true story of a young man named Kenneth Lundberg, who lives in Riverside, Rhode Island. Every day, Kenneth walks from his car to the university office where he works through a twenty-foot-wide stretch of lawn.
For a long time, the lawn annoyed him because it was littered with cans, papers, and other debris thrown there by students. He thought of writing letters to the editor of the school paper, and even of organizing a clean-up day; but he decided that nothing would be done and he would only succeed in raising his blood pressure.
Then one day Kenneth got an idea: he would take ownership of the plot. He didn’t tell anyone about this, as it was probably against some regulation or other. But he made himself personally responsible for the environmental quality of this twenty-foot piece of lawn.
Each day, going to and from his car, Kenneth picked up the litter. He made a game of it, limiting himself to ten items each way. At first he carried it to a wastebasket in the building or took it to the car and carried it home with him. Then a curious thing occurred: large orange barrels appeared at each end of the lawn. Someone on the maintenance crew had become his silent conspirator.
Finally Kenneth reached the point where he was picking faster than other people were littering. He looked in pride at his twenty-foot lawn. It was beautifully green and free of trash. The rest of the campus was as littered as ever. But that was someone else’s problem. He was taking care of his.
Kenneth has been tending his lawn for years now, and his one-minute walk through it on his way to and from work is the highlight of his day. He begins and ends his workday in a positive mood. He cannot control the whole world in which he lives, but he has carved off a manageable section of it and is doing his bit to take care of it. There is order in his life because of the small bit of God’s earth he is looking after.
I wonder if Kenneth Lundberg’s approach to life wouldn’t be good for all of us. The world is a big place. There is much that is wrong with it. None of us can fix everything that is wrong. But each of us can find a small thing he or she can do and work at that. And think how healthy we are when we are doing something useful and constructive for the world. Even one thing makes a difference in our lives.
There is one more thing: little deeds serve the Lord of all existence. Have you ever doubted it? You remember Brother Lawrence, the author of The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence found that he could worship God as well in the kitchen, washing pots and pans, as he could in the sanctuary of the church. He felt as close to the divine presence while sweeping a floor as he did when kneeling before the altar. He knew that God receives such offerings.
Jesus, you remember, had an eye for little things like lilies of the field and birds of the air. He said that anything done for one of His little ones was done for Him. Even a cup of cold water given in His name would earn its reward.
Epaphroditus not only made Paul happy by bringing him the gift from the Philippian Christians; he not only gave order and meaning to his own life; he performed an action that served the Lord of the universe. Paul said that the gifts he brought were “a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” If the world is a sacrament, bearing the presence of the deity, then any little thing we do for others becomes sacramental too.
The world may not have noted what Epaphroditus and his friends in Philippi did. It didn’t get into the papers in Rome. But God knew. God knew that Epaphroditus and his friends were among those people who are faithful in little things and will one day be made master of many things.
It’s an exciting thought, when you think about it, that when we die and come into the presence of God with all His majesty, it will not be our major achievements that are important — you know, “He was president of a bank” or “She perfected a historic breakthrough in the methods of brain surgery” or “He was the author of twenty-two books” — but small, apparently inconsequential things we long ago forgot, such as “He mowed my lawn when I was sick” or “She cared for my child while I went to visit my mother” or “He sent me flowers when I needed them most” or “She washed and mended my socks.”
These are the little things that hold the world together. They are the small stones that comprise the great cathedrals where God is worshiped. And they shall be remembered like stars in the crowns of all the saints!
Dr. Wolf, your blog post about service was a service (inspiration) to me. Thank you. Today, in the USA, we celebrated two wonderful events. On January 21, 2013 we observed Martin Luther King, Jr Day and, as a nation, we had the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony for Barack Obama. He held the bibles of Abraham Lincoln and Dr. King. Looking at other countries now, it’s exciting to see nations around the would welcoming courageous leadership that nurtures Dr. King’s Beloved Community to our entire global family. As somewhat of a ‘thank you’ gift’ to the ways that many service-minded people have inspired me (like you Dr. Wolf) I have made this response to your Service blog post.
The Service Era
It’s exciting. Celebrating service and ‘the here and now’ has almost swept the world now. Sisters and brothers of our global family are full of life and riding the wave (building its momentum) of the Peace Millennium, the new era of transformation, and the Service Era. The fascinating year of 2012 is now past, and we are all a part of creating the new 5,000 year Mayan Calendar which also begins some kind of new 25,000 year cycle. Whatever that really is, you can be assured that it is still being researched. It’s exciting though, and special that we are all a part of it- forming and directing it, right?
What are our collective possibilities in creating the Service Era in a beneficent way for future generations? It’s exciting that many are proclaiming, through their courageous actions, “SUBSTANTIAL!”
Thousands of organizations, NGOs, foundations, health clinics and schools are popping up around the world and their being filled with genuine citizens who take their responsibilities to their global family seriously. As we find inspiration from learing about the great service examples of past peace builders of history, we find delicious sustenance to help us move onward.
To the memory of Gandhi, who stated:
“The best way to find yourself is to
lose yourself in the service of others.”
To the memory of Dr. King, who stated:
“Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.”
To the memory of Gandhi, who stated:
“Who are true lovers of humanity?
Those who, forgetting themselves,
bring sunshine to the lives of others.”
To the memory of Dr. King, who stated:
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would
go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
To the memory of Albert Einstein, who said this about Gandhi:
“Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one
as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.”
To the memory of Dr. King Jr. who stated:
“Gandhi was inevitable. If humanity is to progress,
Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought and acted,
inspired by the vision of humanity evolving
toward a world of peace and harmony.
We may ignore Gandhi at our own risk.”
To the memory of Mother Teresa, who stated:
“Peace begins with a smile.”
To the memory of Albert Einstein, who stated:
“The value of a person resides in what they give
and not in what they are capable of receiving.”
To the memory of Rumi, who stated:
“In these pages, many mysteries are hinted at.
What if you come to understand one of them?”
To the memory of Alfred Nobel, who stated:
“I would like to help dreamers, as they
find it difficult to get on in life.”
To the memory of Bertha von Suttner (the 1st woman Nobel
Peace Prize Laureate) who stated:
“After the verb ‘to Love’… ‘to Help’ is
the most beautiful verb in the world.”
To the memory of Albert Schweitzer, who stated:
“Think occasionally of the suffering
of which you spare yourself the sight.”
To the memory of Leonardo da Vinci, who stated:
“I am never weary of being useful
in serving others… I cannot do enough.”
To the memory of George Washington Carver, who stated:
“It is simply service that measures success.”
To the memory of Rabindranath Tagore, who stated:
“I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.”
To the honor of the Dali Lama, who stated:
“To promote greater compassion, we must pay special attention
to the role of women… My first teacher of love and compassion
was my own mother, who provided me with maximum love.”
To the memory of Pearl S. Buck, who stated:
“To find joy in work is to
discover the fountain of youth.”
To the memory of John F. Kennedy, who stated:
“If a free society cannot help the many who
are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
To the memory of Robert Kennedy, who stated:
“There are those who look at things the way they are, and
ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?
To the memory of Kahlil Gibran, who stated:
“A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely
more than much knowledge that is idle.”
To the honor of Dr. Paul A. Wolf, who stated:
“One spark of fire may light ourselves and from that
fire we may light the world. None of us is too small to
serve and freedom can be gained by giving more of ourselves.”
To the memory of Desiderius Erasmus, who stated:
“Fortune favors the audacious.”
To the memory of J. Donald Walters, who stated:
“Leadership is an opportunity to serve.
It is not a trumpet call to self-importance.”
To the memory of A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh) who stated:
“Rivers know this: There is no hurry, we shall get there some day.”
I believe to serve we must first focus outward – not inward. Our world constantly tells us in numerous ways to think ‘what about me’? ‘what is in it for me?’ ‘how do I look/ feel?’ etc etc. We have learned to expect happiness but we do not really know what that is and so depression and anxiety plague the West. The developing world is too busy surviving to focus on ‘me’ and so often we see people in what we think are the worst of circumstances with smiles and attitudes that lift the soul! To serve for me is to enable others to BE all they can be so they in turn can enable others as the ripples flow outward. If done well you will never get credit as those you enable think it was their own doing.
circle of serving ripples outward. In enabling
I have often thought of those that serve as being righteous pillars. In a world where darkness appears to prevail, [as that what the media wants us to believe], there are those that do unto others using the light in their mind and heart to create a better world for everyone.
As long as there is one righteous person in the world [a righteous pillar], that person holds the world up.
When there are many righteous persons using the light in their hearts and minds, the world changes in a dramatic way.
I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. ~Albert Schweitzer
Consciously or unconsciously, every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make, not only our own happiness, but that of the world at large.~ Mahatma Gandhi
“The power of “can’t”: The word “can’t” make strong people weak, blinds people who can see, saddens happy people, turns brave people into cowards, robs a genius of their brilliance, causes rich people to think poorly, and limits the achievements of that great person living inside us all.” ~Robert T. Kiyosaki
I thank you Dr. Paul Alexander Wolf for writing these thoughtful articles that really move us toward to think on where the importance on our lives resides …and what makes it worth it to live…
As my personal experience and after a long journey -“halfway along our life’s path” (like Dante’s travel through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven) – to the top and then again to the bottom (falling into a “low place”) and trying to keeping myself at the stadium that I really want to be (the “right way”) …I found out that knowing yourself is the only way to control oneself, and on doing so it is also the only way that you will find yourself free to make the right choices in your life, which means beginning your journey to the triumph of mind over your body…or even close to the total perfection of man “the last sphere of heaven”, being rescued of each sin’s punishment (like the Dante’s poetic justice) by feeling compassion! If you go deeply inside of your soul/ or state of mind (for the atheism) you can see that there is room, a lot of it, to feel compassion and love as a prologue to the entire estate of serving to others…
As the structure of Dante’s poem, to get there is quite complex, the subject of serving others is a matter of the utmost importance and is often misunderstood, particularly for those who understand service as an action of retribution or profit someway…or using it to proper ends but which love is not strong enough to accomplish the goal.
However and regardless if you are believer or not the meaning or spiritual views of this word is the same for Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism, even among Neuroscientist and Psychologist. Compassion and service to others are attached as much as the river to the ocean…one without the other … Does not exist…
“Genuine compassion is based not on our own expectations, but rather on the justice and rights of others: has nothing to do with race, faith, politics, or if they are enemies or allies…as long as the person wishes for happiness and overcomes suffering, then on that basis we develop a genuine concerns and an unshakeable desire to help…this is compassion…there is not genuine service without compassion…”
At this point I have to say that helping friends or our loved ones we cannot call this service or compassion…this is attachment, which means something different. However, even though you feel an emotional attachment, you have to feel compassion to holding your loved one’s hand through this “dark wood”.
To the memory of EVA
My mother died a year ago today … therefore, I believe in enlightenment … I hope I’d loved her strong enough to make her feel my compassion when I shared her fight against the cancer and her final suffering… I kept the unforgettable memory from our interlaced fingers in that final day for me (literally)… and the great beginning of the journey to the heaven for her…
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