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Service to God, in spiritual or religious terms, can become a grandiose, almost inaccessible concept. Something only great mystics and masters can fully live out. Possibly forsaking all worldly possessions and moving to another country. We think of Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Or Martin Luther King Jr. and Peace Pilgrim. Lives of dedication and deep compassion. Yes, this is definitely service to God. But we don’t really have to be a saint or monk to be of service to others and God. Perhaps we need to simplify the definition itself.
So what exactly is service? The dictionary says “help, assistance, kindness.” A good turn or helping hand. It’s when we add God to the mix that everything gets a bit daunting. It becomes about life purpose and serving all of humanity in order to relieve suffering in the world. Almost nothing can live up to that tall order. People start to tune out and turn away because they feel inadequate to the task: “What could I as one individual human do to alleviate the pain of all humankind?” So, very few consciously choose service as a way of life. But what if service begins at a very basic level of a helping hand and kindness? What if my human purpose is just to be present to another when they are feeling most alone or lost?
I have asked myself what my life purpose is more times than I can count. Sometimes I think I know part of it, but I usually feel there is much more than what I think. I too have been intimidated by the larger sense of service to God, the purpose-of-life sense. My mind engages with the word purpose, trying to figure out what it is I’m supposed to be doing. However, as I grow and evolve on my spiritual path, I am finding that it has absolutely nothing to do with my mind’s ideas about any of it. It’s completely a heart issue. And it’s not necessarily a schematic that involves single-handedly eradicating world poverty or global warming. Maybe it’s less sweeping than that, something everyone can handle.
Volunteering one day a week at a food bank or donating regularly to an environmental cause are key individual contributions, but it is also more than those. Maybe our greatest gift to others and to God is day-to-day, moment-to-moment, heartfelt caring. The small gesture: the hand held, the loving smile, the encouraging word when someone is hurting. Perhaps that is the essence of service, available to each of us in every moment. Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. lived a lifetime of small gestures of kindness to others that became their larger service to God. When I think of service this way, it becomes more accessible, doable, all-inclusive. Something that, as each person responds to another with caring and empathy, shifts the collective balance from selfishness to generosity, from suffering to well-being, from fear to love. From one to many.
Service is actually not something outside of us that we have to aspire to. It is who we are at our core. We came from the heart of God, and our souls are pure love. When we remember that, kindness flows from us easily and effortlessly. We become the light-filled human beings we were born to be. In truth, service to others and service to God are one and the same. Hold out your hand and open your heart to those who cross your path each day—that’s all it takes.