The late Thomas S. Monson was President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and one of my favorite modern-day orators. His humble way of teaching life's lessons was one that I followed for decades as he spoke and wrote of a concept central among many of the world's faiths--the humility and blessing of service to our fellow human beings. Gandhi, Mother Teresa, many who were revered in the Bible, Torah, Koran, and those who stand out in today's world or who stand back in the shadows out of the limelight--those who make it part of their life's goals to serve their fellow human beings--not only bring positivity and blessings to others, but also find themselves being lifted up and strengthened by their service.
In January of 1927, on a farm outside Columbus, Ohio, a boy was born to a humble farming couple. Nine months later, a baby girl was born to a couple in Pennsylvania. Little did they know that 23 years later, this boy and this girl would meet in Illinois, both to earn Bachelor's Degrees in fields of service--him a social worker and her a teacher--and then get married. An interesting formula of diversity meeting a common life goal toward serving others, right? Even more interesting was growing up in a home where my parents were both service-oriented and, fortunately for me, instilled that philosophy into me.
Now, understand the context of these life's lessons and philosophy. We were not a wealthy family--seriously, who associates monetary or material wealth with social workers and teachers, right? And so, right from the start, the foundation for observing and learning about service and its importance was set.
In an oversimplified way, service to me means to have a focus on helping others by doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason without an expectation of anything in return (i.e. payment, quid pro quo, endorsement, etc.). It does not have to be for an individual--it can be for a group, community, or even for the common good. Most importantly, I believe that true service is giving of one's self, not of one's wealth, property, or goods--it is the act of a human being acting to assist another human being or other human beings. Yes, service can be assisting animals, too, and one may donate money or goods to a cause that helps others; however, that is not the real focus of my treatise here.
To me, true service is the act of human beings giving of themselves for the benefit of others. Yes, also a simple statement, I know, but in the context of my perspective and cognition. Now, as you read above, I believe that true service is that for which the serving individual expects no remuneration, goods, or other form of compensation; however, service does lead to benefits of the server.
To me, the benefits of service include things like: the smile on the face of the person one just helped; getting to know a person who becomes a regular acquaintance or even a friend; the feeling of joy when one has made another human's life a little better, safer, or more fulfilled; the feeling of encouragement from giving someone a better understanding of things that may lead them to a better life; a simple hug of thanks; the inspired feeling of living one's own life a little better by helping others do the same.
Service is a mindset, part of one's own psyche, part of one's own reason for being, and other purposes and rewards. To me, service is so important that it was a compelling reason to resign from my most recent executive position so that I could do what I really want to do with my own life (see, I alluded to sometimes selfish motives)--serve Veterans and the community. There are days when I do more in a day than when I had a "real job" and receive only the benefits of someone's smile, seeing the results of helping others, and that good, pure feeling of goodness that comes with focusing on others and on the big picture of being human and being part of something bigger than yourself. There is no monetary value that may be set for such a feeling--at least in my opinion--the "pay" I receive...the thank yous, smiles, handshakes, brightened eyes, brighter countenance of those served...are that most valuable compensation that I have ever received for my efforts.
We never know what someone else's story may be, how they got to where they are, why the are where they are, and why they came to be where we are in a position to serve them and improve their lives, their attitude, and maybe help them to serve others by our example. It only takes one person to change another person's life...for better or worse; any one of us on any given day can change a life--or lives--for the better by simply giving of ourselves, listening, shaking a hand, smiling at another person, taking the time to talk with someone who is reaching out for a friend at the moment, etc.
Much like the Capital One commercial where Samuel L. Jackson or Jennifer Garner ask "what's in your wallet," I would ask you to look and see "what's in your heart."
It costs nothing to give the greatest service that we can--giving of our selves, our time, our experience, our support... It only takes one to help one...
Thank you for serving.
Thank you to those who are served by giving people the opportunity to serve.
Thank you to my parents for instilling in me the value of true service.
Thank you to my God and my Savior for giving me the lessons of example throughout history.