If you serve others as fully as you can, what you do will be a source of inner joy. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This is a fairly straight forward quote. It urges us to take some time and help others. Specifically it urges us to serve others as fully as possible.
To me, that statement, “as fully as you can,” is an important part of the quote. What it means is that if all you have in the world is a hand full of change, but you share some with someone in need, you have helped as fully as you can. If you have a roll of hundred dollar bills in your pocket and just give a handful of change, that’s probably not “as fully as you can” is it?
The quote closes with the reward you receive for your service. Inner joy, according to the quote, is what awaits those who really put some effort in, and serves others as fully as they can. I have done so, and have felt it myself, so I will confirm that it is possible to gain inner joy from serving others as fully as you can.
Why is service to others important?
Have you ever taken a day and devoted it to someone else? Have you done something like that for a loved one or family member? Have you spent a day at a shelter or food kitchen? Have you spent the day working with at-risk children or others who were in need?
If you have undertaken such activities, you already know why service to others is important. For those who haven’t really put some effort into the service of others, it is hard for me to explain. The best I can do is to compare it to a lesser effort, and let you try to scale it up.
Try to remember a good feeling from holding a door open, helping someone reach or get something, helping them pick up, move or otherwise handle something they couldn’t otherwise manage, or a time when you donated some money to a worthy cause. That’s a start. But in doing it as the quote suggests, your feeling will be multiplied, and in proportion to the effort you put out. It is a tremendous feeling, in my opinion.
Where can I apply this in my life?
How many ways are there to do this? Hundreds, if not thousands. There are different levels of intensity, for those who wish to walk before they run. There is the time vs money trade-off that most of us have to figure out.
Then there is the matter of how to serve others. What, where, when, how, and who are just a few of the questions you’ll have to answer. But let’s start with baby steps. If you’re already past that, you can practice patience while I work with them, right? 😉
Probably the easiest place I can think of to start out is with simple kindness. Being nice to other people, doing little things, that is where I would start. A smile or a brief look that lets them know you aren’t just ignoring them, that’s a small service, and it will give you a small amount of inner joy.
When that becomes easy to do, perhaps you can start looking for other outlets for your generosity of spirit, time, energy, or cash. I would start with making a list of the things you are good at, and enjoy doing. We’ll skip sleeping and eating, and look for things that might be helpful to others.
I’m good with my hands, and a modestly accomplished amateur carpenter. I found Habitat for Humanity [link: http://www.habitat.org] and applied my skills there. Even though I never worked carpentry or a scratch build, I was able to use some of the other basic handyman skills. While I never met any of the homeowners, I felt great knowing what having a home means to them.
For those with absolutely no time, there is always the option of a cash donation. When Hurricane Katrina [link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina ] hit, I was doing fairly well for cash, but desperately short of time, so I sent money. My brother had the time, and actually went down and helped for a week. You do what you can, right?
What have you come up with? What can you do to help others? Even if it’s something like accounting or planning, there are organizations with needs for people with those skills. Even if all you were good at was moving heavy things, there are plenty of places where that could be useful, just ask around.
With a basic skill or two in mind, consider what you might want to do with what time you have available. What are the causes you feel most strongly about? Hunger? Homelessness? Poverty? There are plenty of charitable organizations in the phone book or online. If you found this blog, you have no excuse for not being able to find a way to help.
Now make it real, take the first step. Send an e-mail to the organization and introduce yourself and your skills. Mark your calendar for the next meeting. Make a phone call and ask what you can do to help. Take action, and start the process.
The more you serve, the more fully you serve, the more profound your inner joy will be. Try it, I believe you will like it.