It happens every day. Someone changes a tire for another person, laughing while they decline any payment. “No worries,” they say. Another holds a door with a wink and a smile. Somewhere else, a person patiently sits with a stranger listening attentively to their difficulties. Random acts of kindness, to be sure. But they are more than that. Deeper than an isolated act, they are all examples of how many of us have invested our hearts and taken the time to serve others.
To serve. “To be of service or use; function,” the dictionary says. It’s a word that effortlessly slips into our everyday lexicon in numerous ways. Still, when we look more closely, we realise it carries with it a heartfelt meaning that plumbs the very depths of what it means to be human. To serve is to give a part of ourselves to others, in so doing making manifest that we are all truly one.
In the act of serving, at its most simplistic, albeit vital, way, we demonstrate sentiments such as gratitude, kindness and compassion, qualities that not only help another person. We too benefit. Showing just a little gratitude actually diminishes our fatigue, at the same time as improving our sleep. Just being kind also raises our level of ocytocin, a hormone that moderates social interaction and emotion. So, it can’t hurt to be kind or compassionate.
But what serving others also does is create an intangible bridge between people. It could be just for the moment one holds the door for another or longer if someone listens while another shares their heartfelt feelings. Showing emotions such as gratitude, kindness and compassion helps to solder the bond that ultimately unites us as one.
Serving another and demonstrating kindness are all part of the balance we must seek in our lives. Rather than solely taking throughout our lives, it is essential to balance with giving. We are forever grateful for acts of kindness done to us. But we must “pass it on” and to do so is to seek balance. The reverse is also true. We would be frail thin and ragged of spirit if we were to always be giving, for there would be nothing left. These sentiments have been with us for centuries, across cultures and religions alike.
When we serve one another, we are distinctly stating that it is more important for me to take the time to help you than to do something solely for myself. It is an exercise in humility, one which recognises that for this moment, my needs must stand back while I service yours. We are placing the importance of others ahead of ourselves.
A warm feeling of comfort arises when we serve others, as we are reminded that there is something greater than we are, a deeper and meaningful layer to life. We feel a comfortable tug of purpose in our lives.
We are not alone, but rather bound to one another by an unspoken commitment and loyalty to one another. We have all been witness to someone, who, in the midst of utter devastation, genuinely assures total strangers — “I won’t leave you behind,” they cry out. They mean it with every ounce of integrity they have. It doesn’t matter what it will take. That is how we serve. Because to not do so, would be to somehow betray ourselves and in truth, our humanity.
We serve one another in a multitude of ways. Whether we are a health professional, musician, teacher, painter, garbage technician, writer, member of a road crew or anything else, we are somehow serving one another. But many of us live hectic lives and we go from place to place busy working, eating, playing. It is non-stop, a never-ending merry-go-round. However, it is vital to just stop. Then take a moment to think of how we can be of service to others. It is essential.
In so doing, we strengthen the underlying unity that binds humanity and makes us one. In a way, when we are in service to another, we are looking at ourselves in the mirror. We are all one and when we help others, we are helping ourselves. And so we find peace.