When your life is about serving, your needs will always be met. When your life is about obtaining your needs, your needs will always elude you.
- Bill Ferguson, author/speaker, Mastery of Life
Let me be candid. For the first four decades of my life I would have considered this advice foolish, if not a waste of time. What does serving mean? How could giving to someone else be better for me than helping myself?
More importantly, even if I had resources that I didn't have in those times, what could I possibly offer to others? Everyone seemed to know more than me. Everyone was better at almost everything than I was. The only serving I could do would be at a soup kitchen.
My transformation came in the latter years of my classroom teaching career. The more I helped the children I taught with stuff other than what was on the curriculum, the more I began to love teaching. And the more I became loved and respected by my students.
That transformation came hard because western civilization teaches that you take as much as you can get and you keep striving to get more. Give as little as possible and get as much as you can. I was living the lessons I had been taught.
I wasn't happy. I was afraid of something all the time. I didn't even know what happiness was because everyone I knew was in the same rat race and none of them were truly happy. Oh, they laughed, drank alcohol and took drugs to keep their spirits up, and their friends were those who indulged themselves in the same kinds of defences, but they didn't know how to be happy either. To the people I knew, happiness could be bought. Or couldn't, but they kept believing that eventually it could if they kept buying.
Those kids taught me different. While they enjoyed everything that people with money bought them, what they really loved was adults who would give of themselves to teach them about life. They didn't necessarily want adult friends, but adults who would teach them what they wanted to know about being an adult. And who would fill in the gaps between the information they had and what they wanted to know.
In other words, they wanted to know what they should know to be an adult.
The job of a child is to learn how to be an adult. The job of adults, especially parents and grandparents, is to teach the children how to be adults. That's how we are made. Those are our primary responsibilities in life.
I didn't know what the requirements were for a satisfying, healthy and well adjusted adult. I was a taker and all takers I knew were not that great at being adults. They could manage themsleves, mostly, but they had little idea how to teach their kids. They couldn't teach their children how to be happy because they weren't really happy themsleves. So they acted as role models, the way the system had taught them. They raised clones of themselves.
I figured out what the kids wanted, then gave it to them. In the process, I satisfied what I had always wanted. And I learned how to be happy.
No amount of money can make you happy. The most miserable people on earth include the richest. The richest among the rich, Bill Gates, is happier now than ever before in his life. He is giving away billions of dollars to help prevent and cure diseases and to help to educate children around the world.
That's not buying happiness. It's putting your heart where your wallet was.
Serving doesn't mean washing the feet of Jesus with annointing oils and drying it with your hair. It means helping others. Not helping them to get rich or to build a fence, but to get through the rough patches of life that they don't have the coping skills to manage. It's helping people who seem to be pushing others away because they are afraid of appearing weak.
It's giving a smile and a hug. It's giving people an opportunity to get their troubles off their chests to someone who won't judge them or give them advice. It's supporting them when they're down.
It's giving them a hand up, not a handout.
It's doing, not thinking about it or throwing money at it.
Serving is about helping. Call it coincidence or whatever you want, but people who help others always manage to survive and find happiness. No matter how much or how little money they have. To them, money is always a minor part of the equation.
Somehow giving of yourself is the best way to get what you need back. It may not be logical and it may not fit the economic system proposed by Adam Smith, but it works.
It's another mystery of humanity.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make life's important lessons clear enough to understand.
Learn more at http://billallin.com/