"Teach the young about service as they will then live a life of caring." This is the wonderful advice we heard at a volunteers meeting. We also heard the importance of following our passion: that whatever area of life turns us on, that is where we should put our time and energy as we will not only be more engaged, but will also reap great joy.
We recently met the three creators of MokuZoku.com, who have designed a children's computer game where the kids earn points by doing activities outside. Perhaps it is a sign of the times that we have to bribe kids to get off the computer and out into nature, but it works. Service is similar. We have to lure ourselves away from our usual pastimes with the bribe that when we share and care by giving to others we actually feel much better in ourselves.
There is no end to needs, which can make us feel quite overwhelmed. How do we start? What difference could we possibly make? We may feel we have little to offer, but whether it is a few pennies or a whole bankroll, a helping hand across the street or a ride to the store is irrelevant -- it is the act of caring itself that is important. We can make a difference -- each one of us that reaches out to another brings an extra smile into the world. As Gandhi said, "Almost anything we do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that we do it."
Deb has worked with the elderly; we have both been volunteers with hospice. Just a few evenings ago we were at a meeting with other volunteers to find out more about RSVP: the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. They do wonderful work like taking the infirm to doctor's visits, fixing things that get broken around the home (even changing light bulbs for those who are unable), shopping for groceries, and providing the most important of all: companionship.
Eight teenagers came to the house of our friend Maggie, who was in need of help, and spent six hours weeding, mowing and pruning her yard. She told us that they all had a fun time, working and laughing together. Other areas of volunteering include: rehabilitating ex-prisoners; cleaning and maintaining parks, paths, and wildlife habitats; cooking for and serving the homeless; providing respite for single parents or caregivers; or taking a lonely friend out for dinner. These are all ways we can give. But they are also all ways we can gain so much.
Service takes us beyond ourselves. Through giving and sharing, we soon learn that when we give we do not lose anything; we do not have any less. Rather, we gain so much. As the slogan on a friend's tee shirt says: "Giving is the new getting."
Or, as one of our teachers, Sri Swami Satchidananda taught: "Who is the most selfish person? It is the one who is most selfless! Why? Because by being selfless, you will always retain your happiness. A selfish person can never be happy. So, to be happier, be more selfless! Look at the apple tree: It gives thousands of fruits. What's more, if you throw a stone at an apple tree, it offers even more fruit. Throw a stone at a person and you know what you will get!"
I slept and dreamt that life was joy
I awoke and saw that life was service
I acted and behold, service was joy.
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Ed and Deb Shapiro's new book, BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You And The World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors such as Marianne Williamson, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Michael Beckwith, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jane Fonda, Jack Kornfield, Byron Katie, Gangaji, Ellen Burstyn, Ed Begley, Dean Ornish, Russell Bishop, and others, will be published November 3rd 2009 by Sterling Ethos.
Deb is the author of the award-winning book YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND. Ed and Deb are the authors of over 15 books, and lead meditation retreats and workshops. They are corporate consultants, and the creators of Chillout daily inspirational text messages on Sprint cell phones. See: www.EdandDebShapiro.com