Five reasons to serve others
When you serve, you discover that often the most important things you have to offer are not things at all, says the founder of Servicespace.org
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Any time we practice the smallest act of service – even if it's only holding a door for somebody with a full heart that says, "May I be of use to this person" – that kind of giving changes the deeply embedded habit of self-centeredness.Skip to next paragraph
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In that brief moment, we experience other-centeredness. That other-centeredness relaxes the patterns of the ego, a collection of unexamined, self-oriented tendencies that subtly influence our choices. This is why no true act of service, however small, can ever really be wasted.
To serve unconditionally in this way takes practice and constant effort. But with time and sharpened awareness, we begin to brush against the potential for transformation that is embedded in every act of generosity.
It's a realization that when you give, you actually receive. You begin to internalize this, not at the intellectual level but by experience.
4. Serve to honor our profound interconnection.
Over time, all of those small acts, those small moments, lead to a different state of being – a state in which service becomes increasingly effortless. And as this awareness grows, you inevitably start to perceive beyond individualistic patterns: Each small act of service is an unending ripple that synergizes with countless others.
As Rachel Naomi Remen puts it, "When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole."
With that understanding, we begin to play our part – first, by becoming conscious of the offerings we receive, then by feeling gratitude for them, and finally by continuing to pay forward our gifts with a heart of joy. Each of us has such gifts: skills, material resources, connections, presence – everything we consider ourselves privileged to have. And when we actually start to use our gifts as tools to facilitate giving, we deepen our understanding of relationships and start to sync up with this vast "inner-net."
5. Serve to align with a natural unfolding.
When we increasingly choose to remain in that space of service, we start to see new things. The needs of the current situation become clearer, we become instruments of a greater order and consequently our actions become more effortless.
When a group of people perform this kind of service as a practice, it creates an ecosystem that holds a space, allowing value to emerge organically. All of this indirect value, the ripple effect, has space and time to add up, synergize with other ripples, and multiply into something completely unexpected.
In humble fashion these ripples continue to seed unpredictable manifestations. Such an ecosystem can have its plans and strategies, but places more emphasis on emergent co-creation. So a lot of the ripples will remain unseen for years; some perhaps will be the basis for a seventh-generation philanthropy. It doesn't matter, because they are unconditional gifts.
What each of us can do, on a personal level, is make such small offerings of service that ultimately create the field for deeper change. The revolution starts with you and me.
• Nipun Mehta is the founder of Servicespace.org, an incubator of gift-economy projects that aims to shift our collective narrative toward greater generosity. This article is a result of a collaborative effort that included several ServiceSpace coordinators. Nipun was honored in the Winter 2012 issue of YES! Magazine as one of The YES! Breakthrough 15.
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