More Beneficial To Serve

“The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” ~ Gordon B. Hinckley … 

Many of us have grown up thinking that service is something that is done for us, that if we provide any service, we should receive compensation for it. Perhaps this is something that we have learned over the years from someone who sees the monetary value of time–that acts of service are a resource for potential monetary gains. Yet as Gordon points out here, life seems to give back more to those who serve others unconditionally, with a compassionate and non-expectant heart.

Every act of service that we render is, in its depths, an act of service to ourselves. By serving others, we are essentially helping ourselves to grow, to expand, to become stronger and more compassionate human beings–human beings who have a greater capacity for love, empathy, and friendship.

Of course, there are those who tend to not serve others at all. And we may feel a smidgen of resentment towards those individuals–for what is the fairness in us serving greatly if they do not serve at all. But if we feel this way, and we choose to serve less because “it seems fair,” we are really hurting ourselves more than anyone else.

And service does not have to be grand in scale–it is about giving to others, that which we can afford to give, with a pure and generous heart. Give in the daily interactions you experience with others. Give of your knowledge and wisdom to those who are in need of answers. Give comfort to those who are suffering. Give love to those who are in need of a friend. This is how we can make our own lives richer.

Serve others today and then take a moment to recognize how serving those individuals has also benefited you.

Questions to consider:

How many opportunities do you have to serve each day?

How many of those opportunities do you take advantage of?

What are the short-term and long-term benefits of service to you as a human being?

For further thought:

The sweetest lives are those to duty wed,
Whose deeds, both great and small,
Are close-knit strands of an unbroken thread,
Where love ennobles all.
The world may sound no trumpets, ring no bells;
The book of life, the shining record tells.
Thy love shall chant it’s own beatitudes,
After it’s own life-workings. A child’s kiss
Set on thy sighing lips shall make thee glad;
A poor man served by thee shall make thee rich;
A sick man helped by thee shall make thee strong;
Thou shalt be served thyself by every sense,
Of service which thou renderest.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Stay Connected

“I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.” ~ Jon Katz … 

Friendship is “powerful stuff.” It defies math–a friend not just doubles, but increases your abilities and reach, multitudes of times over. It defies failure–where you feel you can go on no further or cannot succeed, a friend is there to help. It defies loneliness–for you are always in each other’s hearts. However, to have true friendships, we must know the importance of cultivating and maintaining them–of taking the time to visit a friend and strengthening that relationship–for we are not meant to tackle the world on our own.

Do I make time for my friends even though I may feel too busy or have other work or tasks that need tending to? As I run from task to task, and focus on work, sports, and entertainment instead of my friends, I find myself becoming more fragmented. It really diminishes my overall experience in life–I have no time to talk, no time to connect, no time to relax and enjoy the company of a close friend, and no time to make my relationships richer by sharing of myself.

Friendship is a here and now experience–one that we must prioritize above the things that have little to no consequence in life. We know not how long our friends will be here with us, and if we fail to take advantage of the time we do have with them, those opportunities to strengthen our ties of friendship will be lost.

Spend some time with friends today–let them know how important their friendship is to you.

Questions to consider:

What goes into your decision-making process when you have to decide whether to work or to talk? Is it possible that we place too much importance on getting things done in a certain amount of time? How many truly awful effects of not doing so have you seen?

Why do so many people value tasks over personal connection?

What kinds of situations might make you decide not to talk to a person with whom you have the chance to talk?

For further thought:

“Human beings are born into this little span of life of which the best thing is its friendships and intimacies… and yet they leave their friendships and intimacies with no cultivation, to grow as they will by the roadside, expecting them to “keep” by force of mere inertia.” ~ William James

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Our Value And Worth

“The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us than exposed ones. They erode our strength, our self-esteem, our very foundation.” ~ Cheryl Hughes … 

As both physical and spiritual beings, we are bound to who we are. Our integrity defines us to those around us, but much more importantly, it defines us to our self. Therefore, it is the lies that we hold inside that will come to “erode our very foundation.”

When a person is caught telling a lie, they generally become apologetic and, to the best of their abilities, make the effort to set things right. However, when a person is not caught, that person tends to travel further down the road of self-destruction until they become lost. Sometimes so far down the road that they lose sight of where they began–of who they really are. At this point, the “undiscovered lies” that they have embraced will leave their souls destitute and morally bankrupt.

Our value and our worth are built up through a life of principle. By embracing integrity, we allow ourselves to be complete and true. In contrast, a life filled with deceit and corruption will leave us fragmented and broken. Integrity truly is the bond the holds all of our other virtues together.

Strive to live a life of integrity–build trust with those around you, serve as an example of character and principle each day, and display confidence, clarity, and purpose in the choices you make.

Take some time to have a heart to heart with yourself.

Questions to consider:

How important is integrity in your life?

Are you always honest with yourself?

What do you define as “right?” Do you stand with those who are right?

For further thought:

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” ~ Frederick Douglass

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Oft Hidden

“Our hearts are drunk with a beauty our eyes could never see.” ~ George W. Russell … 

Generally, when we go about looking for beauty in life, we find it. And yet, we usually only find a fraction of the beauty around us–a single grain of sand on the beaches of the ocean. For in the absence of the awareness of our hearts, our eyes are not looking at the beauty of life; and in those times, what we fail to see as beauty… still is beauty.

Those moments in which I am able to recognize the vastness of beauty before me–the laughter of a child, the smell of the ocean breeze, the tranquility and peace of a forest, the serenity of the nighttime sky–I find it is my heart that truly perceives the beauty before me. My eyes see it and my ears hear it, but it is through my awareness within that I really come to experience it–mind, body, and soul. If only I were to always see beauty from the heart!

And the love we experience between one another is very much the same. Sometimes when we meet a person and start dating, we are first attracted to their physical beauty and charms–beauty that our eyes can perceive, sweet words that our ears can hear. And yet as our love grows over time, we find that love to be much deeper than merely physical beauty–our hearts recognize the true beauty within that person’s soul, and in time they begin to overflow with that very same beauty. It truly is the person inside that we fall in love with.

Do I find beauty in everyone I see in life–in the deepness and wonder of his or her soul? Do I find it in everything around me? The endless sounds of nature and of music? In the multitudes of hues of colors that fill our world? In the warm touch of a handshake, or the caring embrace of a friend? If not, what is keeping me from seeing this beauty?

Look for the oft hidden beauty that surrounds you.

Questions to consider:

What things may keep us from seeing the beauty that is always around us?

What is the value of beauty in your life?

How can we share beauty with others, thus enriching their lives?

For further thought:

“One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space. Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages. Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will.” ~ Rachel Carson

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Beauty Of Life

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” ~ Marcus Aurelius … 

Life is full of beauty–beauty that has no costs, beauty that has no conditions. Of course, our perception of this beauty is ours to decide each moment of our lives. I used to recognize and appreciate beauty in the world much less often than I do now. Because I often acted out of necessity, I generally tempered that appreciation with thoughts of other things that were much less positive.

A life in which I am constantly aware of the beauty that surrounds me, a life in which I am able to immerse myself in that beauty as often as possible, is a life full of riches. There will of course be occasions in which I do not have the time or ability to focus on the beauty around me, and this is ok, as long as the other times I am aware that I have a choice as to how I approach life’s beauty and wonder.

One of the keys to avoiding complacency with the beauty of life is having gratitude. Life is precious–our time here is precious–and gratitude allows us to respect the wonders and marvels of life each day.

“Dwell on the beauty of life.” Marvel at it. Each day we have the option to see life through foggy glasses that filter out the colors and the light of the world, or we can choose to take them off and see all the beauty and wonder that surrounds us.

Take a moment to look around and recognize the beauty that surrounds you right now.

Questions to consider:

How do you see the world around you?

How can we share with others all of this beauty and wonder?

Is there something you can do to actively shift your perspective to allow more of the beauty and wonder into your life?

For further thought:

“Looking for and enjoying beauty is another way to nourish the soul. The universe is in the habit of making beauty. There are flowers and songs, snowflakes and smiles, acts of great courage, laughter between friends, a job well done, the smell of fresh-baked bread. Beauty is everywhere, ready to nourish the soul. It must only be seen to begin helping us.” ~ Matthew Fox

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Our Lives Are Defined By Our Actions, Or Inaction

Not the victory but the action;

Not the goal but the game;
In the deed the glory.

~ Hartley Burr Alexander, inscription on the southwest tower of Memorial Stadium

I love playing sports. So many of the lessons learned from them can be paralleled with lessons in life. For this reason, I felt it proper to look at ourselves–what we are responsible for in life and what we are becoming–from the aspect of athletics. Sports are a great way to build character. And here, the message from Hartley is clear–our lives are defined by our actions, or lack thereof.

Do I honor the actions of others and myself? In hockey, the effort I display determines if I succeed or not. The same goes for life–it is not through victory that we succeed, it is through the effort and the work ethic we put forth.

Do I honor the game? Just being able to participate in sports deserves my highest respect. For it is not about me–the game has a greater purpose than I do–it is about the sport. It is also about the team–about camaraderie, brotherhood, and goodwill. And it is about making a positive difference in life.

Do I see the glory in the deed? The highest honor of life is our selfless action–our distinguished service for a cause greater than our self. The good that I spread throughout this Earth will glorify my life more than any other means possible.

Our time on this Earth is extremely valuable–whatever actions we commit ourselves to today will define us tomorrow. So what choices will you make today? Will they bring glory and honor to your life?

Commit yourself to doing three good deeds for others today.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of actions can you take today to help you to grow as a person?

What kinds of actions did you shy away from yesterday? Why?

Think of the people you know who are at peace with themselves, and satisfied with life. Were they born that way? What kinds of actions might they have taken in their pasts to become this way?

For further thought:

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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The Moral Courage

“If not us, then who?

If not now, then when?” 

~ John E. Lewis

There are times in our lives in which we are faced with the difficult decision of standing up for what is right; and usually it is not an easy choice to make. Often times, doing the right thing can bring about a significant amount of hostility or negativity from others, and as a result, it is generally preferred to take the easier way out and not say or do anything, or even worse, agree with something that we know is wrong. But it imperitive that we stand for what we know deep within our hearts to be good and right–for the lives of those we intersect, for the lives of those we love, and most importantly, for ourselves and the eternal being within.

Evil prevails in this world when good people do nothing. And as John aptly points out, “If it is not us, then who?” If we all take the attitude that we are not the person to stand up for what is right, or bring about positive change, then evil will prevail. Similarly, if we take the attitude that it is not the right time in our lives or an ideal moment to stand up for what is right, then when will good ever stand a fighting chance?

Part of the problem is that we usually see no immediate positive result of our standing up for what is right, though we often see very negative results. It is easy to hold back from protesting a wrong or praising an unpopular right action when we know that the immediate result for ourselves can be ridicule, anger, or other very negative responses.

The truth, unfortunately, is that injustice is all around us. And standing up against it is not always easy. But if we are not the voice of truth–or examples of moral character and integrity–our hearts will have become surrounded by the darkness that we chose to accept.

Take some time to discover and maintain your moral courage today.

Questions to consider:

How do we define right and wrong? Is our perspective necessarily the best one for everyone on any issue?

Why is it hard to stand up for the right and the just? Is it necessary to do so if we want to live full lives?

How can we deal with people who do not seem to want to hear what is right?

For further thought:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master;
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

~ Rudyard Kipling, If: A Father’s Advice to His Son

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