Standing in bright light. The power of amazing friends.

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Light

Imagine this:

Scene 1: It’s nighttime and the lights are completely off in your house. You turn on a flashlight to navigate your way to the kitchen. The light from the flashlight prominently cuts through the darkness. There is no missing that the flashlight is on.

Scene 2: It’s daytime. The windows are uncovered and bright light is shining throughout the entire house. You turn on a flashlight to navigate your way to the kitchen. The light from the flashlight seamlessly blends with the bright light of the room. You can barely tell that the flashlight is on.

In which scenario is the flashlight playing a more important role?

BUT what if…

What if the goal was to see the clearest path to the kitchen?

In which scenario would that be easier to do?

What if you needed to know what color the flashlight was?

In which scenario might you have noticed?

 

These two scenes are meant to mirror our experience with the people we choose to love and the company we keep. We may feel more important in Scene 1, but we thrive more in Scene 2. Imagine that you are the flashlight in Scene 1 and your close friends represent the darkness in the room. When your friends are down in life, down on themselves, or generally a downer to be with “their darkness” allows your light to be much more noticeable. You’re the bright spot in a dark room and that might feel good at times. You’re much more significant in this scenario.

In Scene 2, imagine you’re the flashlight surrounded by close friends that are succeeding in their life pursuits, growing more confident every day, or generally wonderful to be around. In the company of this group, your light is less distinct. You blend in even when shining your brightest.

As servers, it is important to be there for people in hard times. But it’s also important to surround ourselves with positive people and to know how to celebrate their successes. At times their achievements may surpass what we are destined to accomplish. Still we know that our lives are important just the same. We even have additional impact by being part of their journey. I’m blessed to have many “bright lights” in my life. I’d be lying if I said I was never intimidated by them. I am because they’re amazing. Still, I’d rather stand in their shadows than standout in a dark room. I know it is the power of their lights that will show me the most beautiful version of myself and my clearest path to service.

Are you comfortable standing in bright light?

Put your gratitude into action. Here’s 60 places to start.

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Seedsprout

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

-Cicero

I find it hard to rank virtues, but apparently Cicero did not. His quote above suggests that not only is gratitude the greatest virtue, but all others stem from it. Not a bad argument. If it is true, service is a stem of gratitude. Which makes sense as all acts of service (including the small ones) plant grateful seeds in the giver and the receiver.

Below you will find our updated list of quick and easy acts of service. At this pace, we will hit 100 by January 2015. Please, please, please continue to help by sending me your ideas.

60 small and powerful acts of service

  1. Serve this service blog. Send via email or social media one idea to quickly put the spirit of service into action.
  2. Brighten a teacher’s day. Send in an unsolicited treat or thank you.
  3. Treat your spouse to an unexpected display of passion.
  4. Do online research about the distinction between change and charity.
  5. Encourage someone to share their faith with you in a place where it is normally kept quiet (work, school, etc).
  6. Grant someone the freedom to parent differently than you without judgment.
  7. Bring a neighbor an unexpected gift.
  8. Offer an elderly pet owner peace of mind by suggesting you care for their beloved pet whenever they are unable.
  9. Choose to share something shameful or painful in your past if it will help another feel less alone.
  10. Rally around an acquaintance going through a difficult time. Sometimes it’s the most unexpected acts of love that touch us the most.
  11. Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a problem that seems hopeless.
  12. Cut a neighbor’s grass.
  13. Donate school supplies.
  14. Offer support to a grieving soul long after the funeral.
  15. Share a piece wisdom that only comes with age.
  16. Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
  17. Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
  18. Give someone a gift you made yourself.
  19. Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
  20. Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
  21. Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
  22. Loan someone a book you love.
  23. Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
  24. Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
  25. Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
  26. Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
  27. Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
  28. Give someone more credit than they deserve.
  29. Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
  30. Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
  31. Fight indifference. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
  32. Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
  33. Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
  34. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
  35. Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
  36. Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
  37. Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
  38. Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
  39. Listen carefully. Many people yearn to be heard.
  40. Thank a healthcare provider for their service.
  41. Tell someone a joke.
  42. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
  43. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  44. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  45. Pray for someone.
  46. Teach someone something. Anything.
  47. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
  48. Give someone you love your undivided attention.
  49. Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
  50. Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
  51. Hug someone.
  52. Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
  53. Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
  54. Leave change in a vending machine.
  55. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  56. Thank a solider for their service.
  57. Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
  58. Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
  59. Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
  60. If you love them, tell them.

 What’s missing?

Why September is the new January. Bring on the resolutions.

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Fall Leaves

I celebrated a birthday last week so I was off from posting taking a mini-vacation. I’m glad to be back. I used my time to think about next steps for the blog and my life in general. Milestones (like a birthday) often give us a nudge to examine the momentum in our lives. They often inspire us to inspect our path in the pursuit of a uniquely meaningful life. And make changes if we need to.

We may take a rare moment to ask ourselves:

  • Who do I want to be?
  • Where do I want to go?
  • Who do I want to come with me?

Milestones give us a reason to ponder things that don’t come up in everyday life. For some people they use their birthday to trigger this. For many others they wait until January and create a New Year’s resolution. They may resolve to get healthier. They may resolve to offer forgiveness more freely (or at least try to). They may resolve to volunteer their time to a cause they believe in. Most resolutions will promote a service lifestyle. I believe that any goal that makes you a better you, makes you more equipped to serve.

I just want you to consider setting these goals in September instead of January. And here’s why:

September vs. January

  1. Reflecting on your life requires emotional energy. You likely have more emotional energy now in September than you will in January. Love and acceptance replenish our emotional bank accounts. If you’re like many people you spent more extended time with family and friends in the social summer months than at one-off holiday events. This has probably given you more emotional energy.
  2. Setting achievable goals requires creativity. You are likely more creative now in September than you will be in January. Playtime and having fun is essential to maintaining your creative mind. So you’re likely to be much more creative after the summer than after your hectic holiday schedule. A creative mind is vital when finding new ways to fit goals into your life. Finding space in an already full schedule is rarely easy. You may have to get creative.
  3. Sticking to goals requires physical stamina. You likely have more stamina now in September than you will have in January. This one is just a no-brainer. When was the last time the holidays left you feeling refreshed? On the other hand, hopefully you were able to relax at a few cookouts and maybe even a summer retreat.
  4. Nature will inspire you. You likely find the natural surroundings of September more inspiring than you will in January. There are reasons to see beauty in every month, but few get inspired by the cold, dreary days of January. On the other hand, let’s think about September. It’s a popular wedding month for a reason. September ushers in mild temperatures with refreshing breezes. And if you’re geographically lucky, you may also get to enjoy beautiful trees lighting up with vibrant colors. Seeing the beautiful things that God has created reminds you of the beauty inside of yourself. But, are you letting that beauty out?

So what do you think?

Is September a better time to make a resolution?

Which camp are you in? Camp Evolution or Camp Revolution?

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Tents

Last week, I wrote a post about how to support someone leading a revolution. This post was written at the very beginning of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and mere hours before the simmering anger in Ferguson, MO turned into a full blown fire. These two topics may seem to have little in common, but both inspired a fury of commentary on the role of the individual in impacting change.

You’d think all “do gooders” would get along. We have one important thing that unites us – we all want to do good deeds and serve the world we live in. But for most issues we unknowingly separate ourselves into two distinct camps with opposing views on what doing good truly looks like. And that’s where the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Ferguson, MO brought our differences to the surface. All week my Facebook feed was filled with conversations bordering arguments from some of the most amazing and compassionate servers I know. Which camp are you arguing for – Evolutionary Servers or Revolutionary Servers?

Camp Evolution

The definition of evolution I’m using

The gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.

How Evolutionary Servers affect change

Evolutionary Servers work within the current system to make gradual improvements. They take a pragmatic approach to meeting the needs of today first, but also plan for the needs of the future.

Why they’re needed

  • Evolutionary Servers meet people where they are. They often figure out how to get a broader audience more engaged even if they aren’t fully committed yet. They open the door to dialogue usually in a non-confrontational manner.
    • An example from this week: ALS is a horrific disease that is grossly underexposed and underfunded. So Evolutionary Servers don’t mind using tactics like a somewhat trivial Ice Bucket Challenge to raise immediate funds and awareness. They are not overly concerned that the funding is coming from less committed donors. They are not overly bothered by the fact that the funding level will not likely return again. They are successfully serving in the here and now. And right here and right now they have raised a lot of money and are bringing in a major victory for a cause that desperately deserves it.
  • Evolutionary Servers are trusted and respected by the masses. Their efforts though slower to bring about large scale change prepare the world for the right time to support a revolution.

Why they often clash with Revolutionary Servers

  • Evolutionary Servers sometimes feel attacked by their revolutionary counterparts. They want to stand with them but don’t appreciate being judged when they don’t push the envelope as far (or as fast) as Revolutionary Servers want to see it go. They view Revolutionary Servers as preachy, judgmental and at times unrealistic.
    • An example from this week: Evolutionary Servers found themselves “called out” for not speaking out against injustice. Many wanted to withhold comment until the facts surrounding Michael Brown’s death were more concrete and tensions in Ferguson had reached more manageable levels.
  • Emotionally, Evolutionary Servers have spent a great deal of energy improving a current system. Having that system completely changed by Revolutionary Servers could appear to invalidate their efforts.

Camp Revolution

The definition of revolution I’m using

An overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.

How Revolutionary Servers affect change

Revolutionary Servers work to overhaul a current system in favor of a brand new system. They believe the current system is broken. They work within the old system to support immediate needs, but their main goal is to overthrow the old unjust or ineffective system in favor of a new one.

Why they’re needed

  • Revolutionary Servers are the people that provide new opportunities for a better world beyond what we can currently imagine.
    • An example from this week: To a Revolutionary Server the Ferguson case is an electrifying catalyst to address more than just the actions of a single police officer. It is an opportunity to engage individuals and institutions in an action-focused campaign for massive change. Revolutionary Servers stand ready to push the catalyst for revolution into systematic change. And they are not shy about forcing discussion and action.
  • Revolutionary Servers are the people that make the masses uncomfortable. They push people out of their comfort zones and make individuals they touch better for it.

Why they often clash with Evolutionary Servers

  • Revolutionary Servers sometimes see Evolutionary Servers as a hindrance to systematic change. Because Evolutionary Servers work within the current system their successes help give the appearance that the need for massive overhaul is less acute.
    • An example from this week: This is where the Ice Bucket Challenge caused so much tension. It is a win for ALS funding and the researchers that need that money right this second. But it is a potential loss for anyone that wants to see the current system of “disengaged giving to charity” replaced with a new system of “committed partnerships for change”. Revolutionary Servers see a win for the old system as a setback in the movement towards the new system. And the Ice Bucket Challenge was a BIG win for the old system.

Are both camps needed?

Could the camps work better together?

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Please post them via social media or in the comments below.

Three ways service makes you fall in love again and again.

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Love kiwi

There’s something magical about close friends talking with nothing in particular they need to cover. The conversation is free to dart all around and uncover new ideas. Yesterday, I was able to enjoy one of those unstructured phone calls with a friend while she waited at the airport. Somehow the conversation landed on the concept of falling in love and whether it’s possible to feel those feelings without a romantic relationship. I believe you can find many of those feelings through service. Here’s how:

  1. Service (like falling in love) deepens your own self-worth. It is important that I differentiate “falling in love” with “being in love”. Falling in love is more about how YOU feel than anything you’re giving to the other person. Falling in love is you appreciating someone else for appreciating you. Being in love is when you start the real work of loving them. Service definitely requires that you do work for others, but there’s a very personal impact as well. Service reminds you that you make a difference and that you’re valuable. Self-worth makes you feel safe and maybe even a bit invincible. This is similar to how you feel when falling in love.
  2. Following a service passion (like falling in love) requires deep vulnerability. Letting someone into your heart is extremely vulnerable. It is scary and dangerous, but it also feels great. It feels great because deep down you want to be truly known for the beautiful imperfect person you are. You may fear vulnerability, but you also crave it. You have to bring down your walls to let love in. It feels scary and exhilarating, but it also feels natural. Being open is our natural state. Service inspires the exhilaration of vulnerability as well. You have to care to act. You have to act to serve. Caring forces you to open up emotionally to let compassion in.
  3. Service (like falling in love) helps you grow and discover the things that you and you alone can offer this world. When falling in love, you see a magnificent reflection of yourself in your lover’s eyes. Finally you feel seen and known. And I don’t mean known for the small details that have made up your life. I mean known for the things that uniquely make you a glorious being. I’m talking about your perfect combination of wit, humor, strength, weakness, intellect, spirituality, etc. This will include other attributes like how adventurous, sensitive or faith-filled you are. When you’re falling in love your special God given gifts rise to the surface and become more pronounced. It’s like your lover has held a mirror up that shows you more than just physical beauty. This mirror shows you, “you.” It shows you the person you always knew was in there, but you may not have seen for a long while. And you’ve missed this version of yourself…a lot. Service is a similar mirror. It gives you a place to bring your gifts and uniqueness out of the shadows and place them on full display. It gives you a place to see and be your glorious self.

Would you like to fall in love again and again?

How to support a revolution.

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Explosion

This weekend my husband and I had some extended time with a young man that we consider to be a part of our family. He wasn’t brought into our lives by birth, but he was bought into our hearts for a purpose. He’s going to start a revolution and he’ll need our support.

When I picked this title I thought I better make sure I knew exactly what the definition of revolution was, so I looked it up. Here’s what I found:

Revolution: A forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.

At the ripe old age of 19, I see the spark of revolution in this young man. His particular revolution involves overthrowing the social order that views almost anything that is synonymous with the inner-city as “hood” and “ghetto” and therefore inferior. This is a very complex issue. Like most revolutionary campaigns it will be hard work and require a massive commitment to service.

I’ve never been someone to start revolutions, but I think it’s important to support them. Revolutions don’t just make things better, they change the world. They introduce concepts and systems that were previously off our radars all together. Revolutionary people are often very passionate about service, but they need to be served as well. Supporting them fuels the fire that sets the revolution aflame. Here are three things to consider when offering support to a revolutionary thinker in your life.

  1. Don’t be afraid of crazy. Try to let your mind think beyond our current realties. There was a time, not that long ago, when the internet did not exist. Even democracy was once a brand new concept. Were these things crazy at the time? Yes. Were their founders crazy? Yes. Would you have been able to support them?
  2. Embrace naivety. In most cases being naïve can be a detriment, but in a revolution it’s a strength. People that are well grounded and informed often get deadlocked by the complexity of finding a reasonable solution. But the naive get right to action. They start trying because they believe they can make a difference. And they do, because they are actually working on it. We can offer them wisdom, but it’s important not to crush the innocence that’s fueling the revolution.
  3. Be a safe place. Believing passionately in something (anything) opens you up to examination and judgment. Grant them your unconditional acceptance. Make sure they know that if they make mistakes along the way, they will be learning moments. Let them know that any learning moments will just make them better prepared to serve.

Are you starting a revolution or supporting a revolution?

50 simple acts of service. Because we can do something.

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Waterdrops

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

- Mahatma Gandhi

This is a post I update every month. Many of the ideas come from your comments and suggestions.

But, I almost didn’t update the post this month. There has been so much conflict and tragedy in the world that I didn’t know if highlighting acts so small made light of the massive needs. Then I was reminded of the quote above. Every act of service matters.

I’m not suggesting that these quick ideas are where your efforts should stop. I’m just offering a place to start (or restart) your path to service. And some great ways to practice love in a world that desperately needs it.

50 simple acts of service

  1. Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a problem that seems hopeless.
  2. Cut a neighbors grass.
  3. Donate school supplies.
  4. Offer support to a grieving soul.
  5. Share a piece wisdom that only comes with age.
  6. Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
  7. Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
  8. Give someone a gift you made yourself.
  9. Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
  10. Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
  11. Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
  12. Loan someone a book you love.
  13. Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
  14. Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
  15. Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
  16. Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
  17. Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
  18. Give someone more credit than they deserve.
  19. Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
  20. Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
  21. Fight indifference. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
  22. Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
  23. Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
  24. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
  25. Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
  26. Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
  27. Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
  28. Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
  29. Listen carefully. Many people yearn to be heard.
  30. Thank a teacher for their service.
  31. Tell someone a joke.
  32. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
  33. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  34. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  35. Pray for someone.
  36. Teach someone something. Anything.
  37. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
  38. Give someone you love your undivided attention.
  39. Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
  40. Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
  41. Hug someone.
  42. Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
  43. Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
  44. Leave change in a vending machine.
  45. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  46. Thank a solider for their service.
  47. Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
  48. Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
  49. Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
  50. If you love them, tell them.

 What are some others?