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