I reluctantly opened my computer to start an assignment for my advocacy class. The instructions read, “Write a paragraph or two about a powerful experience of serving that you’ve experienced recently. Add detail.”
I sat at my computer astonished at the idea that just yesterday I thought I could write a book about serving others, and today, when asked about a specific act of service I’ve completed, I sat with a mind as blank as the Word document in front of me.
It wasn’t until later that week that I realized I could write my paragraph on plenty more acts than I first recalled. And that’s because of the way we look at service.
The first definition of “service” when looked up in Merriam-Webster is “the act of serving”. When redirected to “serve”, the first definition is “to give (food or drink) to someone at a meal, in a restaurant, etc.” It isn’t until the third definition of the verb where we see “to be of use”, which is the definition I would argue is the most common connotation used today. But it does not say anywhere in the dictionary, three definitions down or otherwise, that serving someone must be a grand act or gesture.
Think of all the times you were of use to someone. Ever picked up a carton of milk for your kid’s cereal while you were getting gas? Service. Ever helped someone with their homework? Ever brought soup to a sick friend? Ever given someone a ride when his or her car broke down? Service. And you guys helped the environment. That’s two birds and only one stone.
All you have to do is be of use in order to perform service. Everyone can do that, and by a majority, a lot of us do that. Every single day.
We’re all called to love.
We’re all called to serve.
But we aren’t all called to do grand gestures of “service”. Just because we aren’t all in the “big leagues” of service, doesn’t mean the rest of us stop. It doesn’t mean we don’t contribute. It doesn’t mean we don’t try to see if that’s our calling. It doesn’t mean that the small acts we do every day aren’t helping.
We think because we haven’t gone into the streets of Rwanda to help out that we aren’t servers, and perhaps the work we do isn’t meaningful. Many of us haven’t taken a weeklong trip to an orphanage to teach children in a third world country. And only a rounded 1% of us have been in the Peace Corps. And for that percentage, it’s amazing. The work you do is amazing. And the fact that you feel you were called to do that, and you responded is amazing. But not everyone is in the big leagues of service. And that’s okay. That’s perfectly okay. That doesn’t diminish the good deeds that people all over the world, are doing every day - no matter how small.