“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
When we feel bad, often our first instinct is to isolate ourselves and focus on what’s upsetting us. Among our possible retreats: a pity party, a contemplative pause, or serious introspection. Sometimes we really do need some downtime, but many times the best way to get out of the blues quickly is to turn our attention to other people. In being in service to others, paradoxically, we often find answers to our own questions and solutions to our own problems. We also tend to feel more connected to the people around us, as well as empowered by the experience of helping someone.
I have a friend who, whenever there is a catastrophic event within the U.S., will rush to that site to lend a helping hand. He spends little time thinking about the devastating losses, figuring he can always reflect on the situation after the fact. His drive is to be there, physically and emotionally, to be in service to others.
When he or we reach out to people who need help, we confirm that we are not alone in our own need for support and inspiration, and we also remind ourselves that we are powerful and capable is certain ways. Even as our own problems or moods get the better of us sometimes (and I know Dave’s do), there is always someone else who can use our particular gifts and energy to help them out. They, in turn, remind us that we are not the only people in the world with difficulties or issues.
We all struggle with the problems of life, and we all feel overwhelmed from time to time, but we can almost always find salve in service.
In the most ideal situation, the person we are helping sheds light on our own dilemma, sometimes with a direct piece of advice, and sometimes without saying anything at all. Sometimes just the act of getting our minds out of the obsessive mode of trying to figure out what to do about our own life does the trick.
Many great inventors and artists have found that the inspiration they need to get to the next level in their work comes not when they’re working but when they’re walking around the block or doing dishes. We do ourselves and everyone a great service when we take a break from our woes and extend ourselves to someone in need.
How are you going to next demonstrate your being in service? It doesn’t have to be a magnanimous gesture. Little contributions are often huge to the recipient.