“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Everyone knows the holiday season is a time of service and giving. You may be wondering then why it doesn’t always seem to be that way. When sitting in a long line at a picked-over department store, waiting in bumper-to-bumper traffic as you travel to a family dinner, or planning and attending party after party, selfless service may be the last thing on your mind. Regardless of your experiences in previous years however, there are ways to make this holiday season, one of service and giving. Here are five simple points to keep in mind.
1. Service can be small: TV and the Internet are filled with stories of famous actors and actresses, lead singers, and other celebrities changing the world through large-scale humanitarian projects. While these efforts are obviously great, they also send the message that service is only valuable when you save a life, build a house, or fund a school in a developing country. This simply isn’t true. Sometimes the most meaningful service is done on an individual level. As Martin Luther King explained in the quote above, anybody can serve.
2. Serve those around you: Another myth surrounding service is the idea that it has to by anonymous or directed towards a complete stranger. The reality is that we may be able to serve most effectively those we interact with on a daily basis, including close family and friends. This is because we know them well. We know what they need and what they are struggling with in their personal lives. Maybe all those people need is someone that will listen to them.
3. Service can be planned: In the modern world, we are slaves to our planners. Schedule a time that you, either by yourself or with a group of people, can visit a local food bank, hospital, or nursing home. Then, stick you your plan. Don’t let anything else get in the way. If there’s one thing our society has in plenty, its excuses on how we could spend our time elsewhere.
4. Service can be unplanned: In addition to writing service into your planner, look for opportunities for spontaneous, unplanned service. Maybe you could offer some helpful advice or encouragement to a new employee during a break in the lunchroom. Perhaps you’ll come across someone with a flat tire on your way home from work. If you simply look for opportunities to serve, you will find them.
5. Service is for more than just the holidays: While the holidays may add emphasis to the idea of serving, they can also be used as a prototype for the rest of the year. By implementing these steps, as well as others, serving can become a habit. Perhaps then it won’t feel so unnatural.