“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” (Winston Churchill)
Growing up I was a Cub Scout and later a Boy Scout. Boy Scouts are known well by their motto of “Be Prepared”, but equally important is their lesser known slogan of “Do a good turn daily.” With those 5 words, Boy Scouts are taught to do something good for another person on a daily basis, and when possible to do so with some degree of stealth – that is to do it without the person knowing it was you. Doing a good turn daily is one, small way to help embody this quote. When I am working to do good things for others, even small things, I am giving back.
But Churchill wasn’t challenging people to do small things. He was challenging the people of his time, and of all times, to give back substantially. He was distinguishing between what we do to make a living, to get by in life, and what we do to make our lives meaningful.
Over the course of my adult life I have tried to be a person of service to others. I do this for two reasons, one more altruistic, and the other more selfish. Altruistically I give service to others because I want to share with them the abundance I have had in my life. Whether that sharing is monetary, or by bending my back and working for the good of others, I have tried to have a service mindset. That altruistic reason leads to the more selfish one. Selfishly, I get a great feeling within when I know I have done something to help others.
Sadly, I have not been actively giving back of my time in recent years. I can blame being busy, or the chores of life, but the truth is that I just haven’t made it the same priority it once was. As I am sitting here this morning I am realizing that what was once a set of activities I did on a nearly-weekly basis, has reduced to only a few times a year. There was a time, not so long ago, that many of my non-work hours were spent giving to others in one way or another. Whether I was volunteering as a Scout Leader, working in ministry at my Church, or some other service project, I was a person who gave a substantial portion of my time and myself to others. And that just isn’t so much the case anymore.
Each day when I reflect on these quotes I try to think of something that I can do to be a better me. Usually those actions are something I try to do on that day. This one will take a bit more time. I am not in a position in my personal life to embark upon a service project for the next couple of months. But, I am making a commitment to myself to find something by the end of the summer to which I can commit my own time and effort in the service of others. I don’t know yet what that will be, but it will be something that requires me to be personally involved. I will not be looking to engage in slacktivism, where my service is nothing more than a few mouse clicks or the writing of a check (virtual or physical). I will find something that gets me out working with the people to whom I am giving the service.
Of all the commitments I have made to myself through this project, this will likely be the hardest, and the most meaningful. When I find that spot, and commit to that service, I will do more to feed my soul than any amount of organization, kind words at work, or any other commitment I have made on this blog.