By Erin Patterson, Lida Korolyshyn and John D. Seibert
Service to those in need has a way of inspiring the hearts and minds of everyone – the one doing the service, the one being served and the one witnessing the service. It inspires the minds of others in a very concrete way by simply showing them service can be a way of life. By example, it also teaches that this way to live life can be an inspired life no matter the size or kind of service. Service comes in many forms; a simple smile, the opening of a door, as well as actual volunteer works. Service inspires the hearts of others by simply letting them know that someone cares by the giving of their time. This care can open their heart to the possibilities of their own caring and nurturing nature and inspire them to do the same.
Time not money is invaluable. Without us giving of our time, the money is just a piece of paper or a number in computer. We often don’t realize the value of our time until we are about to transition out of this life or someone we love has transitioned. How much is it worth to have just one more minute of life or one more minute with a loved one? If you calculate that worth, that is the value of our time and how we spend that time will make all the difference in the world and within ourselves.
The Buddhist teach that it is our thoughts, words and actions that bring us to our next incarnation and the more pure those are, the better life we can achieve in our next incarnation. Most of the religions expound a similar philosophy. Actions are clearly tied to the betterment of one’s self in these religious contexts, especially service-orientated actions.
This service translates to better health not only for those we serve, but for our selves. There are numerous studies that show us this. Terry Yum and Elizabeth Lightfoot have shown that service to others has a positive effect on those doing the volunteering in their study, “The Effects of Volunteering on the Physical Health and Mental Health of Older People”. The study showed that volunteering slows the decline in self-reported health and functioning levels, slows the increase in depression levels, and improves mortality rates for those who volunteer.
Further expanding this notion of service action, many religions also believe that it is not just service, but selfless service that will directly impact our next life. Buddhists particularly believe that it is not only our action, but also our motivation for doing an action that will directly affect our next life. Consequently, someone who is doing service to be recognized may actually receive demerits rather than merits for their service. It is the selfless server that will receive the merits which will result in a better life in their next incarnation.
There have been scientific studies that actually show that motivation does have a direct effect on the person doing the service. Sara Konrath, Andrea Fuhrel Forbis, Alina Lou and Stephanie Brown in their study, “Motives for Volunteering are Associated with Mortality Risk in Older Adult” show that those who volunteered for self-oriented reasons had a mortality risk similar to non-volunteers. Those who volunteered for other-oriented reasons had a decreased mortality risk.
It is clear that science is beginning to discover what the ancient religions and teachings have been saying all along about service to other, particularly selfless service. Derek O’Neill, a transformational therapist, humanitarian and celebrity ambassador to Variety International, the Children’s Charity, a global organization, remarks, “service will bring you joy. When you’re serving your eliminating anger, when you’re serving you are eliminating jealousy, when you’re serving you’re eliminating the five poisons. How could you be angry with a starving child because they’re crying? Not possible. that is why service is your way.”
It would appear that service not only benefits those that are being served, but it also benefits the server from scientific, religious and philosophical perspectives. Studies shoe that service to others results in better health physically, as well as psychologically. Additionally, it would also seem prudent that the server must check their motivation for doing the service and the more “other-oriented” the motivation, the more benefits the server receives. What is given seems to be returned in the package it was given. One thing seems to be for sure and that is selfless service to others is the gift that keeps on giving. Mother Theresa said it simply by saying, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving” and “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”