I recently volunteered at a farm animal sanctuary and it got me thinking about the concept of community service.
When we hear phrases like "give back" or "community service" we often think of taking a day out of our year to volunteer. Maybe you do so once a month, or even weekly! Whatever it is, it usually involves helping those less fortunate than ourselves. In my case over the weekend, it was caring for animals otherwise destined to be slaughtered to the meat and dairy industry.
And yet there are people around us every day - at work, in our families, even at the grocery store - that are less fortunate than we are in some way, whom we choose to ignore. We don't consider them worthy of our time, especially if they're rude to us, so we shrug them off and move on with our day.
But remember, everyone's in pain. Even if they're just having a bad day, that's someone who's less fortunate right in this moment. So why not help them?
The truth is, every single moment of your life is an opportunity to give back, not just once a year at a shelter. Why limit your service to a particular day and setting, when you could lend a hand and a heart, every moment of your life?
You have endless opportunities to serve the moments unfolding in front of you. Really, it's the only thing you can serve, the only thing you can give back to.
The concept of community service has pervaded our society as a sort of righteous compensation for whatever else we're doing. Somehow the notion of serving the people around us doesn't fall into the bucket of "giving back" and instead we save that term for a particular event. That's all fine and good, but the problem is when we miss out on the endless opportunities to serve what's in front of us. Is that not the ultimate form of giving back?
It's not that there's anything wrong with picking up garbage on a beach, spending time at an animal shelter, or feeding the homeless. Those are wonderful things, that we all should do more of! It's not about that. It's about recognizing that every single moment of our life is an opportunity to serve.
The funny thing is, when we become more in touch with what's in front of us, we're able to step into the present moment fully engaged, fully harmonious with life. That often leads to service that's far, far greater than thinking your life is devoid of meaning while in a 9-5 job, yet wishing you could save children in developing nations.
Similar to what John F. Kennedy said during his inaugural address, instead of asking what can life do for us, we ought to be asking, what can we do for life?
Right now, what can you do to raise the moment in front of you so that it's just a little better than before it found you?
Live with substance!