Service to others as self-benefiting

“The only really happy people are those who have learned to serve.” – Albert Schweitzer, Theologian

The above quote caught my attention when I began to think about what in my life makes me happy. One of my favorite things to do is volunteering in my church music ministry. I would even venture to say that it makes me happy to be able to play my guitar and teach others how to sing praise and worship songs during spiritual and religious retreats. Yes, it is a lot of hours, a lot of practice, a lot of frustration when our ministers and choir are not “getting it” no matter how many times we’ve practiced, but I still love doing what I do as a volunteer. My brother once asked me why I bother doing this on a volunteer basis when I could get paid a substantial amount for giving of my time, talents, and in some cases monetary support as donation. I had to think about it before realizing that I get a lot of joy from the experiences and the people I encounter. My brother continues to think I’m a little off kilter when it comes to volunteering my time and doing so without much recognition and no compensation, but I simply smile and wave off his criticism. How could I really explain to my brother that serving others is what makes me happy? One simply cannot. It has to be lived and experienced by oneself in order to understand the concept of joy through service to others.

In Kathy Gottberg’s article in the Huffington Post, she noted that there are 7 reasons why serving others can actually benefit us (see full article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-gottberg/volunteering7-reasons-why_b_6302770.html). Here are the reasons she mentions:

  • We garner MORE HAPPINESS by serving others. When we serve others, according to Gottberg, we give ourselves deeper purpose, which in turn leads us to greater happiness.
  • Volunteering can REDUCE STRESS. Helping others allows our bodies to release oxytocin, a hormone known to buffer stress, and also helps us to maintain social trust and tranquility.
  • We RELIEVE PAIN. Volunteering can take our mind off of our own pain and can make us feel in control of it.
  • Gives us a LONGER LIFESPAN. Forty international studies have confirmed that volunteering can add to our years of life by reducing mortality rates. It is suggested that regular commitment to volunteering as little as 25 hours per year can be beneficial to anyone.
  • Can LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE. This is accomplished because of the lower stress and the effects of being active, social, and altruistic according to the article noted above.
  • REDUCES MILD DEPRESSION, especially in cases of those with addiction. Volunteering helps to keep a person in regular contact with others and helps develop necessary social support systems often needed for those with depression.
  • BENEFITS YOUR CAREER. When you volunteer and give of yourself for the service of others, you will feel less depressed and more fulfilled at work, which in turn makes you more happy, confident, and energized and full of purpose.

Ultimately, volunteering will spread the joy to every single area of your life. Think of the times you have encountered someone who is “full of life” or who seems to embody happiness. More than likely, the person not only has chosen a brighter outlook on their life, but has given themselves in service to others.

In my book series, The Last Prophet, the main character, Dr. Sophia Randall, has spent her entire career as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Counseling Psychologist in service to others. When called to be the last prophetess by God, she sees her calling as an extension of what she has done all her life – serve others by helping them to get through issues they are experiencing. For her, the main character, service to others, even if it is not on a volunteer basis, is simply the life she has chosen.

Everyone has provided a special service for others, whether they realize it or not. It does not have to be volunteering, but certainly something we feel called to do for someone else or a group of others. In my case, it comes in the form of church ministry service, and parenting my two Autistic sons with my husband. To be able to be such a parent to very special children has been my greatest calling yet.

What will our service to others be? What has your service to others been? Comment in the space provided.

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