My entire life has been spent battling between making other people happy and making myself happy. The problem with that is often the needs of others are so constant that they become rather overwhelming. Unless you are “keeping your side of the street” clean, you really can’t be of good service to others.
Most of the jobs I have held in my life are service positions. I have never really been the boss, or climbed a professional ladder. I have worked with people with disabilities, volunteered in nursing homes, served in the military, and now I am taking service positions in my A.A. group.
I like serving others. I find myself that way and I don’t do any of it for recognition or praise. In fact when people do recognize me, I tend to devalue it rather than accept the compliment and move on. I am learning to stop doing that, and to value my service to others as they value my service. It actually feels pretty good to allow myself to feel pride in what I am doing, and to let someone congratulate me for a job well done. I think before I knew that I was living a lie in a way and wasn’t really deserving of recognition. Now however, my motivations are different. My focus is to help others by helping myself, and personally, I think that is the greatest service I can offer.
I also like to educate people. Either by sharing my experiences, or by sharing the tons of information I have read but failed to apply or understand in my life. Just because I still need to learn things, doesn’t mean that I can’t share the knowledge I have. My head is full of information, and I don’t always understand why it sticks in there they way it does until a conversation happens and my mind jumps to that article I read a week ago, or a phrase I read in a book somewhere. Sometimes I think that stuff stays in my head so I can reference it when someone else needs to hear it. Who knows, maybe they will “get it” and help me learn how it applies to my own life and experiences.
I guess the point is to share and serve even if you think you aren’t capable or deserving. One of the things I am really enjoying about the fellowship in A.A. is the importance of service and how it impacts an individuals personal sobriety. I am only 45 days into the program and I have already learned so much from so many people that to get up and offer to chair a meeting is more of a privilege to me rather than an obligation. It is a simple commitment to show up sober and help the group share with one another. It gives me yet another reason to stay sober each day because without my sobriety (even in it’s infancy) I can’t serve others the way I would like too. So once I hit that 30 day mark, I knew that I wanted to volunteer for whatever commitments I was allowed. For now, it’s simple things like cleaning up, making coffee, and chairing meetings. Without those simple things though – A.A. wouldn’t be the fellowship that it is.
The thing I always liked about going to church was the fellowship parts. The singing, the sharing, the hugging, and pot luck dinners. I never enjoyed listening to one guys opinion on how I should interpret God or how I should live my life on a daily basis. I preferred to learn those lessons from those of us on the other side of the pulpit. Those of us who learned through trial and error, not through the interpretation of a book, or the doctrine of a particular church. As individuals, we all have something to offer. We all have things that have happened around us, to us, and because of us that shapes who we are and how we deal with the world around us. I would like to hear as many of those experiences as possible. Those experiences are where I find my own sanity and purpose.
I like the simple service of chairing a meeting. I like being in front of the group and seeing the faces of the people sitting in the rooms. The nods of understanding, empathy, and concern. The smiles when an anniversary is announced or a newcomer raises their hand for the first time. Here are a bunch of drunks. Selfish people. People who have spent a good part of their lives thinking only of themselves and their needs. People who found a way to step outside of themselves in order to help others. People who find experience, strength and hope in one another. People who have made a commitment to try and live a better life one day at a time. We are all walking contradictions. A.A. is the land of paradox but it works.
Each day I live sober I am serving myself and others. Each new day is a new victory. Even if I falter, as long as I am honest, open, and willing – even my mistakes will serve a purpose. Man, I have been searching my entire life for purpose, and I think I have finally found it. I have always known my mouth and my words would have something to do with it, but I never imagined that my simple presence would also be a huge part of it too. I can be quiet and serve. I can listen and learn and still be of service. It doesn’t take much, and you don’t have to be in a 12 Step program to practice these principles. This stuff makes sense for everyone.
There is a meme that floats around and I don’t remember who said it, but it goes: “You can choose to be right or you can choose to be kind; if you are kind, you will always be right.” Kindness is never wrong. Our opinions are just that; opinions. Each person has a different perspective and a different need. Each person fights a different battle everyday, and showing kindness will never hurt someone. Being kind to one another is one of the greatest acts of service we can perform for one another, and it doesn’t take but a second to share it. Sometimes you can change someones entire day by just smiling at them.
There is also a personal joy in knowing that you did something selflessly. I know for me, my greatest lessons have been learned when I am serving others. When I serve myself I often find that I am discontent. I can’t seem to get what I need or want when I need or want it. However, those things seem to just fall into place when I take the focus off myself for even the briefest of moments. Today by serving my group I was reminded of how very blessed I am today. I didn’t have to have money fall into my lap, or a job offer. I just sat and listened to a man who lost his son to suicide a few short months ago. The only thing I could do for him was to listen. What he did for me by sharing his pain was to remind me just how small my problems are right now. We served one another, and that is what being human should be about.
Today I am grateful to be of service. I am grateful for my new fellowship of walking contradictions and the lessons we share with one another.
“If you want to go fast; go alone. If you want to go far; go with friends.” – African Proverb
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