Selfless Service

Reverend Janis recently sent me a You Tube video of a Sunday message by Dr Edward Viljoen, Minister of the CSL in Santa Rosa, CA. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him several times as my daughter used to live in Santa Rosa and attended his Center. His messages always challenge me to think differently and I thought I’d share this one.

I will summarize the points that hit home for me. The title of his talk was “Service to the World” and he spoke of the difference between a good deed and selfless service. Selfless service is a shift away from the self in me to the self in ‘thee’. The self in me is the smallest part of me. The biggest part of me is in you and you and you and you… If I focus on me I miss the beauty of life and feel lonely and disconnected, says Dr Edward. He likens it to the love of a parent for their child. Even when the child reaches the age of separation, the parent continues to love the child unconditionally the way the sun shines unconditionally because it is not about how the love is received that matters, the reward is in loving.

Selfless service is like that. The reward is in the giving, not in seeking acknowledgement, because without my giving I can’t feel my wholeness, he says. He tells the story of a congregation that organizes a three day festival annually. One of the biggest problems was the port-a-potties. You can imagine after three days they would be pretty awful. So a group of congregants scheduled themselves to clean and restock the potties every couple hours throughout the three days of the festival. The potties were the cleanest spot in the whole festival grounds! There were no banners of thank you, or names or accolades, this group of individuals just went about their task with no fuss. That is how the Divine works in the world as sacred action. The Divine has no hands or feet or eyes except ours. It is our nature to serve in order to feel our wholeness. How many ways do unseen hands deliver food, products, comfort, information, services to each of us every day that improve the quality of our lives?

He tells another story of a woman who over several years came to the Center irregularly, usually when she was experiencing difficulties in her life. Each time she came there was someone to hold the door open for her, greet her with a smile, serve her a cup of coffee, there was music and flowers and words in spirit. She assumed it would always be there and didn’t think too much about it. Some years later she took a class and learned about giving rather than just taking. She became a member and donates her share to help pay the bills so the Center will be there for others when they need like it was there for her when she needed it.

Selfless service is like that. It’s doing tasks that others won’t or can’t do, and doing them without complaining or blaming. Doing what brings relief with empathy, not pity. Dr Edward encourages each of us to look around. If someone is hurting, or dying or grieving or ill, take care of each other. Call and ask what you can do to help. Know how to listen, be quick to forgive, these attributes build strength of character. Get clear on what you are grateful for. You have the power to make someone else’s burden lighter. As I said at the start, his message gave me a lot to think about. If you want to hear the whole talk, and I highly recommend it, here is the link.

by Sue Mason

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