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Service is one of those words with a multitude of different meanings, not helped by it being used as both a noun and a verb. Doesn’t that take you back to English and Grammar lessons at school?!? 
 
Then there are its religious, military and domestic service overtones, all adding to a generally negative vibe. Hinting at hard work, duty and doing things we wouldn’t necessarily choose to do. And, probably, with – or for (!) – people we probably wouldn’t choose to spend our time with… 
 
Given all of this, it’s not surprising that service is often viewed as being rather old fashioned and belonging to a bygone era. Best consigned to the pages of history. 
 
However, this isn’t what we wanted to focus on today, but rather the more general – and voluntary (!) – aspect of service. 
 
 
If you’re wondering what on earth we’re talking about, here’s an online dictionary definition: 
 
“Service, the action of helping or doing work for someone. An act of assistance. A favour, kindness, assistance or aid.” 
 
Now isn’t that a very different understanding – and vibe – to the usual one of service? 
 
To start with it’s voluntary. There’s no mention of coercion or having to do it. The person being of service decides for themselves what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it. So, it’s all about choice. 
 
As a quick aside, don’t forget that this applies equally to the person on the receiving end. For some reason, this is often overlooked by the person on the “doing” side of things. Just because someone wants to be of service or help, it doesn’t mean that the other person has to accept it. And this leads us very neatly on to a quick reminder that there’s a very thin line between “help” and “interference.” If you need a quick reminder, click here
 
All of this leads on to another big difference. It’s fuelled by positive emotions on both sides. Helping, assistance, doing a favour, kindness. 
 
Before we go any further, just think how good it feels to be helped by someone who is doing so voluntarily and is fuelled by positive emotions. Ditto someone who appreciates the help. Then contrast it with someone who is being forced in some way – whether by some form of “emotional blackmail” or in some other way – to do something and is fuelled by less positive emotions. Ditto someone who doesn’t want to be helped OR helped in that particular way. Resentment, anger and the like. Even if the end result is the same, the impact on all concerned – the person “doing” and the person “receiving” – will be very different. And we’ve all had experience of this… 
 
Which leads us on to another big difference. It’s done without expecting anything in return. In other words, without any kind of hidden agenda. It’s done simply because it’s the “right thing” to do in the circumstances. Or, simply, what needs to be done. And, remember what’s “right” will vary from person to person and on the particular circumstances. 
 
Which takes us on to two further aspects of service that aren’t immediately obvious from the online definition. 
 
Service benefits everyone. Again, we’re not talking in a material, money orientated way. Often, it simply brings joy, happiness or satisfaction on both sides. Knowing that we’ve made a difference to someone else. Perhaps helping our confidence or developing new skills. Having something done for us that we can’t do or find difficult to do so. And it’s these more ephemeral benefits that often have a greater impact on all concerned, even though they’re harder to assess objectively. 
 
Finally, it covers actions big and small, with many of the latter coming under what could be considered “good manners.” Holding the door open for someone, letting them go ahead of you, picking up something that’s been dropped, pulling over to let someone pass you. You get the idea. 
 
And that’s the often unappreciated thing about service. It doesn’t need to be big or complicated, it’s just about helping life flow more easily for everyone, including you. Perhaps, giving people some slack and, in the process, not letting yourself get caught up in their drama or negativity. A small kindness, an unexpected treat, something that wasn’t expected or demanded. 
 
Service is NEVER about becoming a doormat or putting up with other people’s unreasonable demands, bullying or rudeness. It’s always about reciprocity with both sides feeling good as a result. 
 
Contrast this with those – and we’ve all come across them – who are only concerned with one thing. Themselves. In other words, what’s in it for me? Service to self. 
 
Perhaps they’re completely pre occupied with their own little world or may more deliberately set out to put down those who cross their paths. And, sadly, this is all too often encouraged in this high tech and insulated world of ours… 
 
However, there’s a big sting in the tail, however much we may like to ignore it. What we put out is what we get back. In other words, how we live our lives and treat other people, is what we later experience. 
 
If we treat people badly, then we’re also treated badly by others. 
 
If we do things with bad grace or a hidden agenda, then that’s how others treat us. 
 
If we’re unforgiving about others mistakes, then that’s what we’ll get when we make mistakes. 
 
In most cases, this doesn’t come from the same person or happen in such a way that the link with what previously happened is immediately obvious. However, if you take a step back and look at what’s been happening in your life generally, then the general links can be seen… 
 
So, does this mean that we have to lead entirely blameless lives or face the consequences? 
 
Well, no, it’s not that harsh. It’s about doing the best we can as we go about our lives and in every situation. And then, on the days when things go a little awry – for whatever reason – then we’ll find that others are much more likely to be of service to us. Forgiving our mistakes. 
 
Life is always about the little things, the ones we usually do without thinking. And they quickly build up to something much bigger. It’s up to us whether that’s something positive or negative. 
 
Ironically, during the madness of the last few weeks, we’ve seen many examples of people being of service to others. Making a huge difference, often without ever realising it. Keeping an eye on elderly or vulnerable neighbours. Helping those who couldn’t get out with their shopping. Leaving a treat on a front doorstep. Picking up an item from the shops they knew someone had been looking for. Phoning people they’d lost touch with or never usually had to time to call. Letting someone go ahead of them in the queue for the local supermarket. Paying for someone’s shopping who didn’t have enough money with them. And many other things besides… 
 
Seemingly small things but making a huge difference to all concerned. Keeping the world going round. And, in the process, ensuring that better things came to everyone concerned. So, before we finish for today, let’s say a heartfelt “thank you” to them all. You’ve helped make life so much easier, today and every day. 
 
As always, the choice is yours. 
 
Picture by unknown artist 
 
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