Serving As A Humanity Glue Stick

photo-21I was driving to work this morning when I witnessed the simplest act of kindness.

I was nearly stopped in traffic on a scenic road, listening to a Peter Gabrielle song in my head, when I noticed a dog near the end of a massive driveway. I could see his owner in the distance, at the far end of the drive in front of his door. As traffic slowed, I watched as the dog bent his head and picked up the newspaper with his teeth and turned around to make his way back down the long driveway to deliver it  to his master.

It was the sweetest thing to witness: a loyal dog taking care of his owner.

The image stayed with me much of the day. I don’t know if it was the act of service so much or the loyalty on the part of the dog that touched me.

It made me think about how we’re all divinely wired for service. People. Pets. I believe that when we cooperate and act from a spirit of service, we are acting from our innate programming, from our higher selves. That part of ourselves that knows we are all one, that part that knows cooperation, not competition, is the way to a more peaceful life.

I was listening to a radio program recently and the guest was Cynthia Kersey, a success coach and best-selling author. In the interview she was talking about tithing and generosity and how service to others invariably reflects back to us in the form of more abundance for ourselves. (While service should be its own reward…think for a second about the dog returning to his owner with the morning paper in his mouth. I bet he was amply rewarded for his service.)

She was urging listeners to tithe. She made it clear that tithing was not just about giving away money, though that can certainly be an aspect of it. Kersey issued a challenge of sorts: she encouraged listeners to do 29 nice things, or acts of service for 30 days in a row.  She stressed that it didn’t have to be about giving away money….it could be simple acts of kindness to help another. She cited examples like letting someone in front of you in line at the grocery store, or cut ahead in traffic or offering a supportive compliment to a coworker.

I thought it was a great idea….but I’ll be honest, my first reaction was one of overwhelm. How could a person keep up the pace of giving….29 times a day for an entire month? I thought to myself…. “I’m a really nice person, but I’m not sure I can do that. I’m not sure I’m THAT nice.”

But still, I was intrigued. So, I’ve decided to experiment with the concept myself but with my own rules. For the next 9 days in a row,  I play to perform 9 acts of service for a total of 81 acts (8+1=9) . Here’s my logic: in numerology, the number nine carries special weight. In Feng Shui, the number 9 is the most powerful single number and is considered lucky.

Yes, I know I”m falling far far short of the loftier goal of 29 nice acts per day, but I believe in setting smaller, achievable goals to get my confidence up. And I don’t want to fail the “nice test”….so I’m giving myself a “handicap.” Isn’t that what they call it in golf?

So here’s how it’s going to work: I plan to go about my regular day as I always do but consciously look for ways to be of service. Or to share a kind word. I’d like to think this is pretty natural for me, but it will be a good exercise to do it with conscious eyes. I am looking forward to the lessons.

I plan to report back in a future blog what some of my days looked like and how I felt upon the conclusion of the exercise. I’m hoping I will become more aware of opportunities to serve others in my daily life.

I’m a firm believer that we are here to serve one another. How we do it is up to us.

Service, kindness, compassion, to ourselves, to others, is what binds us to humanity…and to each other. I’m ready to serve…to be a humanity glue stick, starting now.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on service, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

ONE Love

hands-holding-heart-shaped-earthWe can’t all be rock stars. But we can be activists like U2 lead singer and musician Bono.

If you don’t know Bono’s music or his activism work, let me give you the highlights of his biography. This middle aged Irish musician fronts one of the most popular and respected bands in the world.  And when he’s not making music he devotes himself to saving the disempowered of the world from hunger, poverty and disease. By his own definition he’s a “Jumped-up Jesus,” a man with a Messiah complex bent on social justice.

To give you an idea, read how Bono describes the purpose of ONE, the non-profit group he founded. It goes like this — “ONE is a hard-headed movement of people around the world fighting the absurdity of extreme poverty.”  Gotta love this Irishman’s gift with words.

But it’s more than words, it’s deeds. With the help of ONE’s more than three million members, Bono is fronting a movement to eradicate extreme poverty in our lifetime.

On Feb. 26 of this year, Bono spoke about the progress his organization and others have made in the fight  to end global poverty.  And the news was surprisingly uplifting. Since 2000, eight million AIDS patients have received retroviral drugs. Malaria deaths have been cut in some countries by 75%; child mortality rate of kids under five are down by 2.65 million deaths per year. And here is the kicker: extreme poverty has declined from 43% in 1990 to 33% in 2000 to 21% by 2010.

Bono thinks it is possible to end extreme global poverty in our lifetime. How’s that for a mission?

I was encouraged and inspired reading this. And I began to think…if ONE person could be the fuel that could light the fire in so many hearts, if ONE person could be the voice that sang out against hopelessness, hunger, disease and despair, what would a chorus of voices sound like reveberating in harmony throughout the globe?

It’s almost too big to imagine. And while activists like Bono bring out the best in us, I think they can also intimidate us. After all, saving the world can be a daunting mission.

But to this, I say, start small. You don’t have to be a “Jumped-up Jesus” to jump in.  You don’t have to change the world, but you can work to change your part of it. Maybe it is as simple as volunteering at the local animal shelter. Or visiting a loved one in a nursing home. Maybe it’s offering a kind word to a stranger in need of a kind word or deed.

In my humble belief system, I think we can actually change the world, save it even, by saving ourselves. It begins with changing the way we look and talk to ourselves. Are we often harsh and critical and unloving to ourselves? And through these critical eyes, how do we see the world? How do we measure ourselves; is it by our sameness or is it by our differences?

Let’s start with how we divide people into us and them, politically, religiously, socially.  That’s separatism, not oneism. In the ancient Chinese classic, the Tao Te Ching teaches that we are all connected and what is done to ONE, is done to all.

Maybe now at midlife, as we shed parts of a life that no longer belong to us, we consider the value of expanding our definitions of love. Of charity. For both ourselves and others.

As I talk about in my book, Tao Flashes, love creates more space; it is as limitless as the distance between heaven and earth. Love unravels the knots in our existence and it creates the pathway to a meaningful life. At midlife, when we question our purpose the most, know that our calling is love, it is service.

Remember, you don’t have to be a rock star to be of service. You just need to serve.