So the whole idea is that these lectures that my main character (Prof. Elena Soler) gives is what kind of moves the story along… I’ll be honest, this one is a little tricky to plot…
Who, at some point in school, had to do community service?
Did you like it, was it fun and you felt fulfilled, or did it feel like you were just checking an obligatory box and tried to move on to the next obligatory box?
When we are asked by a third party to do something for someone, or many someones, one hundred percent it can feel insincere and insignificant. We all see our time as valuable, and sometimes, it feels difficult to give that time to serve others. It might feel like a sacrifice.
Maybe you feel like service work is for all those religious missionaries—whether they’re the ones riding on bicycles going door to door or they’re the old-timey ones going to isolated villages and tribes in forests and safaris. Maybe you feel like service is something beneath you—we do call janitorial, retail, and food parts of the “service industry.” You hear people say, “Oh, I had one customer or food service job, never again!”
We look down on these roles but they are so important. You could have the best surgeon in the best hospital in the world, and if the janitorial crew revolts and goes on strike, that operating room isn’t going to mean anything because it isn’t safe anymore.
Now, I’m not saying that in order to connect with others you have to all drop everything and go into customer service. It’s not for everyone, it’s a hard job. People are often ungrateful and rude, and you try not to take it personally, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Then you get that one person who is so thankful for you and what you’re doing, that’s what keeps you going.
So, service. Service doesn’t have to be picking up after people or teaching them. Service can be something as small as saying, “Hey, if you need to talk, I’m here for you.” And then when that person does come to talk, you actually listen.
Service can be you reaching out to a friend and telling them you just need a little support and they have your back instantly. It can be giving advice, or giving assistance. Service doesn’t have to be big or small.
But what it does have to be is selfless. Think back again to my question earlier about community service for school—true, you served a need; true, you helped someone; and maybe whomever you helped was truly grateful. But did you feel like you made a difference?
Service goes both ways—it’s cliché and corny, but when you help others, you help yourself. When you cut corners, you’re only hurting yourself.
To serve—and perhaps, for all intents and purposes, it isn’t “serving” at all, but rather “supporting”—so, to support others, you create a little karma for yourself so that next time you’re in a jam, you have someone who owes you.
But, don’t take this in a Brando-Godfather way, when you support someone, they don’t necessarily owe you. But they owe it to pay your support forward; and someone else’s act of support will pay it forward to you.
Honestly, it’s almost like that “Seven Degrees to Kevin Bacon,” thing—if we all try to make the effort to support one other person, eventually, and maybe many times over, it will come back to you.
Acts of service, or support, don’t have to be grandiose. They can be simple, but what connects them all is the fact that we take a time to step out of our own lives and focus on someone else. We take that moment to be mindful and selfless, and others see that. Others are inspired by that. It might be a little delay between what you inspired and how they act, but in that moment where you show support, you’ve started a little chain of reaction of connecting others.