Service: to supply with aid

IMG_4073“What is it you want to do with your life? …every decision you make from here on out should be in service of that.”

– the naked man on How I Met Your Mother

I never expected that line in the middle of the whole “Naked Man” schtick. To his credit, the actor delivered it with the utmost of sincerity, despite the fact that “your balls are on my couch.” Over the course of a television series that spanned 8 seasons and brimmed with pithy turns of phrase, catchy made-up songs (bangity-bang, anyone?), and endless hilarious/touching moments, this was the one profound piece of advice that stayed with me.

Service is a flavor of devotion. It’s a labor of love, whether or not you get paid to do it.  It’s something you’d probably do anyway, even if you didn’t get paid at all.  The concept of “service” is often lost in these modern times. Politicians are supposed to be “public servants”, but when was the last time you felt truly served by your government, and not the other way around?  The Kennedys have the concept of service down cold. If interviews with her grandchildren are to be believed, then it must be because Rose Kennedy insisted on reminding them that their position of abundant good fortune morally obligated them to give back to the world in the form of service.

The institution for which I formerly slaved was, at one time, heavily into promoting service. October was known for global days of service, whereby a vast army of the institution’s employees were mobilized all at once to clean up trash, build houses, paint over grafitti, plant gardens, and perform countless other acts of service for their communities.  I was proud to work there at that time. Not only was our company was at the very top of the pile, it also demonstrated commitment to bettering the communities where it operated.

Then one year, resulting from one of our never-ending series of mergers, our new leader swooped into New York, recalled all our cell phones, severed most of the human resources staff, shut down the global service website, and ceased allowing us to reconnoiter the volunteer service troops on the company’s dime. The world lost their vast army that day. Global days of service were no more.  In my view, our pride was tarnished now; we were just another company chasing the almighty buck, not caring about the human condition or alleviating it.

I found service again several years later, when the state of a special cause in my community made me good and mad enough to do something about it for free – even though I desperately needed a job that paid.  I’m not sorry to this day, for whenever we act in service of an ideal, it is really we who benefit from having done so.

Today, people are paying me to do what I did gratis for that cause – what I still do for that cause, pro-bono.

Start with what you really want to do, and just do it.  The money will come.