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How to Start Selflessly Serving Others

Badi Shams | Dec 30, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Badi Shams | Dec 30, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Every concerned citizen of this world struggles to balance their time, juggling efforts at spiritual growth, family life, work and commitments in the community.

No thanks to technological advancement, with so many gadgets that enable us to multitask more and more, we have been transformed from human beings to human doings.

Also, the rampant spread of materialism threatens our spiritual growth and drains our energy. Given all this frenetic activity, how can we have time for one more thing—one more social action, one more commitment? Though providing a service to others may initially sound like one more chore to fit into our already busy lives, in reality it does not necessarily need to become a big project. Any look, gesture, word or action that helps others can give the gift of an act of service.

The concept of service is nothing new to most of us, since we have a wealth of spiritual teachings on this subject from many religious sources, philosophers, poets, great thinkers and humanitarians. We know how holy figures like Jesus, Muhammad, Mahatma Gandhi and Abdu’l-Baha exemplified service throughout their lives:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:45.

And do not forget to do good to one another. – Quran 2:238.

That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 250.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.Mahatma Gandhi

Service to humanity is service to God. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 8.

How else can our world become united if its citizens don’t try to help each other? How else can the sufferings of the world be reduced? The ordinary people of the world like you and me will ultimately make a difference, and make this earth a better and more peaceful place—if we take one more extra step to help our fellow human beings.

The Baha’i teachings encourage all people to extend themselves into the arena of service to others:

A Baha’i who serves others is like unto a candle which burns and sheds light upon all those who circle around it. The highest attainable station of the candle is to burn and brighten the dark room, and the loftiest pinnacle of our progress and perfection is to be confirmed in service… – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 8, p. 61.

So let’s revisit this concept of service in each of our lives, and with the help of the brief list below look at the many, many possibilities of service open to us. You can get involved with some kind of service that fulfils your commitment and connects you to the larger community. This may also create more opportunities to meet people and introduce the concept of service to others in the best light possible, through your actions. This list of service opportunities may help you find a service matching your talent or your passion:

  • Doing one’s job the best way possible is not only a great service—the Baha’i teachings considered it an act of worship
  • Offering others your best self with a kind gesture, a kind word, a kind act. Give random acts of kindness: paying for someone in front of you in line, giving your place in line to someone in a rush, presenting a stranger with a bouquet of flowers, mowing the neighbor’s lawn.
  • Visiting and volunteering in senior facilities, group homes and hospitals
  • Driving people to appointments, or shopping and cleaning for your neighbors
  • Volunteering in women’s centers, treatment facilities, homeless shelters and organizations
  • Teaching classes: dance, music, art, sports, literacy, computers and many other subjects
  • Calling or visiting those in need—offering your companionship to people
  • Teaching house repair, appliance repair or car repair
  • Helping refugees and newcomers, volunteering with the Welcome Wagon
  • Offering counseling, medical or legal services
  • Doing the sets, makeup or costumes for plays
  • And simply remembering, in your thoughts and prayers, those who are going through a difficult time in life.

As you embark on your quest to serve humanity, a few words of caution: Please make sure, while offering your services, that you respect the boundaries of agencies, individuals and families. Also, focus on why you’re there serving—not on the motives of others. Some people volunteer in organizations for self-recognition or out of boredom, and don’t really capture the essence of serving others with selfless intention. Be aware of this in any voluntary situation, so it doesn’t discourage you or influence you in a negative manner.

If you approach the opportunity to serve others, however, with a radiant countenance and the pure motivation of kindness and love, you’ll find that the gifts you give will come back to you a thousand fold.

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  • Dennis Pettyjohn
    Dec 30, 2016
    Well said Mr. Shams! The very essence of spiritual life, which, like other activities of Baha'i life, is an 'obligation' that can only be done in an attitude and spirit of love! A great reminder to conclude year 2016.
    • Badi Shams
      Jan 1, 2017
      Thanks Dennis,
      This was a response to a discussion in our community about the preparations for the twin celebrations and how service is an important component. Also the fact that many do not know how many opportunities there are for service.
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