That is my friend Tara’s favorite saying. And there is so much truth to it. Last month I attended the funeral of my mother’s cousin. Beautiful lady, with a beautiful smile that bore the scars of multiple tragedies with dignity and radiance. She lost two sons to accidents within one year. Her husband and younger brother died much too soon. But she continued to bear these tragedies by dedicating whatever she had to serve others around her.
There are two ways I see that service can heal us. One is by distraction. Taking time to serve others while we are in pain, serves to refocus our thoughts and energies on something other than ourselves. Sometimes this change in focus helps us see our problems in a new light. It may offer us new solutions or it may not. But at least we have spent a few hours less dwelling on them. By taking time to do something for someone else, we temporarily forget our own woes. Often we realize that our problems are not as big as we thought they were when we compare them to those of others around us. Our problems don’t disappear, but they are put in a more proper perspective.
Service can also heal us from self-righteousness, arrogance and prejudice, spiritual diseases that can afflict all of us at one time or other. When we serve people very different from ourselves we get to know their stories, walk in their shoes for a little while and see the world from their perspective. It is likely that we come away from the experience with a lot more empathy and understanding.