Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

I figure if I'm going to write a series of posts about freedom, entitled, Let Freedom Ring, then I'd better start with a bit of background of why that phrase rings familiar in American heads and hearts.

All we have to do is sing a few stanzas of the song, My Country 'Tis of Thee, written by Samuel Francis Smith, and feelings about freedom begin to surface.

My country 'tis of thee,
sweet land of liberty,
of thee I sing.
Land where my father's died,
land of the Pilgrim's pride,
from every mountain side,
let freedom ring!
When someone rings a bell, it's usually to get your attention.Wake up! Listen! I have a message! Perhaps Samuel Smith had such sentiments in mind when he penned those words. Maybe he saw himself standing on a mountain side, ringing a bell, and proclaiming the virtues of freedom. Maybe he saw us all as bell ringers for freedom.
In silence people tend to sleep, to drift, to forget. I think we've seen that over the past several decades; Americans sort of snoozing through the political process and forgetting what an amazing legacy was left to us by our founding fathers. Perhaps it's time to wake up!
If we're going to let freedom ring from every mountain side, then each of us will need to pick up a bell and make some noise! And what a wondrous noise it will be.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

Elections for Congress are looming, and I believe some of our Representatives are nervous--as they should be. People in America are waking up and speaking out, and I'm thrilled with the cacophony of voices filling the air. For the most part they're good voices; they are voices who are finally questioning where our country is headed, and how different it looks from the America of our Founding Fathers. These are voices who are asking about state's rights and basic freedoms.

Freedom. It's such a vital component of who we are as Americans.

Hmm. I think I'll do a month long posting about freedom...perhaps not every day like I did with service, but let's say we get together two or three times a week and think about this most wondrous of topics.

Let Freedom Ring! (I don't know exactly what that means), but let's find out!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 30**The End and the Beginning

Today is the final day of my month long posting on service. It has been a pleasure to offer thoughts on such a good subject. I hope you've enjoyed it. And I hope it may have prompted you to continue incorporating a tad of service in your walk through life. And remember, service does not need to be grand to be meaningful.

I will leave you with a poem about service. It's actually a hymn I found in a 19th century hymn book.

Have I Done Any Good
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad,
and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has any one's burden been lighter today
because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help, was I there?
Then wake up and do something more
than dream of your mansion above,
doing good is a pleasure,
a joy beyond measure,
a blessing of duty and love.
A true sentiment.
Please leave a comment and you may win a free copy of my book, The Route.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 29**Be Brave and Serve

Tomorrow will be the final day of this month long tour about service. Hopefully you've pondered a bit about the topic as I shared quotes, thoughts, and feelings. It's been a chance for me to discover what people of merit have said about the subject, and to evaluate my own life focus.

(sidebar) Did you know there were graduate programs in Philanthropy? Yep. Click here to check it out.

(another sidebar) Think all billionaires are greedy louts? See what computer genius, Bill Gates and his wife Melinda think about service and volunteering at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Today we're going to get down to the nitty gritty about service opportunities.

If you google the word volunteer, you'll come up with over a million sites to wander through. If that seems a little mind googling to you, narrow the search to the words: volunteer and the name of your state. Keep narrowing the search until you arrive at someplace close-to-home.

Following are some search sites which will also match you to volunteer opportunities in your area:

You can also go to specific sites for: Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club, United Way, and many many others.

Match your search to your area of interest or expertise. Example--if you go to one of the .org search sites above, they'll ask for a zip code and an area of interest. Say you're a computer person...type in mentoring, and the site will most likely take you to community centers or Boys and Girls Clubs in your area that need computer people to help teach young people, or the elderly, computer skills.

You can do the same for construction, medical, musical, language, reading...the list goes on and on. Do you love the outdoors? Your local state park's service site will offer volunteer opportunities to help in the parks. Love animals? Numerous chances exist to serve our four legged and feathered friends. You can even serve internationally if you want to go father afield.

If you want to stay closer to home, look around your neighborhood. Is there a nearby school, or hospital, or assisted living center that could use some extra help? Perhaps it's as simple as looking out your window and seeing a neighbor with needs. Sometimes it's looking within the walls of your own home.

Go on! Check out some service opportunities. Perhaps there's one custom fit to you!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 28**Service and Soup

Okay, I comments are being posted late today, but I've been busy. True, Sunday is suppose to be a day of rest, but opportunities to serve sort of came up and hit me over the head (gently, of course). Although I'm tired, it's actually made for a very nice day.

Now I have my feet up, and after I finish this blog, which will be very short this evening, I'm eating a little dinner, and then maybe reading a book. Life is good.

I think my soup has finished cooking, so I will sign off for tonight and leave you with a wonderful quote.

"It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving."

--Mother Teresa--

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 27** Love and Service

"Love cannot remain by itself--it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service."

That's a quote from Mother Teresa, and it perfectly corresponds with the way she lived her life. Those weren't just words to her; she saw the suffering around her in India and decided to reach out and care for the poorest of the poor. Her service taught us so much about love. And when she died, the world honored her for her life of grace. Kings and presidents presented flowers of respect to this little woman who died with only a sweater and two pair of sandals as her worldly possessions.

Why? Why was the world interested in her simple life?

Perhaps because we long to see sainthood in action. We long to be reminded what the best of the human spirit looks like. At times, each good person stops and says, "What am I doing on this planet? Is running around in this hamster wheel really getting me anywhere? What's really important?" It's at these times that we look for guides. We look for people who have found a different path through life. People who bring goodness and light into dark places. People who build and lift.

None of us can live the life of Mother Teresa. That was her life, her calling. But, we can be inspired by her life to do a little something more regarding our service to just means putting love into action.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 26**E=MC2 and Service

"Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."

--Albert Einstein--

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 25**Service and Sacrifice

This morning I was watching a You Tube video of the combined Military Academy Choirs singing the national anthem. I had to run for the tissue box. It was very appropriate and meaningful for them to sing about the flag, and freedom, and sacrifice. They sang with simplicity and true hearts. For them it was all about the song and its meaning. It took my breath away.

I'm very sentimental about these young men and women who love America with such passion that they're willing to put their lives on the line. They serve with honor in the most dangerous places on earth. They serve with dignity and compassion. Yes, compassion. You and I have seen the pictures of tough American soldiers interacting with village children or cradling a wounded infant in their arms. And no, those pictures aren't staged.

Interesting that we call it military service. "What branch of the service are you in?" Isn't that how we ask a military patriot if they're Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marine? And they answer, "I serve in the Navy."

Service is love, and the greatest love is manifest by those who would lay down their life for a friend. It's a principle those young service men and women, who sang the national anthem with such commitment, understand with perfect clarity.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 24**Now and When?

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

--Anne Frank--

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 23**Sour Cream and Service

"Little acts of kindness can add up to a lifetime of happiness."

I'm putting quote marks around that little sentiment even though I don't know who actually wrote it. I took it from the lid of the Daisy sour cream carton. I figure the marketing people came up with this endearing idea to place uplifting messages on their sour cream cartons to brighten people's day.

I can imagine the business meeting:

CEO: Hey, Fred (the marketing executive). Let's put some happy thoughts on the lids of our Daisy sour cream cartons.

Fred: Great idea!

CEO: Get advertising on it right away.

Fred: Will do. Janice (ad lady). Have your team come up with happy thoughts, okay?

Janice: Happy thoughts? Great idea! Love it!

Fred: Any ideas off the top of your head?

Janice: Sure. How about "Little acts of kindness can add up to a lifetime of happiness"?

Fred: Perfect. Let's run with it.

And there you have it--thoughts about service along with my sour cream. Now every time I dip into the tub for sour cream on my baked potato I can be reminded about the joy of doing little acts of kindness for others. It certainly is making me smile.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 22**Actions and Results

On day 13, I wrote about the touching story told in the book, Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White. The story is one of friendship between the spider Charlotte and the pig Wilbur, and the connection they share because of the threads in Charlotte's web.

I suppose I'm thinking about it again today because of this quote I found by Herman Melville. "We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results."

I love the image. Delicate silken strands running between myself and every other person, and whatever I send out along that strand, eventually coming back to me.

Sometimes we have the misfortune to be the recipient of negative vibrations from someone else's strand. I've come to realize that I can't worry about that. I really only have control over what I send out. Charlotte chose to send out friendship, service, and hope along her strand, and because of it, good things happened in Wilbur's life.

As I think about the thousands of precious strands that connect me with others, I find I want to be a Charlotte.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 21**Christ and Buddha

It's Sunday again. Sunday is a good day to reflect on service because every true faith teaches service as one of its main principles. Jesus taught service in every aspect of his life. One can't help but see this thread of goodness in the story of the Good Samaritan, or in the edict to share one's coat and cloak with another in need.

The first great truth of the Buddha is that, life is suffering, and the way for one to purify their life is to serve others. Enlightenment.

I think this might be a good day to ponder concepts of truth which have survived for thousands of years. And perhaps to put those principles into practice.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 20**The Service of 9/11

I'm always pensive on September 11th. The events of that day stunned my spirit, and as the anniversary of the day arrives every year I find myself pondering the events and praying for this country I love.

The images that were most riveting were those of the brave policemen and fire fighters who ran toward the terror to save human life; people on the street holding each other; complete strangers caring for a wounded hero. Service was in its purest form that day. Service that overcomes fear and selfishness. Service that uplifts and sanctifies.

Our hearts grew larger that day. Our souls grew brighter. In a day of utter darkness, service was a beacon of light.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 19**Me and You

Do you sometimes think that life is giving you a raw deal? Maybe things aren't going the way you planned. I know this sounds like a conundrum, but the best thing to do when suffering a bout of self pity, is to forget yourself and serve others. I know it sounds nuts, but it works.

There's a wise saying I read somewhere that goes, "Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive."

I wouldn't suggest this to you if I hadn't tried it myself and found great peace and fulfillment when I've moved beyond my troubles to reach out, in healthy ways, to someone in need. So, if you're having a down day, look up, and find someone to lift. You'll lift yourself at the same time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 18**Meals and Memories

My book, The Route, is a fictionalized account of my experiences delivering meals-on-wheels to an interesting, feisty, and funny group of seniors. Each Thursday I'd drop off meals and spend a few minutes with people whose lives were filled with stories and wisdom. In the process, I assure you, I got back much more than I gave.

That's the magical thing about service--you plant a little seed and all of a sudden you have an apple tree of abundance. Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."

I found this to be true. What a joy in my life that I met, and grew to love the wonderful folks on my route.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 17**East and West

"He who wishes to secure the good of others, has already secured his own."


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 16**Happiness and Service

"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."

--Albert Schweitzer--

Monday, September 7, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 15***Work and Service

Today is Labor Day where we celebrate the American worker by taking a day off to play and be with our families. I love that juxtaposition.

You may be wondering why I'm writing about work on my series of blogs concerned with service. This is my approach. Often we think of work as drudgery...something we slog through from day to day just to earn a paycheck. We're not aware of the service we're providing, nor do we appreciate the service other workers provide us. Perhaps if we turn our vision ever so slightly we can see work in a different way.

I get up in the morning and go down to breakfast. Thank you people in the factory who boxed the cereal that I'm eating. Thanks Mr. farmer who raised the cows that produced the milk. Thanks to the truck drivers that drive stuff all over the country. Thanks to the checker at the grocery store, the person who dry cleans my clothes, the bank teller, the road workers, the girl who cuts my hair, the police officers, the military men and women. The list of people to thank for their service is long.

Now, pat yourself on the back for the service you provide to others, and go out and enjoy your Labor Day by playing!

Oh, and don't forget to thank the girl who scoops your ice cream cone.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 14**Bells and whistles

It's a beautiful day today: blue sky, puffy white clouds, just the right temperature. It's the kind of day where I want to take a walk and whistle a happy little tune as I'm strolling.

Do you feel sometimes like a day is a gift and somehow you need to say thank you? Well, it's that kind of day for me. Along with all the tough things I've had to face in my life, there have been tons of amazingly good things; things that have lifted my soul and made me know I was loved.

It's Sunday again (as it is every seven days) and the church bells are ringing. Perhaps the best way to say thank you for sky, and clouds, and the ability to stroll is to sit for a few minutes in meditation in church and get a little inspiration from Heaven. It's truly a marvelous place to get insight into the reason for being on the planet, and it's interesting how often the message from the pulpit concerns service. It's also a great place to add drops to your cup.

So, I'm heading off to the Big Service Station to refuel and say thank you. Hear me whistling as I go?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 13**The Spider and the Pig

I just reread, Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White. It's a lovely story about Wilbur the pig and his friendship with Charlotte the spider. In this little book are big doses of truth about life. Contained within 184 pages are thoughts about the ebb and flow of time, gentle warnings about being judgemental, and sentiments about service; all told in a style of whimsy and delight.

I wanted to share a little bit of the book with you because it tells a perfect truth about friendship and service. I won't spoil the story for you if you haven't read it, but Charlotte has saved Wilbur's life in a miraculous way, and Wilbur wonders why.

"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."
"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all the trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."


Friday, September 4, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 12**Service and a Simple Soul

"Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."

--Dr. Martin Luther King--

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 11**You and Not You

"It is well to remember that the entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others."

--Andrew J. Holmes--

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 10**You and You

Most of the time service is about others, but once in a while you have to take care of yourself. Yep. It has nothing to do with being selfish, but about being able to share. Remember that 'cup of love' theory we talked about last time? Well, it's pretty hard to give drops away to others if your store of drops is depleted.

Stephen Covey, in his book, 7 Habits for Highly Effective People, calls it "sharpening the saw." A lumberjack has a hard time cutting trees with a dull saw. Covey suggests taking some time for yourself to get the saw blade sharp. If you do that, you'll be much more efficient. The same goes for service. If you take some time to fill your cup with drops, then you'll have more to give away. Makes sense, huh?

So, accept compliments, pal around with friends who make you laugh, take a walk in the mountains, eat chocolate, or graciously allow others to serve you. You'll be healthier and happier.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 9**Love and Caring

I heard this analogy about love and caring many years ago, and I want to share it with you. The person who shared it with me called it the ‘cup of love’ theory.

When we’re born we have a little cup in our hearts filled with liquid. When something good happens to us, drops go into the cup. When something bad happens, drops are taken out of the cup. When our cups get low on drops we become sad, cranky, or mean. We don’t share drops with others for fear there won’t be enough left to keep us going.

We’ve all come across people whose cups are low on liquid: surly store clerks, sour folks at the bus stop, or pushy people at the market check-out. Doesn’t their offensive behavior annoy you? Me too, and I find myself wishing that they’d just drop off the planet. Not nice, I know, especially since I’ve had my share of cranky days.

Anyway… this is a time to put the theory into practice. First, stop and think that maybe this person is having a really terrible day, or month, or life, and their cup is really low on drops. Just thinking that thought, changes everything. Now, take a few drops out of your cup and give it to the person: a soft tone of voice, a smile, an offer to help them with something. You’ll be amazed the change that usually follows in the person’s demeanor. Even a few drops will make a difference.

Trust me…now that you know the theory, you’ll find yourself applying it just to see what happens. Enjoy the results!