Service for a Smile

courtesy townofstratford.com

It was a very long time ago, but very late in my adolescence … probably while I was home from college during the summer … my Mom and I would stay up late watching Johnny Carson and solving the problems of the world.   One of the subjects we disagreed on was missionaries.   As a devout Catholic, she always contributed what she could to the missions.  They do a lot of good in the world, she’d say.  They provide food and lodging and education in poor countries.   Like many college students, I was questioning my parents’ view of the world and in particular, my mother’s choice of religion.   It doesn’t seem right to offer to help people in exchange for converting to your religion, I said.   Now, I don’t know if the missions required conversion or even education for food.   Mom said they didn’t.   But fast-forward to my fifties as I was in the midst of making a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself.   Someone whose judgement I trusted implicitly told me, Bud, you never do anything for anybody without strings attached.  I guess my youthful idealism had slipped a notch or two.  When you do something for someone, another friend said, try to do it For Fun and For Free.

I’m not saying that doing an especially good job at work isn’t service even though it may get us a raise.   And when the friendly waiter at Joe Abbegotz’ Spaghetti House makes our evening more pleasurable, he’s being of service even though he’s gunning for 20%.   I’m just saying that as hard as it has been for me to cut the strings I attached to everything, the service that’s most fulfilling is service with no expectation of a return.   And the 12-Step pamphlet Just for Today offers another interesting … and challenging … wrinkle.   Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out; if anybody knows of it, it will not count.  I will do at least two things I don’t want to do – just for exercise.  I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt, but today I will not show it.

Fulfillment often doesn’t come easy.  Have a good Sunday.

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2 Comments on “Service for a Smile”

  1. The Taxi Dog Says:

    Another transplant from the East, huh? Well, Brooklyn isn’t New England, but I’ve been in The Valley for more than 40 years. I like your blog a lot. You’re erudite, observant of the human condition, and you like music and art. Are you my long lost brother?

    My life is in a moderate chaos, but you seem to know 12 step so you know how it may be.

    Where are you? If you’re in LA, you might check out:

    http://www3.uclaextension.edu/plato/

  2. Lyka Ricks Says:

    Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other — it doesn’t matter who it is — and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other. ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta obtained from Helpfulness quotes


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