‘Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day’ [Sally Koch].
These four words have had a profound effect on my life. Following a series of deep losses that came crushingly one after the other, I was reeling in a sea of confusion, despair, and panic. One day, I whispered yet again the words ‘help me’. This time, I was compelled to drag myself off the couch, which had become my island of solitary self-imposed exile. I walked to my kitchen bench, and there written on a notepad was the statement that changed my life.
I recognised my own handwriting, but could not recall writing those words.
Something stirred, a pinprick of light. So began a journey of living in faith, a faith that could not be defined or questioned, and without expectation. It was all I had; that and my mantra… ‘when in pain give’.
These words became a motivation that was to see me travel to the other side of the world to volunteer at residential holistic centres in Europe.
I had dabbled in volunteering several times in my life. I was environmentally aware, bought local organic produce, and didn’t have too many kitchen gadgets. I even made my own dog wash products and flea repellant – ours was the only dog that smelled of lavender, ti-tree and neem oil all at once.
What followed after reading those words set me on a trajectory that I could never have imagined. This was stepping up. It took ‘being in service’ to a whole new level. I have scrubbed toilets, tended shrine rooms, made hundreds of beds, peeled a mountain of potatoes, washed pots as big as me, and loved every minute of it. I have braved snow, rain, sleet, and freezing conditions to complete my tasks. What I have received in return is tenfold what I have given.
With each act of service, the pain I carried became a little less. Living in community, sharing accommodation with fellow volunteers from all walks of life and all the corners of the globe, healed my soul.
At each centre the volunteers were allowed to attend workshops, which has afforded me the opportunity to study with people who have become my teachers: Stephen and Peggy, my shamanic teachers; Vicki, my reiki master; Jack, my macrobiotic teacher; Chinmaya, my yoga teacher; and Dzogchen Beara for introducing me to loving kindness.
I have been given a gift, the gift of giving, the gift of being in service.
Wayne Dyer calls it, the ‘healing power of service’. It is something we can do every day.
We should do all we can to improve everyone’s experience on this planet in this lifetime. Our ultimate goal should be gratitude, love, tolerance and compassion. By practising this mindfully every day you are in service.
Joanne Greene is a qualified nurse, naturopath and freelance journalist.
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