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“What is service?”

I just woke up after having dinner at Bharti’s and learning about indicorps.

I think it was brilliant that the invite to this dinner said, “What is Service?” instead of “Meet Indicorps.” Right now I woke up with not just thinking about something creative that Indicorps is doing, but also with parallel thoughts on service.

First, Indicorps is a network of fellows, NGOs and young activists that share oppurtunities to share time, energy, and money among social entities in India and sons and daughters of the “Indian Diaspora”. They have a good model that is based on global community outreach and sustainability. They offer fellowships to college graduates of Indian decent to take on 50+ projects that have been set up by trusted NGOs in India that need a very specific skill set. Fellows apply to be placed in one of the projects and then are given the tools to communicate directly with the people and places where they will be serving. Every young Indian that wants the freedom to impact the world in some positive way should read about this network of people, ideas, and action.

Even though Indicorps is exclusive for expatriot Indians, their approach to how they do things answers the question, “What is Service?”.

So, I wanted to ask everyone that reads this post:

What is Service to You?

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7 comments

  • The answer to “What is service?” is always changing with every project I do. Right now, my koan is a quote from Nipun’s old blog: “My life is an attempt to bring smiles in the world and silence in my heart. I want to live simply, love purely, and give fearlessly.”

    The US government is a SERVICE ECONOMY. But is it too big to move? I think some of the big players involved in that gigantic system of economies can learn from the ideas of “Gift Economy“. The power of indicorps and starting at that level is that young people get to see impact within the small economies of villages and efficient service groups/NGOs.

    Service gives a framework and are inputs, outputs and feedback for other concepts like “sustainability”, “karma”, “honor”, “self-confidence”, “self-control”, “humane-ness”, “humanity”, “community”, “knowledge”, “work”, “gratitude”, “friendship”,

    And to the end of friendship, one the greatest reward of service, I’ll copy this quote by the homeboy Kahlil Gibran:
    And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart; For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.

    And I also saw a quote about how the beauty of human creativity is that “Works speak to one another”

  • christine

    hey Supe

    Below is a quote we found hanging on a wall in the nursing home the night before Kermit’s mother passed away.

    Some people seem to specialize
    In doing thoughtful deeds.
    Before you ask, they understand
    your problems and your needs.
    They help because they want to,
    They find joy in being kind,
    And making others happy
    Is the first thing on their minds.
    They make this world a better place
    By practicing the art
    Of reaching out to others
    And by giving from the heart.
    – Amanda Bradley

    Like yours, my answer changes constantly. One thing that’s become apparent to me, especially in the last few days, is that doing nothing can be service too. Service could be sitting on the couch with your friend, or reading a book while you wait for him in the lobby, or occupying the passenger seat during a car ride, or touching down at the airport terminal and receiving a text that says “I am only a few feet away.” Being there, and simply just being, might be the best way to serve someone in that moment.

  • sonalif

    This is a good discussion, Supe. Strangely, it’s a topic I don’t contemplate – I just do it or don’t do it. So, thanks for generating this.

    I find “service” is the most direct way to be anchored to another human being. Paradoxically, I find that selfless service is self-serving as well – for me, I cannot seem to disregard my own well being while practicing seva. Essentially, it’s sort of like giving someone a hug – you can’t do so, without receiving one in return. So, the farther I roll up my sleeves, the deeper the connection to my own self.

    It is the ying & the yang of the thing. But I always seem to wrestle with that aspect of it.

    But I’ve also found, as Krishna, Buddha, & Jesus shared, when we brood on ourselves, we become attached to “things.” I suppose, service can be a “thing” as well, an attachment if I am not in a state of awareness.

    But all in all, whatever the service, it better be rooted to my heart instead of being event-based. And that is my challenge.

    This is may sound silly, but I happen to believe that tiny acts of service can accumulate to balance the acts of disservice that harm all sentient beings. So, there is that universal aspect to it & then the direct heart-to-heart effect as well.

    Truthfully, I’m just learning as I go. I have no answers – just a whole lot more questions.

  • here’s a good piece to read. It’s about inner reflection and the courage and alertness that it requires.

    It’s interesting that her writing also speaks to us about Service.

    … to help each being in society mature, take on social responsibilities in an intelligent, harmonious way which reflects the peaceful society we want to create.

    The total revolution we are examining is not for the timid or the self-righteous. It is for those who love truth more than pretense. It is for those who sincerely, humbly want to find a way out of this mess we, each one of us, have created out of indifference, carelessness, and lack of moral courage.

    — Vimala Thakar
    http://tow.charityfocus.org/?tid=553

  • gianna

    There are no words to describe what service has given me…in my life. I give to others and remarkably get a thousand fold in return…it reverberates and sparkles in my heart. I wonder. I guess. But it is all just something I can’t put my finger on…it’s a blessing. I just do this thing called service. There are times that life is hard and I think I should stay away but I always find myself rolling down a hill…not unlike a child or carefree teenager…back into the flowers of service.

    I feel Christine describes this aspect of service nicely:

    “Service could be sitting on the couch with your friend, or reading a book while you wait for him in the lobby, or occupying the passenger seat during a car ride, or touching down at the airport terminal and receiving a text that says “I am only a few feet away.” Being there, and simply just being, might be the best way to serve someone in that moment.”

    and what Nipun wrote is very special and true too: “My life is an attempt to bring smiles in the world and silence in my heart. I want to live simply, love purely, and give fearlessly.”

    We all may have our own interpretations of service and what it means to us, but it is all interwoven…the connectedness it brings!

  • Supun, it’s great to think through this idea. Like you, I also find my ideas constantly changing.

    In Thousand Kilometers, One Conclusion, I concluded:

    After a thousand kilometers of observing and serving on this pilgrimage, I’ve come to one conclusion: I can’t help others.

    In fact, it doesn’t make any sense to help others.

    The human heart will unfailingly respond to the ills of the world with compassion, but unfortunately, every solution will be incomplete until that human being has knowledge of the whole.

    And ultimately, I would add that “Service doesn’t start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take.”

  • Thank you, nice post, very informative. Regards.

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