Be Yourself. Hand lettering by Emily McDowell.

By Amy Hackworth. Image by Emily McDowell.

I was inspired by my friend Christine last weekend as I watched her serving others: she helped with a fundraiser at our local elementary school; planned, prepared for, and executed a surprise party for a friend who needed some love; and volunteered to design, bake and decorate a three-tiered fondant-covered super fancy Tinkerbell cake for the nonprofit Cake Smiles. And that was just the weekend!

Her kids are in after-school gymnastics and piano and soccer and their serious allergies and asthma mean they’re visiting medical specialists several times a month, and quite possibly the emergency room, too. My point is that she’s got as much on her plate as anyone I know, yet she always seems balanced, calm and genuinely happy, and she’s consistently helping others.

I resisted the temptation to compare myself to Christine, but I was motivated by her example to think about how I could open my eyes, heart, and life to others more often. As I talked with another friend who’s a great example of reaching out to others, she taught me a new way of seeing service. Elizabeth shared that her kindness and help to others is rarely a conscious intention of “service”, but more an organic extension of her natural gifts. “I used to think I always had to do for people,” Elizabeth explained, but that led to stress and worry and feeling that she could never do enough.

Now, Elizabeth tries to honor and care for herself, and finds that when she’s open to helping others, she trusts that opportunities will appear, and they do. What’s more, they fit seamlessly into her life because she’s using her gifts with purpose and intention. This seems true of Christine, as well. Both women are making time for others, but because they’re being wise with their inherent gifts, the help they offer isn’t a burden or an obligation, but just a part of who they are.

And so, what if our best service to the world — to our families and friends and co-workers and communities — has everything to do with being who we truly are and the natural opportunities that arise? What if being the best version of ourselves, with all that flows authentically from that, is the best kind of service we can offer?

P.S. — I thought these prints of Emily McDowell’s were particularly appropriate. And of course, planned and organized service is so important, too! Remember the brilliant and well-planned Summer of Service? And have you heard about Giving Tuesday coming up just after Black Friday and Cyber Monday? It’s another great way to reach out.