When we think about moments that epitomize manliness, we often think of the captain going down with the ship, the men who allow the women and children to go first, the soldier who throws himself on a grenade to shield his brothers from the blow, the old man who attempts to save a drowning child and perishes himself in the waves. The common denominator in such scenarios is this: sacrifice. Sacrifice is arguably the manliest of virtues. It is the ability to give up our desires, sometimes even our lives, to aid and benefit someone else.
While most of us will never be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice, there is one sacrifice every man is both capable of making and should be making: the sacrifice of his time and resources in service to others.
Even men who don’t consider themselves materialistic, can be absolutely greedy with their time. But while holding tightly to our time and resources seems in the moment to protect our happiness, in the long run, this selfishness cankers our souls. The more tightly we hold to things, the less we enjoy them. Selfishness makes us needlessly bitter and contemptible, never feeling like we have enough, always worried that someone is going to take away our stuff. In not sharing of our time, talents, and resources, we end up feeling empty, not full. Service should thus be a part of every man’s life, lest he along with Ebenezer Scrooge should despair, “Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! Such was I!”
Our Obligation to Serve
Everybody knows that life isn’t fair. Some of us have a lot and some of us have a little. We can throw up our hands at this disparity, or we can do as much as we can to add balance to the universe. If you are lucky enough to have more talents and resources than someone else, then show your gratitude for these things by putting some back in the pot. Where much is given much is required.
Part of the warrior’s code that every soldier lives by is the maxim, “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” Thus, in the heat of battle, when someone cries out, “Man down!” the troops mobilize to get their fallen comrade to safety. A medic or another soldier will brave the hail of bullets to save their comrade.
There are a lot of men down these days. They’re wounded on the battlefield of life, not with bullets but with poverty, illiteracy, and hopelessness. As part of the brotherhood of man, we have an obligation not to leave our comrades behind. As the saying goes, “The public service we render is the rent we pay for our place on earth.”
The Benefits of Service
Of course the greatest benefit of service, is the help that those in need receive from you. Service can transform lives, communities, and nations. But giving service is one of the greatest paradoxes of life. For although it seems as if we sacrifice in giving away our time and resources, we actually get a whole host of benefits in return. In giving, we get. It’s a mystery, but it’s absolutely true. Serving can transform your life in the following ways:
Makes you happy. One of the first words a child learns is “mine.” And we often navigate life with this simple philosophy: “What in it for me?” But as mentioned above, such selfishness does not bring us contentment or peace. It’s giving, not getting, they brings us real happiness. I’ll admit that when I’m asked to do a service project or when I’m waking up at 7 in the morning on a Saturday to go help somebody, I don’t always feel very happy. Often, I grumble about it. But every single time I’ve manned up and gone and done the service, I’ve felt happy and satisfied afterward. Every single time. Service just makes you feel good about yourself and about life.
Puts your problems in perspective. We often think that our problems our huge. And they feel huge because we have nothing to compare them to except our own life experiences. But when we serve those less fortunate then us, we come to see how good we have it. Our problems start to seem relatively small. And our gratitude for all the good things we have in life increases exponentially.
Breaks down prejudice. It’s easy to paint people we’ve never had any contact with broad strokes, to think we have them all figured out. Immigrants, poor people, criminals and so on-we think we know their story. We often formulate our opinions on such people without ever having talked to a single one of them. But when we work one on one with people different than us, we come to really love them and know them, and our compassion and empathy grows. We don’t see them as stereotypes, but as flesh and blood people, people whose problems are often far more complicated than we could have previously imagined.
Helps you find yourself. A lot of people talk, and agonize over, “finding themselves.” They want to find their authentic selves, who they really are. To this end, many traipse through Europe or go to grad school. There’s nothing wrong with such pursuits, but there’s no better way to get to the core of who you are than serving others. It will peel back the layers of your artifice and reveal what you’re really made of and what you really value. I can’t explain in words why it has this effect, but it does. I think it’s like the saying, “The watched pot never boils.” The more time you spend thinking about who you are, the more elusive the answer gets. As soon as you turn your focus to others, your true self is revealed.
How to Find Service Opportunities
One of the reasons many of us don’t serve more is not because we don’t have the desire, but simply because we don’t know how to get involved. We don’t know where to jump in. Here are some suggestions on finding a place to volunteer:
Volunteer with a Preexisting Organization
There are lots of established organizations out there that are always looking for volunteers. All you have to do is sign up. You might want to check out these:
Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America
Check a Website
There are several websites out there that simplify the process of finding a service opportunity. You simply enter your location to view a list of positions that organizations need filled by a volunteer.
Serve.gov. Our task today also coincides with President Obama’s “United We Serve” project, a nationwide effort to get all Americans to do some service this summer to help our country’s renewal and recovery.
Call an Organization
If you already know an area where you’d like to serve, than call up an organization and asks about volunteer opportunities. For example, if you’d like to work in education, call up a school. If you want to help the sick, call a hospital. Other possibilities include prisons, churches, retirement homes and charitable organizations. Or you might try to combine an old passion with your desire to serve by signing up to be a volunteer firefighter.
Join a Fraternal Organization
While we often think of fraternal organizations like the Masons and Shriners in conjunction with their ceremonies and rituals or as those guys who ride around on three-wheelers in parades, one of the main functions of lodges today it to perform community service. Joining an organization like the Masons will provide you with great service opportunities so you don’t have to go hunting them down.
Start Your Own Project
All that’s needed to start a service project is to identify a need in your community and then fill it. For example, Buzz started a project in his town of Montpelier, Vermont to bring firewood to the needy. Energy costs are sky high these days, and many people in places like Vermont can’t afford to heat their home electrically in the winter. They therefore use a wood burning stove to keep warm, but groups like the elderly and the sick aren’t able to go gather the wood they need. Buzz chops down trees (legally), splits the wood, and then delivers it to those who need it. Any man can do something similar. And it doesn’t have to be on a big scale either. If there’s a little old lady down the street, why not ask if you can mow her lawn or run some errands for her?
Today’s task: Commit to do some service. You obviously don’t have to do the service in the next 24 hours. Your task is simply to find a project or opportunity you’d like to volunteer for and sign up if you can. Or come up with a project that you’re going to create yourelf. Let us know what you decide to do in the Community.