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Voices Online Edition
Vol. XXVI, No. 3
Michaelmas 2011

Serve Others for the Honor and Glory of God

by Bebe Kennedy

A long-standing maxim of mental health is to “give one’s self away”. To do this makes sense for a number of reasons. It is very easy to become self-centered when temporal concerns become front and center in our lives.

Ask yourself how much time is allotted to matters such as material purchases, social activities, and personal appearance. While these aspects of life have their place, we can be swayed and go overboard — into vanity and self-satisfaction.

We make excuses for not becoming involved in charitable works, explaining that we all have a variety of activities and problems that need attention. There is no doubt that everyone is beset with numerous responsibilities and burdens, and sometimes difficulties like unemployment and major physical impairments are all-consuming. But, barring an overwhelming issue, most of us can commit some time for the betterment of humanity.

We receive grace when we offer acts of charity for the honor and glory of God. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta stated, “We are not social workers”. All acts of charity performed by the Missionaries of Charity are done so out of love for Jesus.

Moreover, when we give of ourselves to the needy or for a worthy cause, we escape ourselves, our self-absorption, and find relief from daily pressures and anxieties. Being of service through sacrifice of time and talent separates us from the cares of the day while alleviating the suffering of our neighbor.

Nonetheless, we are inclined to take the easy road and postpone a commitment to charitable works. But, if periodically we put aside the short-term pleasure attained from watching TV, reading a magazine, engaging in idle conversation, etc., both those in service and the served win.

Albert Schweitzer, a great humanitarian, recognized the wisdom of being in service, having wisely stated, “… the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve”. Alternatively, if our lives are built around pleasure and consumerism, happiness will be elusive. The one who benefits the greatest is usually the giver rather than the receiver.

As a former high school counselor, one of my functions was meeting with college admissions officers. One such officer made a statement that impressed me, which I have never forgotten. He stated that the purpose of the institution he represented was to prepare students for the field of their endeavor, as well as prepare them to serve humanity.

Such thoughts were reiterated by the speaker in a recent commencement address at this same university. He told the students, “For you, service is more than a résumé builder. It is a way of life.” He emphasized that the students had received preparation to go beyond what is demanded in their particular careers by giving of themselves.

But serving humanity is not only for the young, able-bodied and vigorous. Research indicates that regular volunteer work by older adults can result in physical benefits including: a reduction in medication, fewer falls, improved mobility, and decreased depression. Developing social connections and enhancing one’s sense of worth for making a contribution are additional rewards. And, importantly, volunteer work can ease one’s sense of mortality, as renewal of life purpose is experienced.

Let us respond to the words of Jesus, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other” (Jn 13:34).

Bebe Kennedy is a retired public high school counselor from St. Louis who taught in the behavioral studies department at a local university. She has written for professional journals and has lectured widely on adolescent sexuality and pro-life issues.

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