16. Spread the Word!

When the gift I give to the other is integral to my own nature, when it comes from a place of organic reality within me, it will renew itself – and me – even as I give it away. Only when I give something that does not grow within me do I deplete myself and harm the other as well, for only harm can come from a gift that is forced, inorganic, and unreal.

Parker Palmer

Once you have searched internally and discovered a gift of your authentic self, you are ready to search the external world for opportunities to serve.

Where and how can I share my God-given gift?

The wonderful thing about your gift comes from the fact that you LOVE to use it.

When you start to explain your gift to others, they will sense the energy that is coming from you. They will hear it in your voice, they will see it in your body language, and they will feel it in the stories that you tell about it.

Create Your Elevator Pitch

In business, we often refer to using an elevator pitch when meeting someone that you would like to influence. The idea is that you need to get your message down to about a minute or less, as if you were meeting that person on an elevator and have a limited amount of time to get their attention and generate interest.

You can find many examples on the Internet of creating your elevator pitch. For a service project, you might include:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Highlight your gift, perhaps with a story related to it
  • Explain the value that your gift can offer
  • Ask for time to explore opportunities together

An example might be:

“Hi I’m Doug, a blog writer from North Andover who believes passionately in the power of serving the needs of others. I’ve been writing about how sharing your unique gift with others can result in a positive life change for both the server and the recipient. I would love to get together with you and explore how your members can find satisfaction and purpose in their lives from this message.”

Share your elevator pitch anywhere and everywhere! Reach out to organizations that work with those who might benefit from your gift. Share your pitch with people you meet at parties or gatherings (when we get to finally gather again!).

You may find that organizations are not responsive to your gift. In that case, why not create your own service organization?

One of my favorite stories in this area is about a woman from Portland, Oregon named Samantha Hess. Following a divorce, Samantha realized that she missed the power of personal touch in her life. Then she read about someone in New York offering hugs for $2 and something clicked.

She decided to start a (very platonic) “hugging” business she called Cuddle Up to Me. Samantha spread the word through fliers, emails, and a local newspaper article and in a week, she was booked for two months, giving comfort to the lonely, the disabled, and other groups in need of an hour’s worth of attention and (fully clothed) touch.

She has since written a book and started a certification program for those who would like to become certified huggers.

Why do I like this story? When she started, her friends told her she was crazy and no one would pay for an hour’s worth of hugging. But she knew that her gift had value and proceeded to find a way to do it.

Don’t be afraid to use your gift, when you believe that it can provide value to others.

Doug Bate
Service Central

15. Your Service Can Be Your Purpose

“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

Marian Wright Edelman, Founder Children’s Defense Fund

Why are we here?

It is an interesting question that no one seems to know the answer to. Is our purpose in life just to survive for as long as we can and then die?

How do we know if our lives have been worthwhile or not? Have we somehow accomplished something that has justified the significant amount of earth’s resources that we have consumed?

Jesus in his ministry shared some things that we should do while we are here (love God and love your neighbor) but never explained to us a purpose for life.

What if that was intentional? If Jesus laid out a specific purpose in life, we would all
be competing with one another to be the most purposeful person on Earth.

Instead, Paul tells us in his first letter to the church in Corinth, that we are all different parts of the same body. We all do different things but should be in collaboration with others, who also do different things.

Instead, Paul tells us in his first letter to the church in Corinth, that we are all different parts of the same body. We all do different things but should be in collaboration with others, who also do different things.

So maybe it is up to each of us to define our roles, our unique purpose in life. I would argue that using your God-given gift for the benefit of others is a good place to start.

The Japanese have concept they call

Ikigai (pronounced ick-ee-GUY) which means “a reason for being.”

It is captured as a Venn diagram (remember your high school math?) and is an interesting way for us to think about our purpose in life and what we might strive for.

In this series of service posts, we have been discussing the three circles at the top – what we are good at, what we love, and what the world needs. That could form an ideal way of serving others with God’s love.

The Japanese add a circle for “What you can get paid for.” While we don’t require service to provide for our compensation, it is possible that your service can lead there.

Servicing others with our gifts can be an on-ramp for a new career path, if we choose to pursue it.

When we share our gifts, we provide something of value to others. Depending on what we are doing and who we are doing it for, that exchange of value can evolve from being an effort that makes us feel good to an effort that makes us feel good and provides some compensation.

Whether we pursue that or not, our service can become our purpose in life. It is what we do that provides value to others and value to us. Our sustained efforts in that area lead to a reputation and an expertise that the world needs and appreciates.

Your service can become your purpose and your legacy, your reason-for-being.

Doug Bate
Service Central

14. What is a “Gift”? (part 3)

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.

― Albert Schweitzer

There is another thing to consider when determining your unique and special gift.

We think of service as giving – what we have, what we do, and who we are. We should not expect to receive something in return for our service.

But the reality is that we do receive something and it is in the receiving of value that often makes the service rewarding, fulfilling, and sustainable (you want to do it again).

One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.

― Gordon B. Hinckley, author

The love you share with others will be returned to you in many different ways. It
may be in the form of appreciation or gratefulness from those you served.

It may be the satisfaction that you have made a difference in someone’s life, perhaps even the beginning of their transformation journey.

Or it may be from serving a cause or mission that you believe in. Some examples of
causes might include childhood development, homelessness, environmental
stewardship, or social justice.

In that case, your energy might come from a strong belief in a value or principle that
you have rather than a specific skill or talent you possess
You might be willing to
take on a variety of different tasks using a variety of different skills, knowing that
your service will be for a cause you believe in.

What cause or mission has special meaning in your life?

Perhaps you or someone you know suffered with a serious problem such as
domestic violence, addiction, or discrimination.
You experienced the heartache, pain, or life-changing effects that it caused and vowed to help prevent others from a similar fate.

Or perhaps there are trends and changes going on in the world that you believe pose
a threat to what you hold dear, such as climate change, civil liberties, or the
damaging effects of technology.

Serving individuals or organizations that are making a difference in areas that you
care about is another wonderful way for you to target your service.

Doug Bate
Service Central

13. What is a “Gift”? (part 2)

Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.

Wayne Dyer

1. What am I (reasonably) good at?

Let’s start by making a list of the skills or talents you have. Think about what you do
reasonably well.
I say reasonably because you don’t have to be a superstar in that skill or talent – just something you feel you do well.

Ask your friends and family members to help you on this question. What do they
think you do reasonably well?

What about your colleagues where you work or volunteer? What do they think you do reasonably well?

There are many books available at the library and online that outline skills, talents,
and strengths. Check them out and see if it prompts any new ideas to express what you are good at.

Make as long a list as you can with your skills/talents, what you believe you do well.

2. What about my life highlights?

Think about the moments in your life that stand out as being particularly successful.
When did you feel good about something you accomplished?

Thinking back on those times, what were you DOING that led to those successes? What skills did you use?

Often you can take a look at a series of high points and begin to see a “pattern” of things that were common to them.

I did this with the three different career choices that I have made in my life. As I
looked at what I was doing for each career and what I most enjoyed about each one,
a clear pattern emerged for me. In each case I was involved with helping others adopt a new perspective on something – seeing the world differently so that it opened up new opportunities.

Add these skills to your list.

3. If you could spend a day doing something that would be very meaningful to you, what would you do?

Let this be your “dream day,” with no obligations, no one judging you, no one telling you what to do, and no constraints of time and money.

What would cause you to jump out of bed in the morning because you knew you would be doing this?

Add these actions to your list of skills. 

4. Prioritize your list.

I hope that you have a very long list of skills and talents that you have gathered over
your life. I’ve thrown together below a list of gifts to consider, in case you are having trouble getting started.

Unless you narrow down that list, it will be too much for you to think about. You will not be able to focus your thinking.

The next step is to prioritize your list – getting it down to what you feel are the top 1-2 skills/talents you have. This will not be an easy task.

The criterion for prioritizing is simple:

How energized do you feel when using these skills/talents? Do these skills make you feel alive? Which of them do you LOVE to do?

Your Gift from God is the activity or behavior that you LOVE to do. Doing it gives you a sense of joy, challenge, and energy. Many things we do drain our energy but using our gift tends to give us energy. Energy is vitality and vitality is life.

Your gift is life-giving. It is a gift from God. Thank God for it.

Doug Bate
Service Central

12. What is a “Gift”? (part 1)

You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place. Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift—your true self—is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs.

Bill Plotkin – psychologist, author

We are all different.  Our lives are a result of the road we have travelled in life.  

Our upbringing, our education, our interests, our skills, our values, and our experiences are all very different.  We are unique.

Somewhere in that uniqueness is something that is very special to us.  For some it is a skill or talent that we have developed along the way.  For others it is the successful handling of an experience in life, even a painful one.  For others, it is a closely-held value that has made your life meaningful.

In all of these cases, you possess something that others do not have.  You received a gift from God.  Perhaps you were born with it, perhaps you earned it, perhaps you received it by surprise.  

As we learn in 1 John, “God is love.”  Therefore, it is logical that a gift from God comes with love.  

How do we feel when we feel “love”?

We may all experience love in a different way but my guess is that many feel upbeat, energized, joyful, and motivated.  

When we use that gift, we derive great pleasure from using it.  We feel a vitality, which means “life.”  For those who don’t have that same gift, doing that same action can be a painful chore.

For example, some people love public speaking.  They enjoy the challenge, look forward to any opportunity to speak in public, and feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment after a speech.

Others would rather have a root canal than give a speech.

Service as Sharing Your Gift

There are nearly 8 billion people on this planet we call home.  Someone somewhere could use your gift to enhance their lives.  They need what you have to offer.

When you share your gift with those who need your gift, you are passing along God’s love.  The love you have so graciously received becomes a vehicle for sharing it with others.  

That is the ultimate service.  That is the way we embody God’s love and compassion.

So the first step in reaching the ultimate service level is to identify your gift.  

For some of us, it may be easy.  You know what you love to do and know how you can do it to benefit the lives of others.  Some of you are doing that right now.

In our own congregation, I think of Emily Strong, Fran Fink, and Mark Aude who have a gift of gardening.  They love to transform a patch of land into the gift of a meal for those who are hungry.  Through the Giving Garden, they give who they are and share God’s love with those in need.  By the way, they are always looking for others to help them in this wonderful service. Click here to sign up to share your joy of gardening to help feed the hungry.

Others of you will struggle in identifying your gift.  Some will feel they have too many gifts and don’t know which is most important.  Some will feel that they have nothing to offer and rarely find God’s love in anything they do.

This reflection is worth the effort.  You are likely to discover the real “you,” your authentic self.  

What do you LOVE to do?

Doug Bate
Service Central

11. Serving Requires Faith

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26

Serving others by using our unique gifts can be of great benefit to both those we serve and ourselves. Before we get to identifying your gift as a powerful way to serve, we need to establish some rules.

The rules are important because your mind will in all likelihood immediately jump to conclusions too early and discourage the pursuit and development of your gift.

Those who study how we humans make decisions refer to “limiting beliefs,” which prevent us from even trying to enact changes, even if they would be of great value to our lives.

A few examples of limiting beliefs include:

  • I don’t think I’m good enough.
  • I could never figure out how to do that.
  • What if I fail?

These limiting beliefs come from a variety of different sources. It may have been from advice of an authority figure in your life. Perhaps it is conventional wisdom, that suggests that there is a right and wrong way to do things. Or maybe you attempted something new in your life that did not turn out as you planned.

The idea of trying anything new causes most of us to think about what could go wrong. We do that to identify potential threats and problems that we might encounter.

If we believe in these limiting beliefs, we may quickly abandon the effort,
considering it to be too risky or not worth the effort.

Have faith in your ultimate success.

People of faith believe in what they do not see. They believe that their efforts to serve the needs of others WILL be successful, even if the service they end up rendering turns out to be different from what they originally expected.

So they try. They ignore the nay-sayers, conventional wisdom, and threat-mongers and forge ahead.

As a basketball player growing up, I had a poster on my wall that read,

You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.

If you don’t try, you can’t score.

I love the idea of serendipity, which is the discovery by chance or accident of something that turns out to be very valuable. Trying on that old jacket and discovering a $20 bill in the pocket is serendipity.

You won’t encounter serendipity unless you try. You won’t overcome obstacles unless you try. You won’t find a way to use your gift unless you try.

Sitting on the sidelines and thinking or planning what you might do will not help. We just need to enter the arena and learn as we go.

You will not be alone on this service journey of faith. Jesus told his disciples, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

As you read the following posts about identifying and utilizing your gifts, please keep an open mind. Do not evaluate and pre-judge ideas before you try. Know that with God, all things are possible.

Doug Bate
Service Central

10. The Value of Your Gift

The purpose of life is to discover your gift; The work of life is to develop it;
And the meaning of life is to give your gift away.

David Viscott

Serving with what we HAVE and what we DO are two excellent ways to share what we can with those in need of our help.

If we can also find a way to serve with our unique gifts, our idea of serving rises to a
new level of importance in our lives. Serving becomes:

  • Personalized, authentic
  • An energizing process
  • A personal expression
  • Something we want to do
  • Our purpose in life?

This does not begin by looking around our communities to determine what service opportunities are available. It begins with an internal reflection on who we are, what we are grateful for, what is important to us, and how we want to interact with the world.

Personal, Authentic – By discovering and naming our unique gifts, we can focus our service efforts on what we love to do, what we are grateful for, and what has meaning to us personally.

We are giving more than our time, we are giving our authentic selves – who we ARE.

Energizing Process – Research done by a well-known psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, identified a state of happiness with humans that he described as “flow.”

When people are in flow, they are typically so absorbed in a challenging, engaging activity that they lose track of time, skip meals, and forget their ego-related concerns. Flow is seen as a compelling experience that delivers significant personal satisfaction and fulfillment.

When we serve with what we love to do, we can reach this state of flow.

Rather than service being a drain on our time and energy, it can be an energizing process and a fulfilling process for us, as well as valuable for those we serve.

Personal Expression – When we serve with what we love and what is important to us, our actions become a tangible expression of who we are. Like an artist, our service can be our way of expressing what we see in the world, what we value, and what we advocate.

Something We Want to Do – When service is a personal expression, puts us in a state of flow, and fulfills the needs of others, why would we want to stop doing it?

A successful service opportunity will motivate us to do it again and it can become sustainable, maybe even habit-forming, in our lives. Instead of service being something we feel we ought to do, it becomes something that we want to do.

Our Purpose in Life? – One of my favorite quotes comes from Mark Twain, who claimed,

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

We were all born without an instruction manual that clearly identified our purpose in life. That is something that we must all discover for ourselves.

I would argue that using a unique gift that you love using for the benefit of others is pretty close to what anyone could call a purpose in life.

Doug Bate
Service Central

9. Service Journey Phase 3 – Giving who you ARE

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

I Corinthians 12:27-31

Giving what you HAVE and what you DO are two important parts to the Service
Journey, particularly when it comes to supporting service-oriented organizations
like South Church.

However, I believe that there is a third phase of the Service Journey that represents
the ultimate in service – not giving what you HAVE and what you DO, but giving who
you ARE.

Phase 3

This phase is based on the idea that we are all unique beings. Of the nearly eight
billion people on this planet, there is not one other who has lived the life that you
have. No one has had:

  • The same upbringing you did
  • The education you had
  • The life experiences you have had
  • The skills you have acquired
  • The successes you have earned
  • The failures you have known
  • The heartbreaks you have endured
  • The values that you hold

Somewhere in that mix is something that other human beings would find very valuable. If you can determine what that is and offer it in service to those who need it, you will be serving in the best way possible.

We at Service Central call it your “gift.” It is a gift that you have received from life, for which you are grateful. From that feeling of gratitude, you then share that gift with others – pass it along.

Determining your gift may not be easy, particularly if you have many of them. So let’s start out with the definition that your gift is something that you LOVE TO DO.

If service is all about God’s love flowing in the world, then why not start out with
what we love.

It was many years ago now when I was responsible for keeping a group of Cub Scouts busy for a few hours one Saturday afternoon. So as I was trying to figure out what to do with them, I thought about what I love to do.

As woodworking has been a hobby of mine for many years, I decided that we would
assemble wooden birdhouses as our afternoon project.

Because I love woodworking, I was delighted to spend the time cutting and drilling the necessary pieces in preparation for our session.

On that Saturday, I thoroughly enjoyed watching these youngsters assemble the birdhouses and seeing the joy and pride they felt when they finished their creations.

I loved doing it, the Scouts loved the experience, and I walked away from that day of service feeling that my gift returned more joy to me than I gave.

This is the ultimate in service – giving what you LOVE to do for the benefit of those who need it.

You are giving something that is unique and meaningful to you. It is part of who you are, and expression of your authentic self.

It is at this phase that the idea of service shifts from something you feel you ought to do, to something that you really want to do.

Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian theologian and author captured it best when he wrote:

“The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

There we experience the two-way flow of God’s love, creating an experience of service that is fulfilling, meaningful, and joyful.

We will explore in subsequent posts a variety of different ways to discover our gifts and turn them into service possibilities.

Doug Bate
Service Central

8. Service Journey Phase 2 – Giving what you DO

“Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Giving what you HAVE is an important way to serve the needs of others. For most of us, it consists of making a financial contribution that will directly or indirectly help meet the needs of others.

While there is a momentary feeling of love and gratitude that the giver feels with that contribution, it is typically short-lived. If God’s love is flowing through us in the service of others, it would be nice to dwell a little longer in that feeling.

Phase 2

Playing a more hands-on role in serving the needs of others is a good way to experience the positive feeling of the flow of God’s love.

This involves giving what you DO and represents the second phase of a Service Journey. For most of us in this phase, we offer our TIME to serve others.

As a frequent participant in the South Church Day of Service over the years, I have given a day of my time to contribute in some small way to serving in my community.

As a frequent participant in the South Church Day of Service over the years, I have given a day of my time to contribute in some small way to serving in my community.

For most of those days, I walked away with a good feeling of having helped. I was able to see the results of my efforts, whether it be painting something, clearing a trail, or cleaning something. It felt better than just writing a check, where I would not know how it would be used or what difference it would make.

However, there was one exception. One year, I arrived at the Day of Service without an assignment and was convinced to join the “caring for the elderly” team. I was assigned to the home of a wonderful South Church couple who requested help in raking the leaves in their yard.

The backstory here was that I live in a house with many very large trees in my front yard. Every fall, I spend an inordinate amount of my time raking leaves. Once I rake them all, twelve hours later my yard is filled again with fallen leaves.

I loathe leaf-raking!

So on that Day of Service, I find myself serving the needs of this wonderful couple by doing something I detest doing.

In spite of the treats and gratitude the couple heaped on us for our efforts, I found my day of service to be highly disappointing and questioned if I would even go back the following year.

While the day did not turn out as I wanted, it did teach me a valuable lesson on service.

To fully participate in the flow of God’s love through service, be sure that you are NOT serving in a way that generates negative emotions in you.

Those negative emotions will counteract any feelings of gratitude and goodwill that could be present.

Service organizations rely on volunteers giving their time to carry out their missions. I will continue to offer my time to South Church and to the Day of Service (as long as it does not include raking leaves).

Currently, South Church is working hard to match up the talents/interests of members with the work that needs to be done here. Service Central will be reaching out to the congregation in the coming months to learn what those talents and interests are. Giving your time is much better when you are doing something you enjoy doing.

While my leaf-raking service encounter was disappointing, it led me to discover the third phase of the Service Journey, which I consider to be the ultimate type of service.

Doug Bate
Service Central

7. Service Journey Phase 1 – Giving what you HAVE

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”

― Mother Teresa

Christians, based on the strength of their faith, can enter boldly into service opportunities that help to transform the lives of others and the world. The ministry of Jesus was filled with positive transformations and those who encountered him were commanded to “follow me.”

My early encounters with serving the needs of others were based on the belief that as a Christian, it is something that I “ought to do.”

Over the years, my view of service has gone through a dramatic evolution. What started as something I felt I OUGHT to has evolved to something that I now really WANT to do.

In the next few postings, I will share with you this evolution, which I am describing as my “Service Journey.” In my case, it has three distinct phases.

Phase 1

A number of years ago, my business took me to South Africa, working with a family-owned business that made health and beauty aid products for black women. The family was a very large Muslim family, originally from India.

On my trips there, the family graciously treated me to many fine and expansive meals. At the end of each meal, the many leftovers we created were gathered by the wait staff into containers and given to the family members. They would then proceed outside to give our leftovers to the poor, hungry people who would gather outside of the restaurants there.

My reaction when I first saw this action was that this Muslim family was more Christian in their actions than I was. They were feeding the hungry.

Reflecting on that experience, I realized that most of my serving of others was very similar to my South African friends – sharing my leftovers.

Being in my own business, paychecks were frequently unpredictable. So in December of each year, I would pay all of my bills and see what was “left-over” in my bank account.

I would then proceed to write checks to charity organizations that had particular meaning to me. Because my mother died of cancer, I would typically write a check to the American Cancer Society, in hopes that I might contribute in some small way to the research and cure of this devastating disease.

As I wrote the check, I would often think about my mother and the tremendous impact she had on my life. This produced feelings of love and gratefulness in me, as I looked to give-back by giving what I had.

Unfortunately, those feelings were usually short-lived. By the time I put the stamp on the envelope, they had dissipated.

In Phase 1 of my Service Journey, I learned two things:

  1. Giving your leftovers is vital to service organizations, as it allows them to continue their service efforts, making a positive difference in the world.
  2. I wanted, however, to expand that brief, positive emotional response that felt so good and make it last longer.

I continue to share my leftovers with those in need. It is something that I feel I ought to do, given the many blessings that I have received in my life.

But my service journey continued.

Doug Bate
Service Central