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Service to Others

Alan and his son on a scouting trip
Alan and his son on a scouting trip

A few months ago, I met up with a gentleman named Alan Graham to plan an Ultralight Backpacking Course for Boy Scouts we’re holding next year in Austin. In addition to being a Scout Leader, Alan runs a charity called Mobile Loaves and Fishes which serves free meals to people in need. I have friends who’ve benefited from this organization and it does good work in many cities.

Alan and I got to talking about the personal satisfaction of helping other people over lunch. He described how he meets with all kinds of wealthy people in the context of his charity work. They come to him and complain about an emptiness in their lives, and a desire to help people instead of focusing on financial gain.

Alan then said something to me, that I’ve thought about every day since.


[quote]A life without service to others is no life at all.[/quote]

It really struck me when he said this, because it had such a strong ring of truth to it.

I know a lot of you have successfully woven volunteer service into your day-to-day lives and I admire you for it. This was the first year in a long time where I volunteered a substantial portion of my time to other people, teaching classes on ultralight backpacking, giving talks about my hikes,  and co-leading trips for the Appalachian Mountain Club.  It’s more personally satisfying than I could have expected.

But if you think about it, there are many ways in which we can serve other people: spending time with your children, calling your aging parents on the phone, holding a door open for someone at the store, or helping an old lady across the street. These are all forms of service to others.

I’m beginning to think that Alan’s statement defines what it means to be human.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and just wanted to share the thought with you. If you have any comments or thoughts you’d like to share on this topic, I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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6 comments

  1. Have to agree!

    It's the biggest reason I made the move from Software development to nursing. Every day I give, I'm gifted right back. Nothing could be more rewarding than a life of service, I think. It's one of the few – perhaps the only way to escape the prison of ego within which we all struggle.

  2. Well said! I have generally been a self centered individual for the greater portion of my life. However in the last few years I have opened my life to service opportunities. It feels so good on so many levels that it is better than anything I have ever done. I have met Alan and he is an incredibly energetic man that gives at ever stop in his life. I am grateful for people like him that do. Thanks for the great post!

  3. Mike – man, that was a huge transition. Having been in software myself, I can really relate. Well done.

  4. Service is the core principle of my life. I built my career choices around it, and I feel it's the biggest secret to living a more fulfilled, satisfying life. I wish more people would re-discover this simple ancient path to happiness. Thanks for being part of that re-discovery.

  5. Your Section Hiker is a service to many of us.

  6. Whoeevr edits and publishes these articles really knows what they're doing.

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