I am fortunate in so many ways. Sharing that good fortune with others is a high value for me. I want to be a force for good in the world. However, making the transformation to my authentic self has required me to reconsider my old ideas about service to others and to move into a healthier relationship with it. My old mode of operation was based on an ethic of self-sacrifice. I was conditioned to believe that if something was good for me it was likely selfish, if it was good for others it was worthy. I also had the idea that the more difficult the task was, the better was my service. Doesn’t that sound high-minded and wonderful?
I have to admit, it still does to me on some level. But then, I am a recovering martyr. Jennie has had to remind me, I don’t know how many times, that while service can be good, sacrifice is not. To quote her, “Get down from the cross, unbloodied!” Strong words. What does this mean? What I’m learning is that when I sacrifice myself while doing service for others what I bring to the effort is often not helpful, and sometimes it is even destructive. I’m not being authentic. I’m not ‘in power’. There is usually no joy and ease in the effort. Instead there is a sense of drudgery, feelings of resentment, and a desire to just get it done, already. As you might imagine this is not an attitude that tends to nurture positive results.
At the time of my first conversation with Jennie I was very active in my children’s school. I was serving as a Trustee, as Treasurer and as Fundraising Co-Chair. At one time these roles suited me and I them, but they had not for quite some time. I had stayed on, but become increasing frustrated and discouraged. At the same time I was also taking care of my mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, preparing for a major renovation of our home, and all the while keeping the home fires burning. Jennie dubbed my overfull plate my ‘rubble pile’ and started me down the path of cleaning it up, one rock at a time. My family continued to be my priority. The renovation, already committed to, went on as planned and then was done. I completed my commitments to the school and then stepped away.
Once I had, I realized what I really wanted to do for the school was help build and strengthen ties within the community. I started by bringing the school newsletter to life, and later helped create and launch the school’s full-blown website. These projects proved helpful to the school and in doing them I got to utilize my creative talents. This brought me much joy and satisfaction. Service, not sacrifice. It works