The present is all we know for sure and serving makes you feel a part of a greater whole.
Right now, the world is filled with fear.
The rhetoric by leaders meant to provide hope is unnerving, because the answers are not tried and true, and info is shaky at best.
Yet all the while, some people are losing their lives, while others are losing their loved ones. And there is no rhyme, reason or understanding of when or how to push through this. For many, especially the young, a global travesty such as this is unforeseen, leaving many unsure of what they are pushing through — or towards, and why.
This situation was unforeseen. The impact of the pandemic’s aftermath is beyond our imagination. And, how this is all going to shake out remains unforeseen as well.
So, what do we know?
We know that we have ourselves, and our loved ones. We have our spirits remaining. We have today. And in this knowing, what can we do?
Serving is about seeing beyond our own personal needs to help someone else. It takes sacrifice, selflessness and faith in a higher universal power to do this when you don’t perceive you have enough [blank] to sustain yourself.
However, serving others actually has the potential to give you even more. Serving others is an opportunity to create community. When you give to other people, even just a little bit while preserving what you have, your spirit is expanded and comforted in the knowledge that you are a part of a greater whole. This is servant leadership in action, and at its best.
Often times, I’ve found that in giving, I am blessed magnificently in return — at times when I didn’t even realize why I was being blessed so superfluously.
One such time was 2 years ago on July 7, 2018. It was the 7th birthday of my ex-boyfriend’s daughter, Danielle, whom I loved very much and had not seen in a year. Her father and I had broken up, and I’d never had the opportunity to part with her or her brother in a way that was respectful to our bond. So, that morning of her birthday, I knew I absolutely could not call her, but instead would dedicate my walk to her. I was thinking of her and hoped she was ok and knew she was loved by me somehow.
On that teary-eyed morning walk in my Harlem neighborhood, at the corner of 150th & St. Nicholas, I encountered a beautiful little girl who was about Danielle’s age holding hands with her father walking down the street. Upon seeing the daughter/father pair, I said hello and engaged her in conversation as I do with almost every little girl I meet. I recall being struck by her sweet energy and telling her to continue being a sweet little girl. And the little girl, whose name was Wanyea, said she had something for me. Who me?!!! I was a stranger whom she’d just met on the street. She gave me one of her flowers from her handheld and handmade bouquet, and said “this flower is for you.” I asked her father if it was ok for me to accept and graciously accepted it. I cried the entire walk home. Sigh. Once home, I preserved the flower with tape and added her name and the date on a note on my fridge — see below (that I even brought with me from NYC to NOLA mind you). How her random act of giving from her precious bouquet lifted my spirits and affirmed that my Danielle was with me in spirit, Wanyea will never know.
In another act of serving, giving and selflessness, a little girl named Belle, whom lives in my New Orleans neighborhood gave me another gift for my heart. One day, while sitting on the porch when Belle and her 4 brothers, mom and dad passed my home on their evening walk during the corona pandemic, I complimented her with a call out of “oooh, weee. i love your orange shorts.” Her parents laughed. And she sheepishly smiled, said “thank you” and continued on her way.
The next day, I returned home after a VERY long day of work (sigh) to a box of Thanks-A-Lot Girl Scout Cookies on my doorstep. My heart leaped. Could this be from the little girl with the orange shorts??? Lord, knows I do NOT need any cookies. But, I was appreciative of a gift in my new city, during a pandemic no less, through a little girl. I sent a text to my next-door neighbors asking if they were the cookie culprits — hopeful they were not (but they did leave Mardi Gras King Cake for me so it was possible) — they said no. It was closer to the little girl being the givette.
When I returned home the next day, I came home and my next-door neighbors said, we found this note on the side of the house, and think it was with the cookies but just blew away (see below). My heart melted. They told me which house the little girl and her family lived in (I’d only lived in New Orleans for 2 months and barely had basics let alone know my neighbors). I approached the mother of the family, Lori who was unpacking groceries from her trunk and asked if indeed the cookies were from her daughter. She said yes. That her daughter had a few unsold cookies and wanted to gift select neighbors and I made the cut. Belle came outside and I thanked her so sincerely and explained that I loved Girl Scouts (and had a troop in Newark, NJ). Belle’s unwarranted act of kindness gave me a sense of comfort and love I could not have created myself, and could never have paid for either.
The point of sharing these stories is to illustrate that giving and serving doesn’t have to cost a thing. It can be spirit to spirit. And sometimes, it’s even more rich and impactful when from meager or precious resources.
So, as we are all suffering and struggling right now, think of who you can love, who you can serve and who you can give to, because people indeed make the world go ‘round. If all you have to give is your love or time, you are wealthy and may brighten someone’s day beyond your own imagination.
Whose day can you brighten through giving and serving, today?
Olivia F. Scott, Creator, Consultant, Professor
Freedom at the Mat, Omerge Alliances, New York University