Did you know that in the Concordance of my Bible, there are 20 entrances under the headings “servant/service/serve.”
The T’ao te Ch’ing has been described as a “strategic treatise on servant leadership.” And in one translation of the Koran, the word “servant” appears 128 times.
Service is such a central tenet of so many great religions and philosophies that it’s somewhat astonishing how little emphasis we put on it our culture.
Notwithstanding the universal respect our military and police garner, the idea that a gifted student or charismatic young person should seek to put themselves into a position of service is practically anathema in this day and age.
Sure, we call many people “public servants,” but how many of them actually serve anything other than their own re-election bids? “Ask not what your country can do for you” has, in 50 short years, become “ask how much your country can take away from someone else in order to give it to others.”
We’ve all gotten used to hearing the voices of our public servants during the build up to an election, when they all need more money to buy advertising, but how many of us ever have one of our elected come down the block just to see how they can help or what needs to be done?
Indeed, it’s so bad that the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives felt compelled a few months back to publicly complain that some of her staff had to take paycuts.
This one elected official was complaining that some of the 18 taxpayer-paid staffers in her office — some of whom make six-figure salaries — were no longer making enough to buy lunch in the Capitol cafeteria.
Got that, all of you hard-working commoners who take a brown bag lunch to work every day? Some staffers of a Congress-critter can’t afford to buy lunch every day.
Now, aren’t you ashamed of yourself for not wanting to send more tax money to Washington, D.C.?
The political class long ago forgot that they are supposed to be serving the people — they’ve become an aristocracy unto themselves, completely isolated from the difficulties of most peoples’ daily lives.
It’s no wonder that one wit quipped “Washington is 60 square miles surrounded by reality.”
With our “leaders” treating their service with such contempt, is it any wonder that service has fallen out of the lexicon of virtues in the rest of the country?
But we shouldn’t make the mistake of confining the idea of service to those who get paid to serve, for good or for ill.
There is such value in having a “servant’s heart,” whether in uniform or not, that every organization lives and dies by the little acts of individuals that go unnoticed, unheralded and unrewarded.
Whether it’s the guy who gets to the office 5 minutes early every morning to start the coffee, or the woman who gives up 10 minutes of lunch to straighten up the copy room, or the kid up the street who gets up 15 minutes early to make sure that the elderly couple’s sidewalk is shoveled after a snowstorm, serving others — just because — may be the most truly powerful act anybody can do.
So, this week, try something: ask yourself “what can I do today to make somebody else’s day better?” You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!
Michael Alcorn is a music teacher and fitness instructor who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. He graduated from Alameda High School and the University of Colorado-Boulder.