Ever felt like that before?? This was the cry of my oldest step daughter Charlie, one hot summer day when she was 6 years old because her younger sister, Tatum, (at that time not yet 5), had just pushed her over the metaphorical edge. The two of them, while similar in some ways, like most sisters, were very different in others. At this time, one of the ways they were different was in how they would express their anger. With Tatum, (who had short curly golden brown locks of hair with hazel green eyes), you NEVER had to wonder if she was upset, she had NO problem making it known! However Charlie, (who had very long blonde hair and bright blue eyes), was another story. She was very quiet and when she was angry she would usually go off alone somewhere and mumble to herself.
One day I came out into their room to find Tatum sitting on the floor playing with her toys and watching TV, but I didn’t see Charlie. When I asked where her sister was, Tatum simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “She’s somewhere”. I walked past her and there on the other side of the sofa sat little Charlie, fists clinched and mumbling to herself. I said, “Charlie, are you OK?” With that, she looked up at me, face pink and eyes bloodshot from crying and shook her head vigorously indicating a very clear, “NO!” I picked her up and took her in the living room with me, turned her around on my lap so that we were “eyeball to eyeball” and said, “Charlie, I can see that you are very upset. Why don’t you just let it out and tell me what’s wrong?” She initially shook her head no, but with a bit of prodding she stared me dead in the eye, her face having become beat red, with tears pooled at the base of her eyes, arms extended from her sides, fists tightly clinched and exclaimed, “I GIVE AND I GIVE…AND SHE TAKES AND SHE TAKES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” And with that…she collapsed against my chest and began sobbing. After a bit of hugging, head rubbing, rocking and kisses, with the reassurance that everything would be OK, she began to calm down.
It was funny though, because shortly after the melt down, I found Charlie and Tatum in their room playing as if nothing had happened at all…Charlie happy with being the big sister and Tatum happily being the little one.
Have you ever been involved with an activity, whether that be at your job; something you do to be helpful to family, a friend or a neighbor; maybe even a routine that you do at home…and while it is something that as a rule causes you to feel good, on occasion, you actually find yourself resentful of it? I certainly have!
I can go to the same job everyday, with the same people and overall doing the same work. On most days everything will be really good, I’ll feel happy to be there, enjoy my co-workers, be excited about my work and feel pretty optimistic about what’s happening. But then there are those days, where I can come to work and suddenly my work load will seem impossible. Getting something done will seem to be an uphill battle and I find that I can’t figure out the people I’m working with or what their problem is and will sometimes even, (taking on the spirit of Eeyore), think to myself, “It’s all bad!”
I’ve had this happen in other ways to. For instance, at home I have certain responsibilities which are no big deal – yet sometimes there will be days where I will find myself thinking, “This is too much!”
Perhaps it can happen with other obligations that “I” accept and normally really enjoy and desire to do…yet there will be those days where suddenly I will feel the part of the victim, feeling unappreciated and thinking to myself – “Am I the only one who is going to get this done?!” Over the years I’ve shared these rather embarrassing moments with others and they have shared theirs with me and of course everyone always gets a good laugh from it.
So I began to question and look more closely at: “Why does this happen?”~ And this is what I found: There is a very thin line between “Being of service” and “Providing a service”. So what’s the difference? Well, I’ve found that for one thing, it is purely a state of mind. When I am in the state of mind that I am providing a service, I will have expectations attached to whatever it is I’m doing. A price tag if you will, of what I am “expecting” in return. For example, let’s say I let someone into traffic…I will expect to get a little “thank you wave” or perhaps I’m doing volunteer work…I might expect to “select my area of work.” I’ll know if I was in that providing a service frame of mind, because when they don’t wave back or when I am given specific guidelines to follow in my volunteer work…I’m going to feel somewhat offended.
Now on the other hand, when I’m in a state of mind to just be of service there are no expectations. I have found that when I am in that state of mind, I am just grateful for the opportunity to have what I have and to do what I do. I’m not going to be looking for a wave from the guy that I let out in front of me; I not going to feel offended when I’m given guidelines for a volunteer service; I’m not going to feel like work at home or at my job is “too much”; I’m going to be grateful to have a car, to have the ability to do volunteer work, to have a home and to just have a job!
I have found in my personal life that being of service is crucial to happiness, contentment and balance. Working in addiction treatment, I’ve been asked many times by people in the recovery community, “How can you be of service at work because you get a paycheck?” – And my answer to them has been this: When I am focusing on providing a service I will look at only doing what is “my job” and only as much as is “required or expected of me”. However, when I’m in the frame of mind to be of service, I see that I have this one day to accomplish as much as possible and see what God wants me to do. I find myself then filled with anticipation more than dread, with peace more than discomfort and with joy more than aggravation. Striving to utilize this principle in my work life has allowed me, (25 years later), to have the same amount of joy and enthusiasm in my work as I did the day I began.
Indeed, it is a principle that is rooted in wilful discipline, as human nature is not to “be of service” in the various areas of our life. Even though we may do it on the outside, on the inside, this is often not how we feel. But in making a conscious effort to be mindful of the switch from “providing to being”, it can completely change our circumstances and our level of well being. For me there are moments where I can not seem to muster within myself the ability to make this switch, yet find that with a simple whispered request to my God – this change is easily transcended and my stress is replaced with calm.
Rebecca Balko © 2009-2014