Quite Possibly the Most Fun Service Project Ever

by Jason Kotecki on · 12 comments

College students sometimes give up their spring break to go on a service trip.

Boy scouts have to collect service hours to earn certain types of badges.

Lawbreakers must log a set number of community service hours in order to pay their debt to society.

Every year, thousands of brave men and women enlist in the military to serve their country.

According to Muhammad Ali, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

Service is super important. The dictionary defines it as “an act of helpful activity.” But it seems that people have certain pre-conceived notions of what service looks like. Staffing soup kitchens, building homes for the poor, and raking leaves for an elderly widow are common mental snapshots. Sacrifice is a key element of how we think about service. Although serving others makes us feel good, "fun" is not usually a benefit that comes to mind.

But isn’t making someone smile or laugh also an act of helpful activity?

How about creating a memory for someone that they’ll remember ten years from now?

A few years back, on one of those early spring days when the sun is out and the thermometer rises ten degrees above freezing for the first time, I surprised my wife and best friend by kidnapping them. I blindfolded them, carefully guided them down the steps of our apartment building, and ordered Happy Meals from the drive-thru at McDonald’s, before settling at the zoo for an outdoor lunch. We ate our cheeseburgers near the lion enclosure, where a few baby cubs were frolicking. (I did have a moment of panic at McDonald’s, where I wondered for the first time how the person at the window might feel about a man driving up with two blindfolded women sitting in the back seat. Apparently, judging by her lack of alarm, this sort of thing happens regularly. At least at McDonald’s.)

It was a fun day. And one that we still reminisce about from time to time.

At the end of our lives, when we are on our deathbed with our closest friends and family gathered around us, the conversation usually centers on the good memories, the funny moments, and the adventures we shared with our partners in crime. It seems to me that making more of these moments with the people we love is perhaps the greatest act of helpful activity there is.

In this busy world, it takes a fair bit of effort and planning and sacrifice to create a memory that someone will actually remember a whole decade later. Which is why memories like those are rare. Life is fast and time flies, and although we have good intentions, the years — and the opportunities to create these memories — pass by all too quickly.

The greatest way to leave a legacy is through your service to others. Your service project this week — if you choose to accept it — is to create a memory with someone you care about that will mean a lot ten years from now.

I'd love to hear how it goes.

P.S. This idea is one of the 40 challenges featured in The Escape Plan, a guide specifically designed to help you annihilate the Adultitis in your life. You can learn more about it here.

by Jason Kotecki

Jason Kotecki is an artist, author, and professional speaker. Jason and his wife Kim (a former kindergarten teacher) make it their mission in life to fight Adultitis and help people use strategies from childhood to design lives with less stress and more fun. Stop by www.KimandJason.com for more tips for escaping adulthood.
Jason Kotecki
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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly Sajonia August 13, 2012 at 7:51 pm

I loved your post this month!
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Jason of Kim & Jason August 14, 2012 at 1:33 am

Thanks Kelly!
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rob white August 14, 2012 at 9:21 am

Quite right Jason! Joyful success in our own lives comes from being in service to others. Joyful success does not come from putting your nose to the grindstone and unduly struggling, trying to pay your dues in service to old NO’s. This approach to succeeding in life can only support an attitude of WOE, which thwarts your best intentions every time.

Being in service is wonderful state of mind that creates enduring memories of joy. Getting what we want out of life is never a matter of putting our nose to the grindstone and unduly struggling.
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Jason of Kim & Jason August 14, 2012 at 11:13 am

I like your addition of the word “unduly.” Life is not without struggle, but unduly struggling is for the birds 🙂
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Audra Krell August 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Jason, great post and very inspiring idea! I met my husband when I was 15. We used to do stuff like this all the time for each other. It’s been quite awhile since we’ve done a “service project” for the other one, um maybe even decades. (We share an amazing marriage, I just need to bring this fun idea back!) Also, my son is leaving for his soph year at college this week, I need to make him a memory. Thank you!


Jason of Kim & Jason August 16, 2012 at 8:54 am

Sounds like an excellent plan, Audra! I like to consider myself a professional “reminder-er.” We ALL need to be reminded from time to time to do fun stuff with the people we love. Life gets so busy and its easy to lose track of time!
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Chris Edgar August 14, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Hi Jason — thinking about issues like this brings to mind how much I affect people with my own level of comfort with myself — the more relaxed I can be, in my experience, the more others feel free to relax in my presence, whether I know them or talk to them or not, and that itself can be a gift.
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Jason of Kim & Jason August 16, 2012 at 8:56 am

Chris, this kind of reminds me of a quote I heard recently by Amy Poehler: “No one looks stupid when they’re having fun.” Being relaxed, happy, or downright joyful is always a gift to friends and strangers. Thanks for sharing!
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Lili August 15, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Such a nice idea! This kind of taking action is the bet way I think! I bet you must have such a great time!
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Jason of Kim & Jason August 18, 2012 at 8:25 am

Thanks Lili — we sure do try!
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Amy Putkonen August 15, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Hi Jason,

That is a great idea. Not the happy meal part (for me), but the part about making a memory that will stick for ten years. Awesome!
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Jason of Kim & Jason August 16, 2012 at 8:57 am

Glad I could be of some service, Amy 🙂
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