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.