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!

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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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