Service is a 24:7 Lifestyle

by Paula Pant on · 4 comments

When I was in high school, I took part in a zillion organized community service events. I served as the school's Habitat for Humanity vice-chair. I led a fundraising campaign for Adoption Option. I swept litter off the streets in low-income neighborhoods. I went on summer volunteer trips to rural Appalachia and rural Pennsylvania.

But I never felt like I was producing something meaningful. Sure, I'd pick up litter, but the next day there would be more. I'd pound nails into a house, but the underlying factors that caused a family to rely on charity were still present. I wanted to create sustainable change, the kind of change that persists independent of my time and effort.

In college I joined a group that studied the feasibility of powering my university with renewable energy. Through that project, I learned two things: First, for change to be sustainable, it MUST be economically efficient. Money drives decision-making. Second, the average person has never been taught about how to control his or her own financial destiny. Fewer people would fall on hard times and be forced to ask for help if they harnessed the power of savings and investments during the good times.

Today I teach people how to take control of their money. I write about financial planning, budgeting, investing and growing wealth.

The cynical see this as the pursuit of greed. "Money's not important," they say. Au contraire. Money is the only thing that separates the middle-class from the impoverished. And who wants to set themselves and their children on a path to poverty?

On the contrary, every time I get an email from a reader that says, "you've inspired me to max out my IRA," "you've helped me pay off my debt," or "you've taught me how to create a stream of passive income," I feel like I've made a sustainable change.

It's not service in the traditional sense of the word. I'm no longer taking mission trips to Appalachia. But service isn't confined to such a narrow definition. Anything you can do to help someone help themselves – whether its offering advice, guidance, education, mentoring, or even a smile – is a form of service.

In my view, service is also how you respond to the outside world. Turning the other cheek when someone wrongs you is a type of service. Being the bigger, more noble person is a form of service.

When I was young, I thought service was something you did on Sunday. Now I see that it's a 24/7 way of life.

by Paula Pant

Thanks to wise money managing, Paula Pant has traveled to 27 countries, purchased a 99-year-old Victorian home near central Atlanta’s most beautiful park, and has never — ever — had a penny in debt. Her blog, Afford Anything, is based on one radical idea: money should never hinder your dreams.
Paula Pant
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Edgar August 18, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I like what you say about service being possible in every moment of our lives — a lot of the service we can do, in my experience, just stems from how relaxed and comfortable we can be with ourselves, and how playful we feel, as we walk through the world, which I think invites and helps others to relax and let go of stress as well.
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Kata August 22, 2012 at 3:37 am

Beautiful and inspirational words, I really love your text! I wish it would motivate some lazy people to take some action and do some community work, like you. It feels really good to help other people, it doesn’t depend on the intensity or amount of the job. Small things can put a smile on poor people’s faces as well, and that’s why it is so good!
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Joshua Tilghman August 22, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Sometimes it is very hard to find something to contribute to or give our service to that is lasting, or so we think. I have found that the smallest acts of service and kindness seem to have a permanent impact that is only noticed a long way down the road. Great post here!
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Terie August 30, 2012 at 8:42 am

Drive that nail home Lance!! I often have conversations with myself about this topic. About how we sometimes treat others better than those closest to us. Sometimes I just try to treat my husband and grown kids as if they were friends I met for coffee—so sad but it’s my way of turning things around when I feel I’m getting too comfortable. Something to work on. As always love everything about this blog and now I’m back in the states so reading and writing will, once again, be a part of my daily routine. Yay for high speed internet!!
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