To Serve, To Strive, and Not To Yield

Angela - Claymont
Entered on February 10, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

To Serve, To Strive, and Not To Yield

I believe in the redemptive power of service — not necessarily the kind of service that is solicited, paid for, or even organized. Rather, the type of service I believe to be most empowering is that which is spontaneous, offered simply because a need is apparent, performed with absolutely no thought of what might be gained by providing it.

Whether one stoops to pick up a piece of trash on the street, or pauses to hold open a door for the person coming up more than a few steps behind, or stops to allow entry to the driver attempting to turn into heavy traffic — the resulting benefit for the service provider is at once tremendous and at the same time almost imperceptible, often nothing more than a momentary feeling of lightness, marking a contribution made to the goodness of humanity.

I believe that we too often discount the tiny, seemingly inconsequential acts of service upon which our humanity is nurtured, in favor of the grand gestures, the large contributions, the national or international efforts. To my way of thinking, that is like ignoring the power within the atom, while only acknowledging the terrible forces unleashed by the atom bomb.

As a college student some 30 years ago, I ventured into the southern Appalachians to spend a winter session at the North Carolina Outward Bound School. It was a fabulous experience, filled with the physical, mental, and emotional challenges that one would expect to encounter living in the mid-winter mountain wilderness. I remember returning to the relative comforts of my college campus filled with stories of new trails blazed, hardships endured, triumphs achieved, services projects performed. While some of the colorful details have faded from memory over the years, the one thing that has always stuck with me is the school’s motto: To Serve, To Strive, and Not To Yield.

I believe that each of us can serve humanity every day, just by meeting even the simplest needs right in front of us, and by not yielding to follow the easier route marked “Let someone else do it.” I believe we should strive to be that someone else.

It is by these small, quiet, redemptive acts of service that we can slowly, steadily fill the coffers of goodness — arguably the only investments offering returns these days. Perhaps Mother Teresa said it best: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

Yes, I believe in the redemptive power of service. Try it; you will too.