Insights From Being of Service to Others

I met Scaughdt at an annual event called “Ride Idaho.” It’s a weeklong group road bike ride with about 300 participants. On my initial ride in 2008, Scaughdt was a volunteer who stood out from the crowd. His attitude was always positive and he seemed to be constantly happy––genuinely happy. On the third day of the trip, I approached him and asked if he had time to tell me his story. The next day, we sat down for a chat that changed my life.

He explained that he has devoted his life to helping other people and that those actions allow him to cultivate an inner peace that bursts through his outer self. “I go to where I am called and provide service to anyone who asks,” he said. “If there is no pressing need, I find someone to help. There is always a way to serve others.”

His upbeat attitude gave me the motivation to experiment with some local volunteer activities. Over the past five years, I am now able to see how volunteering helps the community and it’s good for me too! I would like to share a few stories for the past week.

A dear friend asked me for a favor. On a weekly basis, she drives her friend to the YMCA where he takes a special class to improve his balance. She is traveling for a few weeks wanted me to fill in as the local chauffeur. His loss of equilibrium is a direct result of the chemo course that keeps him alive. According to his doctors, brain cancer should have taken him to his Maker four years ago.

I arrived at his home at 12:15 last Tuesday. The drive to the Y is only about 15 minutes, so our initial bonding time was limited. My first impression was very impressive. He immediately expressed gratitude for my time and the fact that he has time. The fall colors became another topic of discussion and his admiration for nature was contagious. I gave him a copy of A Million Steps and he told me I was spoiling him.

I went for coffee and a ginger cookie while he did his thing at the YMCA. On the ride home, he told me a bit more about how he refuses to complain and feels lucky to be here every day. While we are new acquaintances, he did confide that his biggest fear is the thought of leaving his wife alone to raise their three girls. Humility is a trait that needs more time in my life.

On Saturday, another friend needed helping hands at a local women’s shelter. A few times per year, he arranges for a crew to prepare a special meal for the homeless ladies. The first shift did prep work, the second cooked, and the third served the meal. I combined cooking and serving into one three hour opportunity.

The center has three distinct operations. There is a long term drug and rehab operation that provides semi-private rooms to the patients. In the same building there are limited number of rooms for homeless women that have children. A block down the street, a third facility serves as one large sleeping room for homeless women without children. They sleep nose to toes on an array of 50 twin beds. If they are not being treated for addiction, the rules force them back to the street from 8:00 AM until 4 PM. No matter their need, they all dine together.

I chopped yellow zucchini, mashed potatoes, laced them with an inordinate amount of butter, sliced roast beef, and served apple pie with ice cream from a three tiered cart. During a little down time, I sat down and spoke with two of the residents. Again, gratitude was the operative word. They were extremely thankful to have a roof and a crummy mattress. Can you imagine being grateful for such a basic necessity?

In my eyes, the meal was quite basic and not really worthy of accolades. From the palates of the residents, it was like we had prepared a five star meal for Christmas. One lady actually had tears when I asked if she enjoyed the meal. When was the last time you cried over dry roast beef and super fatty mashed potatoes? Just like my time in Spain, these type of encounters allow me to see the world through a different prism.

Today, I had another chance to take my new friend to the YMCA. While he mastered balance, I took my laptop to the local java joint and wrote this post while enjoying a vanilla latte with a gigantic snicker doodle. On the drive home, he casually mentioned that he is losing his vision in one eye, but is really thankful to have a spare.

If you have interest in the mutual benefits of volunteering, give it a whirl…….