The Power of Serving
Sometimes the most powerful thing is something we hardly ever think of as powerful. For example, love is powerful. Passion is powerful. Tradition is powerful. But we seldom think of any of these as powerful.
Serving is in that category—powerful but not usually thought of in that way. Serving has the power to give hope, to strengthen community, to help us live longer, and so forth. And yet the image of serving is anything but powerful—a server with a napkin draped over his arm waiting tables, a volunteer handing a sandwich to a homeless person, a grandmotherly type mentoring a troubled teenager.
What is power?
How do you define power? Explosive? Destructive? Impressively strong? Overwhelming? Power is normally associated with strength. I am reminded of a Peanuts cartoon strip in which Schroeder is watching his favorite TV show when Lucy walks in and changes the channel to what she likes. Schroeder says to Lucy: “What makes you think you can walk in here and change things to suit yourself?” Lucy looks sternly at Schroeder and says holding up her open hand then making a fist: “These five fingers. Taken individually they aren’t much. But when I squeeze them together, they become a powerful force to be reckoned with.” Schroeder says meekly: “Okay.” In the final frame of the strip, Schroeder looks at his own hand and says: “Why can’t you guys work together like that?”
I define power as the ability to make things happen—for good or for bad. With this understanding of power, love, passion, and tradition can be thought of as powerful. Each of them makes things happen every day. Serving has that kind of power. Serving has the ability to make things happen, good things, positive things.
In prior blogs I talk about the ability of serving to give hope to people in need. When we serve, we send the strong message that we care and that stimulates hope, especially in people who are discouraged or despondent. I volunteer in a local benevolent agency that offers food and help with rent and utilities to people who have become unemployed or are disabled. As you might imagine, my favorite part of what I do is telling a client the agency will take care of their entire utility bill as it currently stands. Without fail, there is a huge “Thank You so much!” that comes instantly. And in that expression of gratitude is more than relief that their predicament of nearly having their electrical service shut off averted but also gratitude and joy that someone cares enough to help them. Honestly, knowing people in need have been reminded that someone cares about them is the most gratifying aspect of serving.
Serving is Atomic
In my new book Compassionaries: Unleash the Power of Serving (coming out later this year), I try to make a case for the power of serving by comparing it to atomic power. Until fairly recently, we did not know about the power of an atom to destroy entire cities or to generate electricity for an entire city. It was known that matter is made of atoms and then that atoms are composed of protons, electrons, and neurons—totally invisible to the human eye without a microscope. Nuclear fission happens when a neutron, travelling at just the right speed, is shot at an atom’s nucleus. The nucleus splits and energy is released. When a nucleus is split under the right conditions, some stray neutrons are also released, and these neutrons can split other atoms, and these additional split atoms can split other atoms creating a chain reaction. When a single atom is split, the energy produced is miniscule. But when the chain reaction of fission occurs in less than a second, an enormous amount of energy is produced—enough to destroy entire cities with an atomic bomb or enough to produce electricity for an entire city. We live in the age of nuclear energy and enjoy its benefits (as well as the apprehension that this power can be used for evil purposes). While the average person may not understand how it works, he nevertheless accepts the fact that nuclear energy is real and powerful.
Enough of the science lesson. The point is while an atom is invisible, it can be extremely powerful. The same is true for serving. As I say in Compassionaries:
Who can measure the value of human transformation or community transformation? Who can say what the ultimate impact will be when a small group of people decide to make serving part of their everyday lives so that it happens frequently and naturally? No one would have guessed that building one house for one family in Americus, Georgia would grow into an international organization changing the lives of thousands of people in need of housing, harnessing the efforts of millions of volunteers who work with Habitat for Humanity. No one could have predicted that a slight, unknown woman from Albania would influence generations of people to be more compassionate and to serve people in need as Mother Teresa did.
Jesus and Serving
Is this why Jesus was so emphatic that we are to serve others? Was he trying to get us to see the power of serving to bring about positive changes and give people help and hope? I, for one, believe that is part of the reason Jesus left no doubt about the priority and power of serving. I find it interesting that at the very time when several worldly powers—political, religious, military powers—were closing in on Jesus leading eventually to his arrest and execution, he demonstrated another power even greater than these—the power of serving. He wrapped himself with a towel, filled a basin with water, knelt before each of his disciples and did for them what a menial servant was expected to do—wash their feet.
Have you thought of serving others as exercising power, not over them, but for them? Have you ever considered that you have this power available to you . . . as much as anyone else? If you would like to change the world for the better, then know this: God has given you the power to do just that . . . by serving like Jesus served.
If you have lamented the loss of power of the church in recent years (and there is a boatload of evidence to that effect), what does this blog say to you about the not-so-apparent strength of your congregation to exert yourselves in your community? Let us at Operation Inasmuch help you marshal your God-given power to make a difference in your community.