Service with Joy, not Martyrdom

“When you choose to serve — whether it’s your nation, your community or simply your neighborhood — you are connected to that fundamental American ideal that we want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not just for ourselves, but for all Americans. That’s why it’s called the American dream.” Barack Obama, as cited by Craig Newmark on the Huffington Post

Yesterday’s post, “No More Martyrs,” really touched some nerves.

Martyrdom provides so many goodies, like being able to push our own agenda in the guise of helpfulness, riding the quick high of “Ain’t I wonderful?” or avoiding a personal challenge.

It’s fess-up time. When I started this blog, I committed to one post a day. That came mostly out of feeling called to host a dialogue about the no.1 thing on most people’s minds today (including my own) from a perspective of practicality, spirituality, and emotions. I wanted to create the best of my mother’s and our neighbor Billie Smith’s over-the-fence daily sharing of concerns, joys, jokes, tips, resources, blessings and stuff I was not allowed to hear.

Unfortunately, my best creative calls can become burdened with pride and a feeling that nothing I do is good enough. Thus, for two days last week I let heavy client burdens and time-consuming holiday events keep me from fulfilling my own promise to play in this blog about money every day. For another day, I focused on the fact that nobody seemed to notice the missing posts, so why bother?

Then church happened, which at Unity of Berkeley is always a creative, rousing affair. That’s where I got deeply in touch with the roots of my rage the night before at the “everything will fall apart if you don’t take care of it” notion that’s so pervasive in the perennial Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And that’s where I took part in one of the most joyous service projects of my life.

Throughout the worship service, many of us had hugged teddy bears tagged with the name of the child to whom they will go next week. With the hugs went prayers and blessings.

Unity of Berkeley has had a tradition of adopting a family or two, at Christmas, providing them with some necessities and dreams. This year we also adopted a homeless shelter, so for the last month people have brought in necessities like soap, toothbrushes and washcloths. After church, big tables filled the vestibule for a party of sorting and wrapping.

Like any great service party, this one was filled with true good will and lots of laughter. No one knew who had actually paid for things or who was just there for the fun. And as one person who I know is going through financial hard times put it, “giving to others helps me get out of despair and into hope.”

My job was the most fun. We had decided to give about 85 women in another homeless shelter the spirit-lifting gift of jewelry. One member had donated almost that many necklaces she and her mom had made. Many of the women in the community had donated piles of good stuff from their own jewelry boxes, and another brought in piles of beautiful gift bags. On Christmas day, each of the women at that shelter will get a bag with 3-4 fun treasures.

As we wrapped, ideas popped for how to have great fun for the holidays and be in financial reality. A re-gifting party where we each bring wonderful things that we are ready to let go with a blessing, and people just take what they wish for themselves or a for another, then give the rest to charity. A joint viewing of PBS’ Nutcracker ballet with a potluck beforehand. And more, of course.

Is there anything richer than community?

Just after I posted the “No More Martyrs” bit, the daily Huffington Post announcement alerted me to a wonderful post by Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist. He felt humbled, he wrote, that Barack Obama’s platform included a reference to a “Craigslist for service. However, Newmark said he’d prefer to see that as “only a metaphorical reference to the need for greater service to others, with the spirit and culture of trust of craigslist.” He then offered some great ideas and resources.

So, back to a daily practice of paying attention to how I earn, spend, invest and share money from a perspective of spirituality, emotions, and practicality.I hope you’ll join me and come back real soon with your thoughts and inspiration.

May all the work you do to be in financial reality be joyous, even when the way is hard. As the great master of service, Albert Schweitzer, once said,”there are two antidotes for the misery of life: music and cats.” I bet you can think of some more.

Pat McHenry Sullivan

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1 Comment on “Service with Joy, not Martyrdom

  1. Hi Pat,
    I missed your blogs on the days you did not have the time to write. You have certainly struck a chord with me and I appreciate your thoughts. Don’t be so hard on yourself about not writing every day. You are forgiven, although there really is nothing to forgive! It is much better to do what you can when you can and not kill yourself trying to do everything all the time. Writing takes time and inspiration and how can one be inspired to write every day in the shuffle of every day life? I notice people tend to be too self critical, too hard on them selves, especially during the dark days of winter. It would do more good to let things go more often knowing that it is the best move for you on any given day. I planned to do a little baking every day this week, but instead have been battling ants that have invaded my house, every day. So, I let the baking go until the ants get the hint. Thank you, Pat, for this inspiring effort! More another day! -kp