Service. Think about that word, what it means. There is a reason we use the word “service” so often in connection with the armed forces. In honor of Memorial Day, I wanted to take some time to unpack the idea of service and what it means to me as a veteran and as a person.
The Meaning of Service
“Service”, by definition, means doing something for others. People thank us for that. Military service is so honored because it can extract such a high price from those who serve. However, outside the armed forces are many people currently serving others in many, many ways. These people also make sacrifices, large and small. The military taught me much about this. Thinking about it can help us all to have a better understanding of the service mentality – what it means to serve others.
When people thank me for my service, I say “I’m grateful to have served.” I learned and gained a lot from my time in the military. But, as I’ve gotten older, the one lesson that has stayed with me is a deeper understanding of service to others. For this lesson, I am most grateful. I serve now in other ways, as a manager for ABT’s User Research team, as a Zen chaplain at NCSU, and as a dad. The roles are vastly different, from protection to nurturing. However, the principles that go along with service—focus on needs of others, teamwork, dedication, and even some sacrifice—remain the same.
Find Your Path to Service
In all cases where I have served, then and now, I’m honored and grateful to have spent my time doing something important for others. Service to others brings additional depth and meaning to life. Therefore, a life without service is a diminished one. That in mind, I urge you and everyone else to meditate on this idea: as you grow and find your path, find some way to serve others.
Finding your path to service doesn’t necessarily mean enlisting. In my career at ABT, I’ve been gratified to work alongside our partners in government and education. I find their dedication to improving the lives of everyday citizens and promoting knowledge among students, to be deeply inspiring. Choosing a career that works in these critical areas of the community is a noble way to serve others with your professional energy.
Perhaps you have already found the career you want. Your path to service might involve volunteering for a cause that matters to you. At ABT, my colleagues volunteer their time and energy to raise money for cancer research, local theatre and performance companies, children with special needs, and even animals who need care or loving homes.
Ask yourself what cause lights you up and inspires you to want to help. That will start you on the path to truly understanding the meaning of service for your own life. I hope you will continue your journey towards helping others on Memorial Day and every day thereafter.