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Thresholds

by Donna Bennett
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Being of Service: A Process of Diligence and Discernment

"Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks--we will also find our path of authentic service in the world."

Parker J. Palmer


Being of service brings to mind a volunteering of time and talents to help another, a cause, or a mission, while also contributing to a greater good. It's a noble and necessary way to serve and is highly regarded in our culture and society.

There are so many opportunities to serve as a volunteer that it's hard to choose the 'best' or 'right' way. Whatever we do, it brings both a good feeling and sometimes, a sense of guilt, as most of us want to do more. We lament, "There's so much to do, but never enough time!" Which often implies, "When I retire, then I'll have time!"

With all the good that comes with volunteering, it is natural to think of it as synonymous with retirement. It may feel like something we 'should' do. Service and volunteering are often seen as two sides of one coin, yet in reality, it is just one way to serve. Service is multifaceted. One can serve without pay, with pay, or a combination of the two. The key is to think of serving as a "want to." So much of adult life is based on what we "should" do or "have to" do. As you move toward and into retirement, how you serve can now be different. Especially if you have the luxury of choice.

Choosing how you want to serve is easier if you think of it as a process - one that includes thought, creativity, research, trial and error, self-exploration, and discovery. It is likely that you will find greater fulfillment in your work after work if you use an approach of both diligence and discernment. It may help to think of it as a personal project to give and receive good. Then proceed in a framework of choice. This time, what you do, and how you do it will be up to YOU.

Not to suggest that you make such decisions in a vacuum. Those who are impacted by your choices must be included. Rather, it means applying diligence and discernment. Ask and answer the questions that pop up. For example, will you need to be paid? If so, how much? How do you want to spend your days? What will you need to feel fulfilled? Who can benefit from your service? What do you want to learn, and how will you apply what you learn?

Weigh all the factors - health, relationships, leisure, work, learning, financial, growth, fulfillment - and serve in the ways that make sense for YOUR life.

Whether you serve for pay, without pay, or a combination, a process of diligence and discernment lends itself to a full circle of giving and receiving for the good of all involved.

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