Wow!  What a journey this book has been!  Three weeks to finish 243 pages!  Crazy!  What I have learned about myself and about being of service has been amazing.

Chapter 6: The Way of Social Action

I have never been a big social activist.  I have participated in a few peace rallies and a few same-sex marriage rallies, but that is about it.  What I have observed from others and from my own point of view on Social Action or Political Stands is that there always seems to be alot of passion for both sides, and sometimes those passions manifest in angry demonstrations, when in reality each side just wants to be heard and wants the world to be a better place.

This is a great quote: “There’s one thing I’ve learned in twenty-five years or so of political organizing:  People don’t like to be “should” upon.  They’d rather discover than be told.”

I think when we get really passionate about something, we yell and scream louder and louder at the people on the other side of the fence.  “If you would just think the way *I* think, we could make this world a better place!”  I can tell you, as an adult that was raised by very conservative Christian parents, being TOLD what I SHOULD believe and that what I DO believe is wrong, never helps my parents’ cause :).  So I’m certain, this kind of “yelling” over the fence doesn’t help the cause (whatever it is) either.  People tend to run the other way.

This passion that we feel that manifests in anger or a “negative” feeling may “prevent us from calling upon deeper human virtues that often move us all to act.  In anger we may lose sight of love.  In fear, we may sacrifice trust and courage.  In guilt, we may deny self-worth and obstruct inspiration.”  Is that what we really want?  Is that how true change happens?

Social action really isn’t about WHAT we do but in the spirit in which we act.  “Even the slightest bit of self-righteousness can get in the way.”  Our aim should be “to awaken together and see what follows, not to manipulate one another into this action or that.”

So how do we do this?  Long before I read this book…actually 10 years ago, while I was in storytelling school, I had a realization (all on my own).  If we all sat down and shared our stories, we would find out that we are not so different than the person sitting next to us.  We would find out that we all want the same general things…love, peace, acceptance, forgiveness….  I believed that storytelling would/could end prejudice and war.  In this same thought, sitting down and sharing our stories with one another can help us enter into Social Action with a clearer sense of what needs to be done and HOW to do it in a peaceful for effective way.

During this entire book, we have discussed the idea of separateness and unity. If we act from Unity, we will be able to provide better service.  “We’re here to awaken from the illusion of separateness……Unity has to be what’s most real in consciousness if it’s going to have full power in action.  Ultimately, it’s got to be what we ‘are’.”

This quote fills my cup to overflowing:  “The soul force is indestructible and it goes on gaining power until it transforms everyone it touches.” ~ Gandhi

Chapter 7: Burnout

I have certainly felt the burnout form all of my volunteer work.  By the time the Girl Scout year comes to an end, I am exhausted.  When this current Junior League year began, I was already feeling exhausted and was looking forward to the end of the year when I can take a year off of leadership.  Don’t even get me started on the way I felt after hosting a women’s retreat for women living with HIV/AIDS.  BURNOUT!

Okay, you don’t even have to be a community service person or have a full-time job to feel this burnout.  As a mom, you know all too well what Burnout feels like.  Moms are on call 24×7….unless by some grace of god we get to “get away” for a day or a weekend without our kids (and even then we are worried and thinking about them).  BURNOUT!

So what’s the first thing we need to learn as service providers?  BE GENTLE WITH OURSELVES!  We can’t take care of other people, if we aren’t taking care of ourselves first.  We are compassionate for others, but what about us?  So how do we do this?

Be quiet and listen.  Simply observe (never judge) how we are feeling.  Once we can be quiet and observe what we are feeling, we might actually realize that sometimes our burnout is caused because of the expectations we carry into a certain service project….our movites that we bring with us.  If those expectations are not met or our motives are self-driven, we will have a tendency to feel “slighted” or maybe like we “wasted our time”, and this leads to a feeling of burnout.  Our own Ego gets us in trouble every single time.  Until we are quiet and listen, we may not even realize how often, in the guise of service, we try to impose our values on others.  Being the person that “should upons” takes alot of our energy..really it does.

“But if we can stay grounded in the essential unjudging character of the Witness….if we can just hold on and listen…we can draw some useful conclusions and move further towards a great sense of perspective.” (and service)

Here is a great quote for all of us “sacrificial moms”….Looking further into what we bring to the  helping act, we come upon perhaps an even more fundamental cause of burnout:  the feeling of personal responsibility; the sense that we are the authors of our actions; our identification of ourselves as the final source of service. We are the “doer” and we have to keep “doing” or nothing will get “done.”      Boy have I felt like this before!  Heck, I have even stated it in a very exasperated tone of voice, “Unless I clean the house, no one else will do it!”  And I angrily go about throwing things around and cleaning the house.  Have you been there?  Well I have news for you (and for me), it’s okay.  If the house gets messy, it’s okay.  Simply take a deep breath and ASK FOR HELP!  We don’t have to be the “be all and end all” for our family.  As a matter of fact, they don’t want us to be; we just have to give them the opportunity to help :).  How freeing is that?

“It’s not always our efforts that burn us out; it’s where the mind is standing in relation to them.  the problem is not the work itself but the degree of our indentification with it.  It’s doers who burn out.”

Another reason we feel burnout?  Attachment to the outcome.  I know I have felt this way and have asked this question of myself.  “How do I know I am really making a difference?”  ‘How do I know that what I say is really helping these girls?”  Or better yet, as a mom, I have said, “What the heck did I do wrong, for my child to have made such a bad choice?”  All this worry, when all we really need to do is act from a space of love.  Provide the service, and let it go.  We can not control the actions of others and the choices that they make.  We can kids the right information.  We can give the homeless person on the street some money.  We can volunteer for an organization.  But in the end, what happens beyond that, is not up to us.  The minute we can let go of that attachment, we will feel light and free and be able to give more of ourselves.  It’s unconditional love at its finest :).  “We love eachother.  That’s enough.”

“To some degree or other, we have surrendered into service and are willing to pay the price of compassion.  But with it comes the joy of a single, caring act.  With it comes the honor of participating in a generous process in which one rises each day and does what one can.  With it comes the simple, singular grace of being an instrument of Love, in whatever form, to whatever end.”

Chapter 8:  Reprise:  Walking Each Other Home

Service is….beauty…remembering…gratitude..truth & honesty..chitchat..death (you die in service and you die into service)

“We are questions for one another.  And service is exploring them and awakening through them.”

“So service is ‘an endless series of questions,’ puzzling and insistent.  It not only raises questions, it helps to answer them.  Service is a curriculum.”

“Separateness and unity.  How interesting that these root causes, revealed in the experience of helping, turn out to be what most spiritual traditions define as the fundamental issue of life itself.  Awakening from our sense of separateness is what we are called to do in all things, not merely in service.  Whether these traditions speak of us as being cut off from God, Nature, Original Mind, True Being, the Tao, the Dharma–they call on us, in one voice, to undertake the journey back to unity.”

“Service, from this perspective, is part of that journey…..It is a vehicle through which we reach deeper understanding of life.”

I can honestly say that I have learned more about myself, my connection to God and humanity, and what is truly important to me through being of service.  It has truly been an awakening, and that feeling of unity while being of service is like none other.  I love this journey, and it is one I strive to instill into my own children.  It has been said in this book that first we work on ourselves in order to help others and then when we help others, it is a vehicle for working on ourselves.  It’s a beautiful thought..and oh so true.

I will end this blog with this thought:

This book is titled “How Can I Help?” and it starts of by saying we might feel like we don’t have anything to offer the world.  Yet it ends with this….

“Any act that can be performed in the spirit of unity can turn out to be helpful.”  “There’s no place special we have to be in order to help out.  right where we are, in whatever we’re already doing, the opportunity to be of service is almost always present.  We need only stay conscious and aware, and then gie whatever we can to whoever is right there.”

It’s that simple.