This question — what does it mean to serve — has been nagging me for the past several months. I turn on the news and hear about acts of selfishness and destruction. Our leaders and role models engage in heated debates about body positions on a football field. I look at my children and wonder what kind of world they are growing up in.
What does it mean to serve?
The word conjures images of soldiers in uniform, headed off to battle. I think there is more to it than that. Service is not about fighting for a cause. What calls someone to leave their loved ones – their parents, their spouse, their children – for weeks, months, years at a time? Why would someone to risk life and limb in support of that cause? What calls someone to put the needs of others ahead of their own?
As a Navy “brat” and an Army wife, I’m surrounded by people who heard this call. Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines deserve our admiration and respect. Our military families should also be recognized for their courage and their sacrifice. But I would offer that there are those among us who hear this call and don’t put on fatigues.
What does it mean to serve?
I work in a health clinic inside a major grocery store. The other day, while waiting to be seen, I noticed one of my patients approach a woman in the waiting area. We occasionally have older adults sit down for a breather during their shopping. The young man, a paramedic, asked the woman if she was okay. She told him she was just tired and needed a little break. I ducked into my exam room to take care of something, and when I came out, I watched the young man drive up in a motorized grocery cart. He then assisted the woman by transferring her groceries into the cart, while engaging her in conversation and complimenting her food choices.
This. This is what it means to serve.
To look around, to see the needs of others, and then act to assist those needs.
I thanked the young man for helping this woman. Told him it was nice to see acts of kindness — especially in light of recent tragedies. He brushed it off, said he was glad to help. Then he told me he’d been seeing a lot more suicides in the community. As a paramedic, he’s called to the scenes. And the number and frequency has become alarming. To cope with this, and to try and do something about it, he’s been going through his cell phone contact list and calling one person every day — just to tell them they are important to him and to ask how they are doing. Then he listens.
THIS!! THIS is what it means to serve!
Today, we honor our veterans, the men and women of our country who put the interest of our nation above their own. Let us honor their memory and their sacrifice, but let’s also work to emulate these men and women! Let’s open our eyes, look around and see the actions, big or small, that we can take to help the people around us. We must talk to our children about these acts and give them opportunities to serve others in their community. Let’s look outside ourselves to see the bigger picture. Our nation is a great nation built on the courage and sacrifice of individuals united for a cause. It is our unity and our service that made us great. Let’s keep America great.