Quotations on Service

The following is a selection of quotations relates to issues that often arise in service groups.

We can do no great things, only small things with great love. (Mother Theresa)

No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. (Aesop)

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. (Edmund Burke)

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problem. (Mohandas Gandhi)

To make a difference is not a matter of accident, a matter of casual occurrence of the tides. People choose to make a difference. (Maya Angelou)

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. (Winston Churchill)

Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity. (Edwin Hubbel Chapin)

It’s time for greatness — not for greed. It’s a time for idealism — not ideology. It is a time not just for compassionate words, but compassionate action. (Marian Wright Edelman)

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love. (Mother Theresa)

The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green. (Thomas Carlyle)

An infinity of forests lies dormant within the dreams of one Acorn. (Wayne Dyer)

Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him. (Albert Schweitzer)

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. (Mahatma Ghandi)

Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.... You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Kindness… is contagious. The more we encounter it, the kinder we become. (Lawrence Scanlan)

What volunteers do is more, not less, important than paid employment. … If I had been hit by a bus, there would have been people lining up for my job. It was the work I did as a volunteer that would have not happened if I hadn’t done it. We are at a time of immense social change. The existing economic system does not foster change, but rather blunts and quashes the best efforts for change of those in paid employment. Most of the essential work of transformation in the next 10 years will be done by volunteers. Our survival as a species will depend not on what people do for money, but what they do for love. (Bruce O’Hara, Working Harder isn’t Working)

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be. (Patanjali)

I feel that the dormant goodwill in people needs to be stirred. People need to hear that it makes sense to behave decently or to help others, to place common interests above their own, to respect the elementary rules of human coexistence. (Václav Havel)

There is no happiness if the things we believe in are different than the things we do. (Albert Camus)

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. (Margaret Mead)

We live in a time when the greatest form of courage is to act as if our lives made a difference. (William Sullivan)

I believe that the serving and being served are reciprocal and that one cannot really be one without the other. (Robert Greenleaf)

A different world cannot be built by indifferent people. (Horace Mann)

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make, which, over time, add up to big differences we cannot foresee. (Marian Wright Edelman)

If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who posses power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night. (Margaret Mead)

We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. (Cicero)

The relatively innocent desire to help is so thinly distinguished from wanting to be the helper. But the latter is capable of all sorts of distortions; wanting to be widely known as the helper, wanting to make some decisions for the helpee, wanting to dictate, to paternalize, to manipulate. (Robert Greenleaf)

Those of us who attempt to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening our own self-understanding, freedom, integrity, and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others. We will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of our own obsessions, our agressivity, our ego-centered ambitions, our delusions about ends and means. (Thomas Merton)

We can be so hypnotized by our power over nature and over other people—benign power as well as the opposite—that we spend a lifetime trying to make our mark on the memories of others without any thought of the marks we are making on ourselves. History can become reduced in our minds to a succession of spectacles to be celebrated or condemned by others similarly tempted to make achievement and production the sole measures of life. Even people of high moral standards are often so entranced by the permanent possibility of producing a better social order that they fail to savor the taste of the lives they actually live. (Tad Dunne)

“Strength” must be redefined not as power-over, but as power-with. (Matthew Fox)

Speaking first to be heard is power over. Hearing to bring forth speech is empowering. (Nelle Morton)

All charity is humiliating. (August Strindberg)

If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. (Anonymous)

Chuck Lathrop in A Gentle Presence shared this story about an Appalachian woman who had the ‘good fortune’ of having a new house built by well-intentioned volunteers to replace her old dwelling: “As the [original] structure was being burned the woman came out on the porch of her new place and said, ‘You know, you may have built me a new house, but you’re burning down my home.’” In response, Lathrop asks, “Are we listening? Are we learning anything, or are we too busy teaching?” (Chuck Lathrop as quoted in Baker, “Are we Providing a Service?”)

That we needed homes, and you gave us Food Stamps,
That we needed jobs, and you got us on the Welfare,
That our families were sick and you gave us your used clothes,
That we need our pride and dignity as human being and you gave us surplus beans.
(Si Hahn, in How People Get Power: Organizing oppressed communities for action)

Justice is not about change of structure but transformation of relationship. (Mary Jo Leddy)

When I help, I am aware of my strength and of others’ weaknesses… Fixing is a form of judgement. It implies something is broken and creates a distance, a disconnection. We can only serve that which we are profoundly connected to. (Sam Daley-Haris)

True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings. (Pema Chodron)

… look upon all with the single eye of equality; in each and every heart, the Divine Light is contained. (Guru Nanak, Raag Sorath)

Friend, if you possess some good, let us be friends. Let us be partners for doing good, and let us ignore each other's flaws. (Guru Suhi Rag)

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul likes down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make sense.

In a real sense all of life is interrelated. All [people] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

The new survival unit is no longer the individual nation; it’s the entire human race and its environment. This newfound oneness is only a rediscovery of an ancient religious truth. Unity is not something we are called to create; it’s something we are called to recognize. (William Sloane Coffin)

Community. Somewhere there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free! (Starhawk)

An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics. (Plutarch, circa 46-120)

Most Americans have never seen the ignorance, degradation, hunger, sickness, and futility in which many other Americans live…. They won’t become involved in economic or political change until something brings the seriousness of the situation home to them. (Shirley Chisholm)

The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life. (Jane Addams, American civil rights activist)

When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist. (Dom Helder Camara)

Unless you choose to do great things with it, it makes no difference how much you are rewarded, or how much power you have. (Oprah Winfrey)

I don’t want to be someone who enters communities solely to get things done, I want to be part of a sustaining, connected, and interdependent set of communities. (Peter Hocking)

Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be unlocked from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal. (Marily Ferguson)

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. (Mahatma Gandhi)

“Experience is the best teacher,” people say. But as friends in Alcoholics Anonymous are quick to tell me, you can cycle through the same experience over and over, and never learn from it. So I’ve tweaked the saying: “Experience reflected upon is the real teacher.” (Kent Ira Groff)

We should seek a community of honest differences rather than a community of enforced consensus... (Dr. Lloyd Komatsu)

It’s curious, in the chaos of conversations about what we ought to do to save the world, how seldom sheer modesty comes up—living smaller, staying closer [to home], having less—especially for us in the ranks of the privileged. We are going to have to stay home a lot more in the future. … From outer space, the privileged of this world must look like ants in an anthill that’s been stirred with a stick: everyone constantly rushing around in cars and planes for work and pleasure, for meetings, jobs, conferences, vacations and more. This is bad for the planet, but it’s not so good for us either. Most of the people I know regard with bemusement or even chagrin the harried, scattered lives they lead.” (Rebecca Solnit)

Indeed, banking education (where the teacher “deposits” knowledge into the student and then makes “withdrawals” in the form of tests and quizzes and methodical questioning) contains a powerful hidden curriculum that teaches students that the world is hierarchical, that the powerful are often arbitrary and insensitive, that they must learn their place in the hierarchy because there is no alternative to either controlling or being controlled. Banking education cultivates passivity, conformity, obedience, acquiescence, and unquestioning acceptance of authority. It makes objects out of students, it dehumanizes, it denies students’ experiences and voices, it stifles creativity, it dis-empowers. It tells our children that there is something wrong with them; that they, rather than their schools and society, need fixing. (S. Kreisberg, Transforming Power: Domination, empowerment, and education)

7 Reasons Why it Pays to Volunteer

By Elizabeth Scott, M.S. Excerpted from www.stress.about.com/b/2012/01/17/7-reasons-why-it-pays-to-volunteer.htm

… helping others, altruism and finding meaning in life all have their hand in stress management. While donating your time or unneeded possessions doesn’t always solve your problems or ameliorate your stressors, acts of kindness and volunteer work can provide the following effects:

  • A good feeling about oneself. Having a positive sense of self can actually help you feel less reactive to stress, and bring more enjoyment to all of your activities.
  • A feeling of connection to others. Having a sense of community, a supportive circle of friends and other forms of social support can increase your resilience as well as your longevity and quality of life.
  • A sense of meaning and greater purpose in one’s life. Having a greater sense of meaning can help stressors seem more manageable, feel less threatening and be less likely to trigger your stress response.
  • Perspective about one’s stressors—others may have greater problems. Having a change of perspective can help your stressors seem much smaller to you, and may help you realize that you have more control in life and more options than you realized.
  • A reminder to feel gratitude. When you’re feeling more gratitude about what you do have, your whole life feels better, and those things that you lack seem less important, less stressful.
  • An opportunity to use one’s own unique gifts. Especially if you’re battling burnout or in a job that doesn’t thrill you, it’s important to have outside activities that ‘feed your soul,’ that challenge you in ways that make you feel alive. Often, volunteer opportunities can provide that, while you provide others with gifts that they can really use as well.
  • Something to think about other than one’s stress! Distraction can be a beautiful thing, and distraction from stress can give your body a chance to recover from chronic stress and feel healthy and calm again.

Redefine a “Meaningful Accomplishment”

Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away with our so-called accomplishments. We spend our lifetimes collecting achieve¬ments, earning praise and recognition, and seeking approval – so much so that we lose sight of what is truly meaningful.

If you ask the average person (as I have done many times), “What is a meaningful accomplishment?” the typical responses will be things like, “Achieving a long-term goal,” “earning lots of money,” “winning a game,” “getting a promotion,” “being the best,” “earning praise,” and so forth. The emphasis is almost always on the external aspects of life – things that happen outside of ourselves. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with these types of accomplishments – they are a way of keeping score and improving our circumstances. They are not, however, the most important types of accom¬plishments if your primary goal is one of happiness and inner peace. Seeing your photograph in the local newspaper may be a nice thing to achieve but isn’t as meaningful as learning to stay centered in the face of adversity. Yet many people would point to their photo in the paper as being a great accomplish¬ment, but wouldn’t necessarily think of “staying centered” as an accomplishment at all. Where are our priorities?

If being peaceful and loving are among your primary goals, then why not redefine your most meaningful accomplishments as being those that support and measure qualities such as kindness and happiness?

I think of my most meaningful accomplishments as stemming from inside myself: Was I kind to myself and others? Did I overreact to a challenge, or was I calm and collected? Am I happy? Did I hold on to anger or was I able to let go and move on? Was I too stubborn? Did I forgive? These questions, and others like them, remind us that the true measure of our success comes not from what we do, but from who we are and how much love we have in our hearts.

Rather than being consumed exclusively with external accomplishments, try putting more emphasis on what’s really important. When you redefine what it means to achieve a meaningful accomplishment, it helps you to stay on your path.  (Richard Carlson, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff)

Idea: This week, try to notice, which things give you a sense of accomplishment, and examine whether these are meaningful accomplishments. Also try to notice the things which you would like to perceive as great accomplishments but which are not necessarily recognized as such by others.