What If We’re Made To Be In Service Of Each Other?
We are here to serve. I just can’t see any other reason for being.
The other day, I was on a roll. My schedule was full and partially double-booked, yet some customers were asking to reschedule. I was only too happy to oblige so that I could clear the way for myself and catch a break. I was able to help 3 of my peers with answers to their questions. I closed one 97 day-old service request. I closed another one by solving a problem that had vexed my customer for weeks and that was very difficult to solve. I was keeping my customers happy. I was there to serve.
At home, I helped my first kid with her homework. I played with my kids. I helped my wife a question or a task, I can’t remember now. One of my friends sent me a text telling me how much he enjoyed my articles and that he was reading them again and again to be a better person. I was there to serve.
As I went through my day, helping people, fixing stuff, and sharing useful information I was getting high. But it wasn’t that kind of high you get from smoking rope. It was something else. It was the kind of high you get from, well, helping other people. I was beginning to wonder if we’re purpose-built to help each other.
I used to be very selfish and isolated. I wanted what I wanted. I spent a lot of time alone. And I suffered for it. I didn’t always get what I wanted. I substituted my needs with addiction. I didn’t have very many people to talk to. I didn’t pursue outlets for self-expression. I didn’t know the joy of fellowship. And I found that the way I was living my life wasn’t working for me.
So I pursued change. I went to meetings and support groups. I made friends. I found ways to be of service to others. And I felt a little better about myself. After a few years of that, I became bold enough to pursue a mate and get married.
I found something in married life that I didn’t expect to find. I found that life is better when shared with others. l found that life is better in service of others. I found that I didn’t have to keep score. I found that I didn’t have to worry if other people loved me. I only needed to help other people.
I began to compare my experiences alone and with other people. Helping other people and being helped. Sharing my humble beginnings of accumulated wealth and keeping it to myself. Being of service and being served. Over time, I came to the conclusion that it is true, that it is better to give than to receive. It is better to serve than to be served. I am sensing a sort of conviction that we are here to serve. I think that natural selection got us here.
I’ve considered what another life might look like. Imagine for a moment a life where every need is met, automatically. We get enough air, automatically, already. Now consider what life might be like if every one of our needs were met without effort. Or if every care we had was dissolved, and if everything went right. A month of Sundays, right?
In this alternative, fantasy life, when you want food, it is there, automatically. You have shelter, clothing, water, food…it’s all there, automatically. Everyone else is working for you. You don’t have to work to get what you need, either. You never have to work for anyone to get what you need and what you want, it just comes to you.
Fantastic, huh? Do you think that would never happen? It has happened. In the documentary, George Harrison: Living In The Material World, Ringo Starr is interviewed (from movie transcript) about what it was like to have everything he needed or wanted, just handed to him:
You know, where, you know, you’re recognised, you get a great seat in a restaurant and, you know, things are bigger and things come to you faster.
Um, you know, all that is great. And then you really want that to end.
“You really want that to end.” Ringo figured out that getting everything you want isn’t the key to happiness. But there is something more. Ringo had been in service as a member of The Beatles. He was a fantastic drummer with great talent. He used his talents in the service of others, and he got back far more than he put in.
I’m tearing up as I write this. I am realizing a sort of grief from all the time that I had spent alone, not knowing how to live my life better. Not knowing that from a biological perspective, that natural selection does not favor selfish behavior. Natural selection favors altruism. Natural selection says that we are here to serve.
I am here to serve. As I look back on my life, I noticed how I felt after I helped someone. I felt a little juice, a little high just from helping someone. I felt it when I helped other people with their personal problems. I felt the same thing when I help my friends. I felt it when, after I got married, that I was supporting my wife as she adjusted to life in America. I felt it again when we had kids and I helped them grow from peanut to a lively, happy kid. I felt it just last week as I helped my customers solve very difficult problems with the software my employer sells. And all that time, I wasn’t thinking about the money or what I would get in return. I was there to serve.
The charge that I get from helping other people is better than shopping, sex, the best chocolate, or any drugs. I know what it’s like to be drunk. I know what it’s like to be high. I know what it’s like to indulge in pleasure. I know what it’s like to buy something that I desire. I know what it’s like to receive a windfall of money. And none of that even comes close to the feeling I get from helping other people.
So I can see why people like Bono of U2, Mother Teresa, and Jimmy Carter, go out of their way to help people. Helping other people makes them feel good. They are taking advantage of a facility in the human body that encourages us to help others. Our brains are designed to emit endorphins that make us happy when we help others.
We get high by helping others. I believe that this is the reason for the success of humanity. Our capacity to help each other is why we have 7.7 billion people on the planet. Its why we even have civilization. It’s why we have commerce. It’s why we have philanthropy. It’s why we have hospitals and churches. It’s why we have families.
The members of the most successful species on the planet help each other. One only need to look at the mega-colonies of ants to know this. They live in the service of each other. The most successful people on the planet are here to serve, and I don’t mean money when I say, successful people. I mean successful people are those who can get their needs met by helping other people. They are the happiest people in the world. And I am learning to be like them.