Some years ago, I began taking classes towards my master’s degree. A running theme in each class, no matter the class: health law or organizational behavior, was Service to Others. The more I began to realize, exactly what was behind the meaning of service to others, I was like a second grader in the front row of the classroom, “I know, I know!”
For some years I worked for an organization who did exactly that: they put their employees first. They made sure their employees had the tools, education and training needed to be successful. Equally as important, and what made this group a family and not just employees in the “work” place, was the tone set and support given, ultimately by the director, but then spread, and on a continuum, by every team member there.
The organization and team members brought in and made breakfast and lunches for one another regularly, praying, eating and visiting about life and work, challenges and happy times. They valued family life, making sure no one missed important life events, including (grand)children’s events and appointments. Personal interests never went unnoticed; and in fact, from time-to-time, team members would walk in to find a note or a card and small gift or token of appreciation to match those interests. And just like a family, someone was always willing to help-out or lend an ear—professionally or personally.
The organization, a not-for-profit, never asked, advertised or held large events for donations; yet month after month, they seemed to come in. The director would always say, “I guess it’s just a God thing,” her way of being able to explain the many programs she ran from the organization, giving to the community—it seemed like a revolving door—it always found its way back to our organization, many times in tenfold.
It was the same way with volunteers. Somehow, people just appeared, wanting to be a part of the organization, each one finding his or her niche, including making meals for patients and families during their toughest times. Making and donating blankets or donating yarn or other material. Volunteering in the office. Counselors, helping patients and families. Chaplains, volunteering their services. The list is endless.
So, what does all of this have to do with service to others? Quite honestly, everything. Working for this organization didn’t feel like work; in fact, it was a joy. I felt appreciated for what I did; I always felt supported, trusted.
The line between “work” and “play” no longer existed; I was living life. I never minded doing things on a Saturday. It was no longer about punching the clock, versus “my” weekends. I had become embedded in my community. People were important to me.
Suddenly, I was the volunteer, making meals, pies, cookies, buying gift cards and dropping them off to families, churches, nursing homes. I was sitting and lending an ear, not because I had to, not because it was part of my job or I expected any return. I did it because, slowly and without warning, it became part of the pattern of who I was: I wanted to give service to others.
There are other companies, large and small, who practice Service to Others. One of the most successful U.S. airlines, known for being a company with a heart, put their employees first and reward them to volunteer in their communities.
There is no small deed in the act of volunteering or providing service to others, and it comes with a certainty, there will be a rippling effect. According to the Mayo Clinic (mayoclinichealthsystem.org), volunteering can decrease depression, teach skills, keep people physically fit and their minds active, reduce stress, help longevity and help people develop relationships.
The director never called it service to others; she trained and treated us well, and then, turned us loose in the community. We were happy people; we were servants to our community.
Gina (Paradiso) Cathcart is the director of Carecorner, Ltd., Colorado Respite Care. She is a healthcare educator, passionate about service to others and quality patient care.
Gina attended Regis University and Colorado State University-Pueblo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.