You want happiness, we all do. And there’s only one rule for happiness in this world, Sue, and that’s service. Just to the degree that they serve, people are happy, and no more. It’s an infallible test. You can try nations by it, you can try kings and beggars. Poor people are just as unhappy as rich people, when they’re idle; and rich people are really happy only when they’re serving somebody or something.

Kathleen Norris, Saturday’s Child Artemis Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I found this little quote in a quaint old book…a lot of things contribute to my happiness, and I would put faith and family at the top of my list. I separate those two from the concept of service. But maybe that’s not accurate either, for what does faith and family call us to, if not service? Maybe the best things in life are simply disguises for opportunities that allow us to serve. We serve from various motives…family love, or faith that moves mountains, or belief in a cause, or ambition to achieve. But doesn’t the work we do distill to service?

I’ve equated the terms service and work. But they’re not really equivalent. I suppose you could serve without working, and work without truly serving. Maybe the difference in the two is the sense of purpose that lies behind service. Work is just work. But service is defined by deliberate intention.

I think I’ve worked enough in my life. I’m going to look through a different lens, think about how I’m able to serve as I move through my days. That’s not intended to make me sound saintly, just purposeful. Maybe what I adjust is not specific action. Maybe I adjust my vision to see how I can contribute, and what I am contributing to. Maybe I just need to reframe to see clearly.

Service equals happiness? Or perhaps, service equals satisfaction? Either is good, both are goals. Happiness and satisfaction. Yes, that sounds about right.


  • November 1, 2012, 12:37 am  Reply

    This is coincidental, because just a few hours ago I posted a piece on A Sign Of The Times (Your Bank Account) that in a way argues a point similar to what you’ve so thoughtfully expressed here. In any case, there really is nothing more rewarding than accomplishment. And especially if it makes tomorrow a better place (for all) to be.

    • November 1, 2012, 8:23 pm

      Yes, I think so too…we try to earn a living and do some good in the process…pretty simple, and without trying to make what I do sound grand or noble, I at least think having a more mindful attitude about serving, rather than just working, will help me bring a little something more to my efforts. As I said, not trying to be a saint or anything lofty…just more intentional in my actions. ~ Sheila PS…left a comment on your blog too…is this a new one? ~ S

      • November 2, 2012, 6:47 am

        One thing I learned from my mother is how powerful ‘setting an example’ for others can be. She did it unconsciously, not by pretense, or in a grand manner, but by simply being who she was. I suspect you possess a similar quality. And the best way to ‘pass the benefit’ (to yourself and others) is to simply to BE who you are.

        A new one? Sort of. “A Sign of The Times” is one of several that I occasionally use to post (or re-post) topic-oriented things that I find unusually interesting, or funny, or whatever. In effect its like having several notebooks on your desk, each dedicated to a specific topic of interest…but mostly just sit there taking up space, and gathering dust. 😉

  • November 1, 2012, 5:31 am  Reply

    What an amazing quote! Definitely something to think about.

    • November 1, 2012, 8:20 pm

      Yes, I liked it…you can sometimes find little nuggets in the oddest places! ~ Sheila

  • November 1, 2012, 10:22 am  Reply

    Very thought provoking! It’s about perception too isn’t it? How we adjust our thinking in what we do or how we do it makes all the difference in the world, to us and those around us. It sounds as though you may be in a transition phase in your life right now. I know an awful lot of people who are. Exciting stuff!

    • November 1, 2012, 8:20 pm

      So much is about perception and attitude. Hardly new concepts, but I often find the working out in real life to be far behind my intellectual acknowledgement. I am in transition as far as work, and trying to determine where I fit…a work in progress, as usual! ~ Sheila

  • November 1, 2012, 3:31 pm  Reply

    I left my job of working…drawing a paycheck…A job I loved…but, still it was the paycheck that kept me going…Now, being retired…I feel the jobs I do are a “service”…because there is no pay monetarily…just smiles and thank yous…Maybe “service” is better…Both made me happy though!mkg

    • November 1, 2012, 8:16 pm

      You know, I think you can give service as a volunteer or for income…I think it probably depends on the attitude you have toward the people you’re working with/for. I think you were definitely serving, whether for pay or as a volunteer, just knowing your style from your writing! ~ Sheila

  • November 2, 2012, 3:08 am  Reply

    I couldn’t agree more … I work hard and am rewarded for it. I enjoy the work and the people and such but there is a longing in me to do more .. to serve, to really be impactful. And I know that when the time comes that I can financially step away from the daily grind, I will, and I will do something far less rewarding financially but hugely rewarding soulfully – and I know what it is: teaching/volunteering with Seniors in my community. I’ve done a bit of it and always walk away pleased as punch.

    Very insightful post, Sheila, and I wish you all the best as you sort through it. Try Martha Beck’s book, “Finding your own North Star” – it’s a workbook of sorts, but it really does help you sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. It’s been called the “best book on transitions, ever”


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