I recently attended my son's National Honor Society ceremony at the high school where he attends. The ritual is for several seniors to present speeches dealing with character, leadership, service, etc.
One speech, in particular, caught my attention. The presenter, student Beth Kerlin, delivered a simple, yet profound idea: leave the world a better place. I gained her permission to share it with you on this blog. I trust it inspires you to continue giving everyday of your life.
"When I was about 6 years old and in the 1st grade I lived right next door to the church where my father was a pastor. The only thing separating our yard from the church yard was a sidewalk. One Sunday after church I remember running down that sidewalk feeling like I was flying. This is my first memory of service. I don't remember who it was that I helped other than that it was an elderly woman from my church. I can't even remember what I did for her. All I remember is that I felt like a superhero. I know it sounds kinda cheesy but that was how I understood service as a child.
"Whenever I helped someone I would get this warm fuzzy feeling in my heart; like if I closed my eyes I would be soaring above the earth. I couldn't get enough of this high feeling, so I jumped at every opportunity to help someone. I would even wash the dishes after church luncheons for hours when I was barely tall enough to reach the faucets.
"Now 12 years later I am still washing dishes for the church, but I know longer do it because it makes me feel like a superhero. You see somewhere along the way I learned that serving someone isn't about the way it makes me feel but the way it makes them feel. It isn't about you feeling like you’re flying, but making others feel like they’re flying.
"Inductees over the next year you will be involved with things through NHS that will help you to understand more of what I am talking about. You will help out with the mitten tree around Christmas. I remember the day of the deliveries, walking into Mrs. Toy's room and almost crying at the beauty of a room filled with gifts. On that day you will get to play Santa Clause because you will be bring a little magic into the homes of complete strangers and makes some dreams come true.
"For some it may have been delivering a bike to the little boy who asked for one. Or maybe seeing the face of a mother light up when she knew for once her children would have more than enough. For me it was the moment I made my first delivery. I was carrying presents into the home of someone I had never met before and placing them under her tree.
"Her Christmas tree that looked exactly like the one I see on Christmas morning. A real live tree that you have to water every day. Covered with homemade and antique bulbs and more tinsel and icicles than you can imagine. The branches were literally sagging from all the weight. But to me this was beautiful. I remember looking at that woman as I left and hearing, "Merry Christmas!" and replying, "Merry Christmas to you too!"
"In that moment there was nothing different about us. We were two human beings just doing our best to leave the world a better place after we were gone. I believe that it was in that moment or maybe awhile later when I was remembering it that I learned what true service is. It's not about giving money, or possessions, or even time, though you can give all those things, but true service is about a relationship; about making someone else higher, even if it means making yourself lower. It was the look in that woman's eyes as they lit up with joy when she thought we were done bringing things in and she hears that there's more. It was the opportunity to make her life a little brighter, even if only for a moment. A true servant sees an opportunity like this and takes it. Yes there will be times when you are tired and would much rather be sleeping then making countless trips in and out of the cold to load cars with groceries and gifts, but in the end, when it is all over, you will be able to look back and see that you did something worthwhile; that you helped your fellow man.
"Service to your fellow man is one of the reasons why being in NHS is such a unique and high honor. There are plenty of other awards and scholarships you can get for getting good grades in school or having a high G.P.A. But NHS is more than that. It is an award that says you have strong character. That not only can you study hard and be successful in school but also that you spend time doing things for others. NHS is a group of servant leaders, so it is my honor to tell you that this evening represents that you are one of them. So congratulations and be proud of yourselves."
Scott Couchenour is a guest blogger for the Everyday Giving Blog.