To be of service to others

Now that I’m retired, going on 10 years, I wake up to my mission. My mission is to be sensitive to others. Whatever I do, wherever I go, I aim to offer a smile, a kind word, and in that mindset, serve others. 

It started somewhere in my childhood as I learned the Golden Rule. In Sunday School, I learned Jesus words: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another” (John 13:34).

When I was five, I discovered I could make Mama laugh; as she laughed, she clearly enjoyed being with my sister and me. My three-year-old sister and I would get down on all fours and begin to pant and bark like our part Labrador and part Husky dog. We would sit up on our back legs like a dog does when it begs.  Mama, standing at the kitchen sink, would turn to us and chuckle as she patted us both on our heads and said, “Good doggies, good doggies.” It was her smile and her eyes that told me that our little antic brought her good feelings.

In high school, I noticed that if I smiled, I prompted a smile from others. So, as I walked between corridors to Geometry or Biology, I consciously smiled and said “Hi” to others. My mission was to make others smile, and by doing so, uplift spirits. I followed Songs like “Feelin’ Groovy,” by Harper’s Bazar in 1967 and “Smile a little smile for me” by the Flying Machine in 1969.

As associate professor in local colleges, I added a few hours of community service to the class requirements. I asked students to pick an agency to volunteer at and write about the experience.  Some students chose to help at La Puente Homeless Shelter, with PALS, or at the hospital.  Most students valued their service and saw their empathy for others grow. In addition, some learned more about a career field they were interested in.

My mission continues today even as I wear a mask while shopping at the grocery store and through the checkout line. Sometimes, I notice cashiers’ jobs are intense; but I like to let them know I see them and am glad for their help. The baggers often help me unload my groceries from the cart to the trunk and I enjoy a laugh or two with them, as well. It just takes a minute to brighten and lighten a person’s personal load.

It was a sweet surprise a couple weeks ago when my neighbor’s son, Mario Sanchez asked to do some community service by taking down my five- and six-foot weeds in my yards. He needed to do some community service hours, his dad said. I was so happy because I had spent the last month calling and emailing numerous people about lawn care. Some never responded; one manager of several houses said there was no one around to help and that she couldn’t find lawn maintenance either. Mario, now a senior at Monte Vista High School, was a godsend for me.

Mario mowed and weeded for several days.  It was 90-degree weather; and he had to clean out the mower frequently. He collected all the weeds and trucked them to the dump.

Writing a letter to document his service, I wrote: “Over the course of several weekends, and well over eight hours of mowing and weed-eating, Mario successfully replaced the wilderness that was my back yard with a well-manicured lawn.”

I concluded the note with: “I’m so grateful for his help with this labor-intensive task. He is a young man set to achieve his goals.”

I’m practicing kindness even more now with such a huge blessing that came my way when I was in need. To be a blessing and be blessed are the best feelings.