As I sit here among an irritated crowd at the DMV, waiting for the automated-voice attendant to call out "... serving number 194 at counter ###," I ponder how my sobriety is just a renewed license to continued living; Life's permit, which I've been graciously given, granting me privileges to travel down this new found road -- an escape from my own damning, deadly actions.
The renewal cost for this daily reprieve? Being of service to those around me.
It is service, after all, that keeps me focused on the road I'm traveling. Service is one of the tools I employ which keeps me moving... forward. Without service, towards both alcoholics/addicts and NON-alcoholics/addicts, I would lose sight of my path; my traveling mind would meander off course as I seek a softer, easier way, only to eventually find myself off-road and driving down a rough path of self-loathing, fear, self-pity, anger, and/or sorrow.
So -- what is service?
This is a term that used to really bother me. I hated it, in fact. I had argued that "service" seemed like people "had to do it" (forced), as opposed to doing it "because it was needed" (as in: they cared). I let it bother me so much sometimes that it would blind me from opportunities to actually do something useful and helpful.
Go figure -- an alcoholic so fixated on being right that he can't see the road he's traveling. Yep. That would be me bouncing up and down, unbuckled, in my Jeep -- bonking my head and spewing a few choice words at what should have been directed towards my decision, but was instead directed towards a damn phrase. I still do it sometimes, but it's a work in progress, and I'm workin' it.
Since I let the term bother me so much -- to the point of argument -- my first sponsor challenged me to come up with a different word for the definition. Anyone that knows me knows that any good challenge really drives me. This was good on two counts: 1) it kept me busy -- AKA: not drunk (or, Drunkless, as it were). 2) I really had to rethink "service."
I spent a lot of days thinking about it, too...
"Changing a tire on the Interstate for the old guy."
Useful. Not "service."
Because although it was necessary, I wanted to help him (had such a problem arisen).
"Buying someone dinner, just because they couldn't afford it."
Helpful. Not "service."
Because they could eat and maybe I could answer some questions about addiction. Hmm, also useful -- plus I liked being helpful.
"Speaking at a speaker meeting (regardless as to how terrified I might be)."
Connecting. Not "service."
Because someone might actually glean some hope and believe that they might actually make it.
... these are things I want to do, because I care, not because I have to. Things that are useful and helpful on all levels in some kind of capacity, whether washing a coffee cup or a fixing an old man's flat.
And yet -- I couldn't argue with my first sponsor... I really didn't know what else to call it!
"Service" vs "Doing it because I want to." -- what?
"Service" vs "Helping because I can." -- uh huh...
"Service" vs "Feeling good about being of assistance." -- sounds about right...
Yep, those are definitely good definitions... of service.
Maybe it was time to quit nit-picking.
My current sponsor also noticed the struggle I was having with the term "service work." But it was his response that threw me off the course I was taking -- you know, the "softer, easier," albeit bouncier path that I was on. He said, "Being of service doesn't mean just for an alcoholic or addict, it means for anyone, everyone; for anything good."
Suddenly, I felt the rubber hit the pavement. My head was no longer jostling about, and I began to realize: That's what service really is, isn't it? Useful? Helpful? Assisting? Connecting? Because we do care. It's not forced, though some days we really have to push ourselves. No one is twisting our arms. We do it because it helps them, and consequently -- it helps us.
Service is doing things like -- my job at work. Or being a listening ear. Mowing a lawn for an elder. It may be even buying a bottled water for that thirsty person staring at the vending machine in the supermarket. Or even dropping quarters into the machine and then walking away. Or smiling at people, letting someone into traffic at rush hour, etc., etc. Some of these things are things that we "have to do," others are not -- nonetheless, they are things that need to be done. This list goes on and on.
I eventually had to concede and realize that there is no better term for "service." I also realized that service is not only for those I "serve," but it is also a lesson in compassion, love, selflessness, positivity, spirituality, connectivity, care -- and LIFE. It is the very act of repaying Life for the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of that Jeep and drive, regardless of how much off-roading Left Side and Right Side may think I need to do.
This is a long and lonely road if we let it be. But if I slow down long enough to help the guy with a flat tire, and I might be surprised the next time I get a flat. Or when I've got no food in my house, a meal will somehow find its way to my lips; or that frown that's frozen on my face could just melt away due to the smile that only a stranger can offer. If nothing else, these very things can produce the life-giving Hope that we can cherish, no matter how small that spark might be. And all from doing just a little bit of service work, however that may look.
Go get your license...
... and keep your eyes on the road.