"Called To Serve"

Ron Panzer
President Hospice Patients Alliance
July 18, 2004
Reproduced with Permission

You may understand what it means to be called, what it means to serve. Either you do, ... or, you don't. It's not complicated, and it is very real.

In every field, it's the same: you'll find a majority of people who approach their work as "only a job" and drift along, or you'll find a few people who approach their work with intense motivation and concentration. Of those, there are some who mainly seek to advance themselves and those that see their work as a mission.

You may be drifting along doing the work to be done without great zeal, you may be seeking status, power, wealth, even fame, or you're seeking none of those, serving out of dedication to your purpose. You work because it is the right thing to do, and it's something you feel you have to do. It's the only thing you know how to do. It's the only thing you want to do.

People with a mission are not motivated by status, power, wealth or fame, even though those may come to them. They listen to a "different drummer," and travel a path "less traveled." People with a mission are leaders, though they don't need followers to be who they are. They are either respected or ridiculed, either labeled crazy or inspiring. They arouse hatred or love. And though there are moments of self-doubt and searching, they always come back to serve. No matter what they do, it is done in the spirit of service and love.

What is it for you, or for those around you? If you feel that calling, you may have noticed a few around you who are of a like mind. You also will have noticed those who simply work for their own benefit without a real concern for those served. Outwardly you and they may be performing the same duties, but inwardly you are worlds apart.

Sophisticated business advisors spout theories about how to be "successful" and imply that they have discovered a "new" truth; they advise others that to be truly successful, one must discover the real needs of your clients, and work to meet the needs of your clients, your customers, your patients. They hold seminars informing well-paying participants that you can't just think about yourself; you've got to be thinking of meeting the explicit needs of the client. They have not created a new truth; they have merely repackaged it and marketed it.

In other words, while a slick, smooth-talking salesman can get many people to buy something they don't really need, that salesman won't have a long term relationship or a truly successful career. In fact, he'll have firmly slammed doors staring him in the face year after year. The renewals and referrals will be few and far between. However, a salesman who serves and meets his clients' needs has the key to open the door to a flourishing business relationship.

What it all boils down to is that if you're only dwelling on your own paycheck, thinking about what you're going to get from the relationship, it's a poor plan for long term business success. With hard work, there may be temporary achievements, even impressive achievements for the very ambitious, but in the end, this type of opportunism is a sure road to failure and frustration.

Selling or providing a service that gives people something they really need and something they really want is a solid plan! When Henry Ford created the factories to manufacture the automobile and when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, their vision provided a quantum leap in societal progress. The success that came their way was not achieved out of greed, but because what they had to offer fulfilled the basic needs of so many. But is this a revelation?? Hardly! Sometimes, even often, the most basic truths are matters that even children would recognize.

There is a major difference between the three basic ways of thinking, doing and being. Whether it is health care, manufacturing, service or sales, whether it is parenting, science or computer technology, there is a basic decision that each of us must confront in what we do. It's a decision that each person must make wherever they find themselves, at every point in life, in any situation. To make that decision, we must first answer a basic question. What is that question?

How are you going to choose to approach life? How are you going to choose to approach your work? How will you relate to family and society? Do you see your function as meeting the needs of your clients, customers or patients, or do you grab as much as you can for yourself while the "going is good?" Are you like the seagulls that fight bitterly over a tiny piece of bread on the beach, or are you ready to share what you have with the hungry around you?

Some never examine their lives, never set goals and never achieve them. But if you have a mission, you have passion for your work, and you care about everyone you serve and everyone you meet. You give when you feel like giving up, and sometimes you don't even remember why. The paths your life takes are sometimes unpredictable and surprising, but they are deeply fulfilling. Even when others question your choices, you intuitively know when it's right to take a turn in the road. And you instinctively recognize those who follow the same mission.

You don't need a thousand dollar seminar to learn that you're supposed to help others and meet their needs. You don't have to think about it. You don't need to be convinced. The attitude runs through your veins.

People can feel the difference. You "connect" with others, because you are fully invested in what you are doing. People remember what you do and what you did. It's not every day that they meet someone like you. You probably don't even feel that you're any different. And when the self-centered ambitious step on others to get ahead, you just don't understand how they can act that way. You don't understand their way, and they don't understand your way.

It's not like you could explain it to them. Their outlook is totally foreign to you, and yours is foreign to them. Even if you tried to explain your way of living, they would not be able to "hear" you or relate to your vision, because their basic approach to life is completely different. Your worldview is essentially different. It's almost as if you live on completely different planets. You have different windows through which you view the world.

When they grab positions of power to themselves, it's not surprising. When they propose solutions to the problems at hand, you don't wonder how one can so completely miss the point. You know that their solutions often involve schemes and scams that reward their own network of "friends."

And when, to get what they want or, to save their skin, they smile and lie through their teeth, you know what they are and what they're about the moment you meet them. They can betray anyone in a moment, if necessary to move their own career forward. And they do so regularly. They are empowered leaders. They do not seek to understand those under their power, because they believe they know better. They don't listen to others, because they really don't care. They lord it over others and become intoxicated with their own sense of power, believing that because they have power, they are great.

Your experience and your heart help you to recognize them and differentiate them from those who are among your own. You do not seek power, nor do you ever feel you are great if power comes to you.

The self-centered ambitious may meet with hundreds of their own type, year after year, pretending to be the best of friends, but they are always alone in the deepest sense of the word. They cannot share the innermost feelings within. They are not emotionally intimate with others, and they cannot admit their own fears, even to themselves. They run roughshod over others, bullying their way through life, putting others down in order to pump themselves up.

They can never share their hearts, never truly know or understand others, and they fear the loss of whatever they have grabbed to themselves. Any of their "friends" could betray them in a moment, and each knows their "friendships" are convenient, circumstantial arrangements.

Though you may or may not meet with many others, if you have a mission, you do not feel lonely. Your heart is full and freely shared with all.

Though we read and hear about the necessity to have a "meeting of the minds" or that "everyone is equal," the reality is something quite otherwise. However much you try, there can be no real meeting of the minds between the two intense types.

They race through life thinking of the happiness they'll find when they finally get this or that. And if they fail, they are quick to blame others. They become extremely angry if anyone suggests that their failures in life have anything to do with themselves. They refuse to examine their own behavior toward others or the impact they have on others. They believe they are victims in life, yet regularly victimize others.

You race through life trying to bring happiness to others, and if you fail in some way, you pick yourself up and try again and again. Never stopping long to think of yourself, you're too busy enjoying yourself as you serve to think of yourself as a victim.

While they seek the thrills of amassing wealth or drinking, drugs, sex clubs, and the fast life, ... or gambling or even crimes of one sort or another, you thrill at the most basic realities in life: spending time with your friends, family, people you meet and God.

They are so busy seeking the thrills of another victory or pleasure (grabbing things along the way) that they fail to notice the moments that make up the journey. And life passes swiftly by. At the end of it all, they stand at death's door reaching back to their wealth, longing for pleasures that now elude them, as they did throughout life. Just as the grains of sand in an hourglass are all swept away, they take nothing with them and are forgotten.

They die just as they lived, grasping and fighting. And you die as you have lived, accepting, contented and reverent. While their world calls you a fool, you know their preoccupation with amassing wealth is the real folly. Recognizing the finite nature of this life, you live life fully in the moment.

Ever fearing the thought of their own death, they feverishly strive not to think about the end. As it approaches, they are depressed and then surprised. For them, death is the ultimate betrayal. For you, death, when it comes, is a continuation of everything that came before.

You see and feel the beauty of life, nature and the world around you. You appreciate the uniqueness of each person you meet and the gift involved in each moment of life. You constantly endeavor to find ways to improve your service to others, to create, to provide. Whether at the beginning stages of your career or at the end of life, you know that there is a purpose and a meaning to life that transcends anything you might possess.

And while they crave admiration and fame, if some call you heroic, you are repulsed, knowing that you are merely one human being. The large numbers of those who drift along in life, never examining their decisions and goals, may be amazed at the energy you bring to the mission, but then again they don't feel the fire within. They don't have the thirst that drives you. They simply don't understand.

For you, life is not a reaching over and through others to get what you want. For you, life is intense, full, a constant, unending, demonstrable prayer. And for that reason, in the end, you are grateful and fulfilled. You are ready. You have few regrets.

When the end comes, you are not surprised. You are not depressed. You have known all along, through whatever trials came your way, you were called to serve. And it is enough.