The Call to Serve

I used to find myself questioning God. To be more exact, I would repeat a question: “Is this some type of joke being played on me?” Before my diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia almost six years ago, I questioned God and was searching for my purpose in life. It seemed as if everything I did was unfulfilling. During this time, all I wanted to be was happy; whatever “being happy” was, I wanted it. Unfortunately, I compared my life and my idea of happiness to the way others lived their lives. I’ve since learned this is a sure recipe to disaster, guaranteed to lead down a path of enough never being enough. What did I want? The answer seemed to elude me at every turn. The more things I thought I wanted began to add up, and they took me further away from what I needed. I thought I wanted a satisfying career. But what did that look like if I was always searching for something more? And yet, throughout the whirlwind of trying to find out what I wanted, something nudged me. This nudge would direct my attention to the only questions that matter: “How am I serving God?” “What does this mean?” and “How does this act to serve God look?” The answer had always been, even when I failed to acknowledge it, to be of service to others.
Even when I worked in certain positions within corporate America, I knew I was fulfilled when I had the opportunity to serve clients and customers in a service role, rather than trying to sell them a product or service. So, there was always a part of me, small as it seemed, reminding me that my fulfillment requires a great deal of service to others. Through this, I can truly serve God.
After I was diagnosed, my initial concerns were how I would be able to serve others in the sense of educating them about the illness, so it wouldn’t happen to them. I assumed I would go through a short stint with my bout with cancer and it would end soon. I thought I would simply mark it as another chapter of my life’s journey. I would simply talk to people about it and move on. But cancer was anything but a short stop. It has proven to be something of a long-term condition, and will forever be a part of me as I enter into my sixth year of the battle.
Now, I find myself addressing a new set of questions. “What is my purpose with cancer, and more importantly, how do I use it to serve others and be of service to God?” I’ll be honest: when I relapse, and have to go through rounds of chemotherapy, my body tears down and my mind becomes weary as well. I am left feeling helpless and sometimes hopeless. Finding the strength and energy to serve others becomes a second, third or fourth thought. I become hesitant to sign up to volunteer at places and make commitments for fear of relapsing in the midst of the volunteer assignment. This fear is not something I conjured up out of thin air, since I have indeed relapsed on a few occasions while volunteering. But each breath I take serves as a constant reminder of how blessed I am; I find faith in that alone. Despite the circumstances, I’ve found myself revisiting the question of how I can best serve others.
I was in Cape Town, South Africa, volunteering as a teacher’s aide in the townships when I was first diagnosed with leukemia. It was actually my then-girlfriend, now my wife, who’d initiated the trip to Cape Town. She’d wanted to travel abroad for a couple of months, and I’d suggested we make it a volunteer trip instead of a leisure trip. So, when the opportunity arrived to participate in the Costa Rica Odyssey Program through A Fresh Chapter, I knew it was meant to be. I knew it was the opportunity I’d hoped for. During the end of my second week at a township, I began to fall ill and go through various stages of fatigue and sluggishness. One of the other aide workers expressed her concern for my well-being and suggested I take a seat and rest for a while. I remember telling her I would be fine once I got back to the home base. The next couple of days would prove that I needed more than rest; my diagnosis of Leukemia arrived the following week. The diagnosis brought an early end to my volunteer assignment in Cape Town. Since then, I’ve struggled with the thought and become saddened by the fact I was not able to finish my abroad assignment.
I truly believe in the act of service. I believe it is an innate human characteristic. There are many ways we serve all the time. Service shows itself in the way we care for our loved ones and close friends. For some, it may never extend outside of our familial network. For others, the opportunity to serve one’s community is top priority. Some people find the time to not only serve their family, friends and local communities, but also people in different parts of the world.
My hope is that we are all encouraged to serve one another. In my case, I am encouraged to serve despite my physical limitations with cancer. As dire a circumstance cancer can be, to play a small role in strengthening the human bond through service is a far greater an achievement to me—and it far outweighs any of my circumstances. The human bond without a doubt grows stronger when we act to serve each other. Through the simple act of service, we gain more opportunities to grow and evolve as human beings. We thus become a more loving, compassionate, empathetic and peaceful society. We can’t all serve by giving away large sums of money, or physically dedicating large amounts of our time, but despite our circumstances, we all are capable of answering the call to serve.

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