Strive to Come Alive: Service and the Art of Doing What You Love

Strive to Come Alive: Service and the Art of Doing What You Love

This week I was given an unexpected gift of clarity. I realized with surprise and shock that I was doing a bunch of work I didn’t really want to do. The kicker is that I’d volunteered for these tasks, and here I was, staring down a To-Do List that didn’t feed my spirit. How could this have happened?
It is riling to think about how many of us spend hours each day doing a bunch of things we really don’t enjoy. Whether serving in the role of parent, faithful employee, or volunteer community organizer, how often have you found yourself in this experience? My hope is that you’ll answer “Never!” or “Only once, oh so long ago now…” but my guess is that for too many of us, this can be the rule rather than the exception.
Of course there are tasks that must be done each day, many of which are neither thrilling nor glamorous. I’m thinking of things like changing diapers, scrubbing toilets, editing spreadsheets, stuffing envelopes, _______ {insert your least favorite of tasks here}.
And of course I recognize that sometimes we all have to face responsibilities that we’re not enamored with. But in all aspects of our lives, and especially in the places where we volunteer our time and are actively in service to our community, I truly believe it is possible to create a reality where the majority of our time is spent doing what we love! Can I get an Amen, Right On, or an Om Shanti Shanti here, people?
I’m often re-inspired by this quote from Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
So perhaps the path to a more joyous To-Do List was in the inquiry. Know thyself and all that jazz. I decided to take Mr. Thurman up on his offer and do the asking. As soon as I raised the question, two e-mail messages showed up in my inbox boasting surveys of self-exploration. I saw this as a sign from the Divine and decided to take them both immediately!
The first was a quiz to answer the question: What Kind of Changemaker Are You? This inquiry came at the end of a delightful new video from activist Annie Leonard and the makers of The Story of Stuff. Once again, witness eloquent people standing up and dispelling the myth that shopping can change the world and calling the question of how the so-called ‘green economy’ alone can be expected to keep sweet Gaia green after all.
Their latest offering, called The Story of Change, encourages us all to “begin exercising our citizen muscles to build a more sustainable, just and fulfilling world.” Leonard’s playful cartoon version of this truth-telling echoes the work of the Indigenous Peoples’ Kari-Oca 2 Declaration for the recent United NationsRio+20 that I mentioned a few weeks back in this blog.
The quiz was simple and even somewhat automated! Answer seven questions about the way you approach challenges in your community, and poof, you are offered your social change archetype! If it rings true, I thought to myself, this can help me build a roadmap to the list of things that makes me come alive.
Now the second inquiry, though perhaps at first blush less serious, was equally compelling, informative, and yes, deeply spiritual.
In a article titled "Chaos Theory: A Unified Theory of Muppet Types," Dahlia Lithwick urged me to ask myself this question: What type of Muppet am I? Am I a Chaos Muppet, like Cookie Monster, Grover, and Gonzo, or an Order Muppet like Bert, Scooter, and Kermit the Frog? About this profound inner questioning Lithwick writes:
“It’s hard to be ruthlessly honest when evaluating one’s own Muppet classification.”
She’s actually right, and unlike the quiz from The Story of Stuff webpage there was no algorithm to decide the answer for me. The inquiry, though to date yet unresolved, reminded me to relish all the things I love about Order (witness the mere existence of my To-Do Lists at all) and equally how much love I feel for Chaos (witness a list of evidence far too long to state here).
I returned to my clipboard from these ponderings renewed and determined to ask not what my project needed, but what would make me come alive, so that I might nurture both my inner Kermit and my inner Grover.
Although my Muppet archetype is still in question, I concluded that indeed, Leonard, Lithwick and Thurman were all on to something. And incidentally, according to the Story of Change quiz I’m a Networker, in case you were curious. But the real question dear one, is what kind of changemaker are YOU? May you all take the quiz, find out what makes you come alive, and fill your To-Do Lists with it at once! - Amen, Right On, Om Shanti Shanti, and of course, Mahna Mahna.

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