Serving With a Smile (When You Don’t Feel Like Smiling)

Hope LodgeWednesday evening I left work and drove to the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge here in Lubbock. The Hope Lodge provides free place for out-of-town cancer patients to stay while they receive treatment. This removes a significant financial burden on the families of these patients and allows them to focus on their health. My wife and I, along with several other couples, volunteer by preparing meals for the guests and hosting weekly “dinner parties.” Wednesday night was our team’s turn to serve.

But I didn’t want to go.

I was tired. I’d had a long day – you know the kind – lots of phone calls and emails. I had someone working on my sprinkler system and was anxious to check on the progress. I’d had something to do every night for the past several days and really just wanted to collapse on the couch. The thought of spending three hours on my feet to serve total strangers just didn’t seem appealing.

I’ve written before about the rewards of service. I know that focusing my energy on activities that benefit someone else has a myriad of benefits physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. But all that’s hard to think about when you’re already drained and craving some down time. How do you serve others when all you want to do is plop?

I think there are three steps to preparing your head for service when your heart just isn’t in it.

1. Remember why you’re serving. Service is for the benefit of those on the receiving end, not the giver. If your mind is set on your own comfort or enjoyment, then you’re not ready to serve. In order to give your best, you have to push your “self” out of the way and focus your attention on “others.” I’m not saying service should be a chore, or unenjoyable. But if your reason for serving is self-gratification, then you’re missing the point and will always have something you’d rather be doing,

2. Commit to giving it your best any way. This is a core value you should carry regardless of the task at hand. Like the saying goes… “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” If you’re putting in the time, make the time count and give your “all” to the service you provide. Regardless of your mindset, your performance speaks volumes about your personal integrity and those you represent.

3. Fake it until you feel it. It’s funny how easy it is to manipulate your own emotions. You are the single best influence on your state of mind. Why let someone else, or circumstances beyond your control dictate how you feel? So listen to a motivational CD. Pump up your jam on the radio. Do whatever it takes to get your mind straight and then fill in the gap with determination.

Back at the Hope Lodge, I sat in the truck for a few minutes. I closed my eyes and let my mind make the transition from work to service. Then, knowing I was serving for the right reason, and having committed to giving my best; I forced a smile onto my face and walked inside. I didn’t have to fake it for long.

I had a great time. My friends and I chatted and laughed as we served other people. The guests who came to dinner were extremely grateful, as they always are, and my spirits lifted. As we left a few hours later and headed home, it was hard to imagine I’d had such a pessimistic attitude when I pulled into the parking lot. And this time the smile on my face was genuine.

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