See the Need

toilet-paper-3675180_640Service has never been so important.

“Self-isolation” and “social distancing” are the new norm. Doors everywhere are being shut. People are hoarding supplies and preparing for the worst. It’s in times like these that our true nature is revealed. For some it’s an excuse to withdraw, to do less, to focus on self and ignore the needs of others. It’s justified. It’s understandable. It’s expected.

But these are the times when heroes step forward. Instead of giving in to fear, they rise above it. They look outward, seeing the needs of others, and boldly step up to the plate. They don’t wait for someone to ask for help. They see a need and act to fill it.

Cue my parents. They’ve always been heroes to me, but I couldn’t have been prouder to see this Facebook post.

Sunday, March 15, 2020 – 7:26 PM
This afternoon the mayor of Nashville, in issuing some corona virus guidelines, made this statement, “as a community we must come together and take care of one another.” Earlier today we stopped at the Walgreens close to our house to pick up an over- the-counter allergy medicine. As I walked past one aisle I heard someone say, “Oh, they don’t have any either.” I noticed the empty shelf and stopped. I asked the older lady if she was looking for toilet paper. She said yes and she had been to four other places and couldn’t find any. Her husband was in the car as she had just checked him out of St. Thomas Midtown for congestive heart failure. They needed toilet paper. I told her that I lived just down the street and if she wanted to follow me home I had some extra she could have. She took me up on the offer and we sent her home with 4 rolls. Turns out she had been to my house before at my yard sale. She recognized my house! Who would have guessed that taking care of your neighbor would come down to sharing toilet paper with a stranger.

I’ve always felt that the best acts of service are the small gestures. It can be inspiring to read about super-human acts of bravery and self-sacrifice, but those opportunities are (thankfully) few and far between. The real service heroes are those who find small ways to help those around them. It might be a small word, a small act of service, or a small donation of toilet paper that makes the biggest difference.

As a species, we are designed for community. We need meaningful interaction with others to remain healthy, productive, and fulfilled. That’s actually what service is. Service is looking beyond yourself to see others and their needs – and then acting on it. It’s not waiting for someone to ask for help. It’s proactively offering what you have to give as a means of addressing that need for connection. Time and again we see that community trumps isolation, especially in the worst of times.

In the days ahead, let’s be mindful to keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open to those around us. Let’s seek out opportunities to lend a hand vs. pulling it back. We need to stay safe, but that doesn’t mean we can’t remain neighborly. We need each other now more than ever.