Affirmation No. 4: When you can’t shine, serve

Enjoy this monthly post by Reverend Patrick Riecke, director, Chaplaincy and Volunteer Services.

I cannot always shine, I can always serve

When was the last time you saw a picture of someone folding laundry on Instagram? How many snaps of someone doing the dishes have popped up on your device? And I’m guessing that when you scroll through Facebook you don’t run into many pictures of friends helping each other with their homework, parents tying the shoes of a toddler or a tired government worker checking off one more task before heading home for the night.

No, those moments aren’t shiny, are they?

You know what I see? I see pictures of my friends on the beach. (And I try not to loathe them.) Or at a concert or sporting event. Or perfectly timed pictures of their cat being hilarious. And don’t even get me started on filters and duck faces!

With some exceptions, we like to shine on social media, and that fuels the comparison game we discussed in a previous affirmation. But it also ignores a much larger part of our lives—our service.

Like most people, I probably spend 50 percent of my time serving other people. Not the feed-the-hungry type of service. The make-dinner-for-my-family kind of service. I drive my kids to their activities. I unload some dishes. I do payroll for my coworkers, send emails to answer questions, etc. And how many times have I highlighted those activities with a social media post? Probably zero. But that one time I was the daylong presenter for a great organization—it was all over my feed.

Or when I finished my new book, “How to Talk with Sick, Dying and Grieving People” (available on Amazon now), I shamelessly mentioned it every chance I had. For example, the previous sentence. I’m not the first one to notice this.

Many people have reminded us that social media is like a highlight reel, not a reflection of anyone’s reality. And here’s the thing: There’s nothing wrong with shiny moments. I like them! And so do you! I like it when I take my 15-year-old driving for the first time. It’s a shiny moment, and that’s great! I like it when my family is at Disney World and we get that picture in front of Cindy’s castle. It’s a shiny moment! I’m glad to see pictures of your graduation, accomplishments or new house.

But those moments are few and far between. I cannot always shine. I can always serve.

Today may not present me with any opportunity to shine. I might not do anything terribly flashy or post-worthy. But today will absolutely give me the opportunity to help someone.

The Cost of Forgetting

The trajectory of pop stars is often similar. They come from humble beginnings, but have great talent. They work hard to get there, and eventually they are discovered. Their time to shine has come.

Maybe they begin making a lot of money. Or getting a lot of attention. Or both. They start to think they can always shine. And (I am guessing here, since I am not a pop star) it might become harder to fold laundry. Or answer emails. Or remember your humble beginnings.

Then we are shocked when their personal life starts to suffer, or they start to act entitled and arrogant. What happened to our humble kid who worked so hard?

The answer: They forgot this affirmation.

I cannot always shine. I can always serve.

When I was young, a mentor shared with me a vision he had for all I could do with my life. I was enamored by the picture he painted. Then he told me, “However, if all that happens, you might become a self-absorbed narcissist.” He burst my bubble right after he had created it. As Jesus put it, I could gain the whole world, and yet lose my soul.

Serving helps us to find our souls again. After all, it’s hard to be a self-absorbed narcissist while folding laundry.

Questions for Reflection
  • Where are you shining? Are you a big deal at work or school? Or at the gym? Or on your own social media feed?
  • How attached are you to those avenues where you shine?
  • How would you respond if all of that suddenly disappeared and you had to rebuild from scratch?
  • What if your time to shine was suddenly over, and all you had left was time to serve?

When it’s your time to shine—shine like the sun! But when the spotlight has moved on, remember:

I cannot always shine, I can always serve.

Need assistance?

Contact us