Joy and service

Service is a part of life that is connected to joy, says James Martin in his book Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of Spiritual Life.

Martin quotes the Indian writer and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service way joy.”

Not every act of service is joyful, Martin says, and he explains that it’s “like asking parents, ‘Do your children always bring you joy?’ They would probably laugh and say, ‘Not all the time!’ But then they would smile and say yes.”

Service brings joy, Martin says, for four reasons.

  •   Service takes us out of ourselves, and so much of our contemporary life is self-centered.
  •   Service to the poor helps to remind us of what we already have in life and helps to increase our gratitude.
  •   Service brings us into contact with people in new ways.
  •   Service can be fun.

I know what James Martin says is true because, every Monday at 8 a.m., I show up at the elementary school in my neighborhood and help a sweet, second-grade boy with his arithmetic.

Sometimes, when my alarm goes off, I ask myself: “Why am I getting up early? Why did I agree to do this volunteer job on a Monday morning?”

But, when I enter Billy’s classroom and he see me and then he smiles, I always feel a little happier.


You can read more about Martin’s book in this blog post.

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