July 18th is Mandela Day—a day on which we are encouraged to celebrate Mandela’s life and work. We are called to do this not by way of a party, but by being of service to others.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead” ~ Nelson Mandela
In 2009 the United Nations declared Mandela’s birthday to be International Nelson Mandela Day in recognition of the dedication of his life to the service of humanity. And on this day, we are asked to spend 67 minutes in service to others—one minute for each year that Mandela spent in prison.
“Mandela Day is a global call to action for citizens of the world to take up the challenge and follow in the formidable footsteps of Madiba, a man who transformed his life, served his country and freed his people. Its objective is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better and in so doing, to build a global movement for good.” ~ Nelson Mandela Foundation
We don’t have to commit to any massive undertaking. We just need to make a small commitment to do little things that will have a lasting effect. Each of us is responsible for the state of the world that we live in, and we have more power to effect change than we may believe.
Of course, the underlying hope is that the commitment to serve in some way will be extended beyond 67 minutes on July 18th. Because when we get a taste of “selfless” service, we can discover how utterly non-selfless it really is.
In many parts of India seva—selfless service done without consideration for any personal benefit—is deliberately undertaken as a spiritual practice. And I believe that all spiritual practices are ultimately practices in self-care. Although Seva is performed without thought of reward, we are often very richly—if unexpectedly—rewarded:
It connects us with something bigger than ourselves.
It puts our own problems in perspective.
It generates a true sense of gratitude for the good in our own lives.
We simply feel good for having done something—even a small thing—that makes a positive difference.
And then there’s karma: we are all one; what goes around comes around.
By volunteering we contribute to a better society—a society that takes care of those who are in need. Some day we may be in need of the compassionate service of others and become the grateful beneficiaries of that more caring society.
But no matter what the future holds, today—and every day—we can experience what a blessing it is for ourselves, as well as for all of humanity, to be of service to the world.
It’s #Time2Serve. What are you doing, or what will you do, to make the world a better place? If you’re stuck for ideas, check out the Mandela Day website.
Author: Hilda Carroll
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Marco Raaphorst/Flickr