Rules for Intrepid Living: Rule #49

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Rule #49. Provide cheerful service.

At the end of last month, I took a week for the Great River Trail Trash Trek, picking up forty-three bags of trash over sixty-five miles. Last month my wife Clarissa led a yoga class for the organization Yoga 4 Homeless, leading to the collection of $100, toiletries, coffee, clothing, and yoga mats for donation to a local shelter. We didn’t do these things because we expected anything in return. We did them because we believe in taking the things we love, and using them to serve others. And we do so cheerfully.

The Boy Scout Slogan is, “do a good turn daily.” Growing up in that organization, service to others was simply part of my life. I’m not saying that I always enjoyed it, but over time, I’ve come to realize that there’s great value in helping others, and even greater value in doing it with a smile. 

This extends beyond suggested volunteerism. In his book, The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen notes the cheerfulness that accompanies Sherpas as they go about their labor. He observed that, “their service is rendered for its own sake – it is the task, not the employer, that is served… they know that the doing matters more than the attainments or reward.” I am not an anthropologist, so I cannot speak to the veracity of his words when it comes to Sherpa culture and beliefs, but know the rewards of finding value in the tasks instead of the paycheck.

I’ve worked a lot of different jobs in my life. Some paid well, some paid poorly, and some didn’t pay at all. I’ve worked in archives and on waterfronts, shoveled manure and taught college courses. I’ve done trail maintenance, and stocked shelves at a liquor store. I’ve been a bar-back, an assistant manager at a music store, and a first person interpreter at historic sites. What I’ve learned by having a varied work history is that sometimes people aren’t going to say thank you. Sometimes your paycheck won’t reflect your efforts. Sometimes you’re going to be the only person who knows how hard you work. Sometimes you need to find the joy in the task, and serve cheerfully.

That’s not to suggest that you shouldn’t try to make more money, get a promotion, or even just get noticed when you do good work. Of course you should! But you should also find value in serving the task; doing a good job when no one is looking, regardless of whether you’re paid well or not at all, and finding cheerfulness in this.

So whether you’re at work, volunteering in your community, or just doing chores around the house, try to find a little joy in what you’re doing. Do the best that you can at whatever task you find yourself engaged in, and try to find a little cheer in doing so. Serve the task at hand, whatever it is you may be doing, and take pride in your efforts. 

“Rules for Intrepid Living” is an ongoing weekly article that gives potential guidelines for how we can all live a more adventurous life.


One thought on “Rules for Intrepid Living: Rule #49

  1. Mick Canning

    Totally agree, Wade. I’ve done a host of different jobs, ranging from well-paid to volunteer, from local management to shit-shoveller, and know that mindfully carrying out the task in hand to the very best of one’s ability is the way to get satisfaction from it.

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