The Importance of Service
For Albert Schweitzer, service to others was both a responsiblity and a
joy. He undertook great feats of service as a medical doctor and
missionary in Lambarene, Africa. But he also continually looked
for opportunities to help others in small, seemingly inconsequential
ways, whether it be helping a woman struggling with her luggage on a
railway platform, writing a letter of encouragement to a high school
student, or nursing a orphaned pelican back to health. He knew
that few people have been graced with the opportunity or motivation for
great service, but we all have the ability, and the spiritual need, to
perform many small acts of kindness.
The importance of providing direct service to our fellow men and
women--indeed to all living things--appears throughout Schweitzer's
published writings. In the two short wonderful articles
excerpted below, Schweitzer discusses the valuable contributions we
should all make to decreasing the pain and increasing the happiness of
others. For those interested in knowing more about Schweitzer's
life and ethics, see the books reviewed on my Albert Schweitzer
website, and particularly Schweitzer's autobiographical Out of My Life and Thought.
Your Second Job
by Albert Schweitzer, as told in an interview to
Reader's Digest, October 1949, pg 1-5.
The One-Talent People
by Albert Schweitzer
Christian Herald, September 1949, pg 24-5, 64.
This is a sermon based on Jesus' parable of the king
who divided his talents (money) among his servants (Matthew 25:14-30).
Quotations from Your Second Job:
"No matter how busy one is, any human
being can assert his personality by seizing every opportunity for
spiritual activitiy. How? By his second job: by means of personal
action, on however small a scale, for the good of his fellow men.
He will not have to look far for opportunities.
Our greatest mistake, as individuals, is that we walk through out life
with closed eyes and do not notice our chances. As soon as we
open our eyes and deliberately search we see many who need help, not in
big things but in the littlest things. Wherever a man turns he
can find someone who needs him."
"From a feeling of embarrassment, we hesitate to approach a
stranger. The fear of being repulsed si the cause of a
great deal of coldness in the world; when we seem indifferent we are
often merely timid. The adventurous soul must break that barrier,
resolving in advance not to mind a rebuff. If we dare with
wisdom, always maintaining a certain reserve in our approach, we find
that when we open ourselves we open doors in others.
Especially in great cities do the doors of the heart need to be
opened. Love is always lonely in crowds."
"Whatever you have received more than others--in health, in talents, in
ability, in success, in a pleasant childhood, in harmonious conditions
of home life--all this you must not take to yourself as a matter of
course. In gratitude for your good fortune, you must render in
return some sacrifice fo your own life for other life."
"Organized welfare work is, of course, necessary; but the gaps in it
must be filled by personal service, performed with loving
kindness. A charitable organization is a complex affair; life an
automobile, it needs a broad highway to run on. It cannot
penetrate the little bypaths; those are for men and women to walk
through, with open eyes and hearts full of comprehension.
We cannot abdicate our conscience to an organization, nor to a
government. 'Am I my brother's keeper?' Most certainly I
am! I cannot escape my responsibility by saying the State will do
all that is necessary. It is a tragedy that nowadays so many
people think and feel otherwise."
"You may think it is a wonderful life my wife and I have in the
equatorial jungle. That is merely where we happen to be.
But you can have a still more wonderful life by staying where you
happen to be and putting your soul to the test in a thousand little
trials, and winning triumphs of love. Such a career of the spirit
demands patience, devotion, daring. It calls for strength
of will and determination to love: the greatest test of a man.
But in this hard 'second job' is to be found the only true happiness."
Quotations from The One-Talent People
"In the eyes of Jesus there is not one
task that is great and another that is little. Look at the
parable [of the king who divides his talents among his servants before
going on a journey]. Jesus does not say to the one who has
received five talents, 'Because you have been faithful in great things
enter into the joy of your Lord,' but He says, even as He would have
said to the one-talent man, 'You have been faithful in little, and
because you have been faithful in little things, enter into the joy of
your Lord.' If God has so ordered your life that you have to live
most of it to earn your living, or for some other task, so that only a
little bit of your life is able to be given directly to the service of
Christ, that little bit has just the same importance and value to Him
as that which is given by someone who has his whole life to give."
"Our Lord does not speak in the parable of an 'unfaithful' servant; He
makes what is really a much more severe condemnation. He speaks
of a servant who is useless, unprofitable. The servant was one
who did not know the importance that his master attached to the little
service that he could have rendered."
"Perhaps Jesus is asking of you a little task, and, if you find it,
later He will ask of you something that is greater. Always keep
your eyes open for the little task, because it is the little task which
is important to Jesus Christ. The future of the Kingdom of God
does not depend on the enthusiasm of this or that powerful person;
those great ones are necessary too, but it is equally necessary to have
a great number of little people who will do a little thing in the
service of Christ.
The great flowing rivers represent only a small part of all the water
that is necessary to nourish and sustain the earth. Beside the
flowing river there is the water in the earth--the subterranean
water--and there are the little streams which continually enter the
river and feed it and prevent it from sinking into the earth.
Without these other waters--the silent hidden subterranean waters and
the trickling streams--the great river could not flow. Thus it is
with the little tasks to be fulfilled by us all.
Therefore, I entreat you, in the spirit of this parable, seize that
little task, be faithful to that little task, that your Lord may at
last say to you also, 'You have been faithful in the little thing I
have entrusted to you. Enter into the joy of your Lord.'"
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