Finding Purpose with Service by Kristin Wilhite

step 12 magazine service

As a child, I grew up in a sales and service business that my father owned. For fifteen years, I was immersed in learning customer service. I witnessed the interactions between customers and my father and realized there is always a certain level of respect that must be maintained to keep a customer. A vast amount of patience and listening is most often required. In my own business of twenty-plus years, I know that being dependable and thorough, and a patient, understanding listener has enabled my enterprise to thrive. After this many years, customer service is innate to me. I enjoy seeing my clients’ needs and, no matter what the problem, helping them to resolve into a healthier reality. As such, I have found my purpose through service.

Recently, a client shared her story with me. For over twenty years, she has housed from four to six mentally challenged adults with disabilities. That’s impressive enough, however, one of their favorite activities is for she and her housemates to make two hundred sandwiches and then hand them out to homeless people. Everybody wins and feels good at the end of the day! These people have found purpose in doing kind things for others in need.

This brings me to a very important point. Purpose is not found trying to help those that don’t want it or aren’t ready for it. You see, there must be a level of gratitude for the energetic exchange to be effective. Even an anonymous donor feels joy knowing their gifts are appreciated. On the the contrary, it is also crucial that the giver is not going to resent the receiver if the receiver is not able to return the favor, or give appreciation. For those of you who want to investigate more on this phenomenon, read Codependent No More or study the Karpman drama triangle. This can be a danger zone, so it is highly important to be aware of yourself when you are giving service.

As a professional healer, I have learned that self-love is a requirement to giving. Some people become confused with difference between “self-love” and being “selfish.” “Selfish” can often be when a person does not regard others while they are doing something for themselves. “Self-care” is a form of “self-love” that is required to take care of oneself in order to have the physical, mental and emotional energy to care for others. Yes, healers heal thyself!

On the day of September 11, 2001, shortly after the attacks, I told my yoga class, “People are going to need you and, if you want to be strong for them, you must take care of yourself.” My mantra to them was: “If you want to be a pillar of strength, you must take care of your foundation (self).” Whether due to weather, erosion or earthquake, any structure will not maintain its integrity without proper care. WE, as people, need to consider the same for ourselves, especially those of us in service to others … mother, father, care-giver, restaurant worker, construction worker, social worker … the list goes on and on … even a person who sits at a computer all day must  get up and stretch, eat, take a walk, a break, and drink clean water.

When we ignore our basic needs, our bodies and minds breakdown. Thus leaving us vulnerable to feeling unfulfilled, depleted, or seeking an escape—which can lead to relapse and/or addiction. I have learned the hard way with these concepts: that “go, go, go lifestyle” and burning the candle at both ends until I dropped, overworking, becoming hypoglycemic to the point where I couldn’t concentrate. I realized that pushing myself to (and beyond) my limits wasn’t the healthiest choice for me. Of course, there are also times when we need to push ourselves to understand our limits to find balance, break though unproductive habits, build muscle or get fit at the gym, and overcome ourselves.

Wisdom comes from taking the knowledge from these experiences. And then, integrating the learnings that create our lifestyle with the very kind of quality of life we truly want. We must take all of these things into consideration in order to enjoy a purposeful life of service.