A customer at Date-Line once walked into the shop, approached the counter, and asked if we could see him. We were a little taken aback and slightly concerned that he was a few cards shy of a full deck, but we acknowledged that he was, in fact, a visible part of the known universe. He was relieved to hear it and went on to describe being completely ignored in another establishment for more than 10 minutes before he began to wonder if he was invisible.
My wife, daughter, and I were recently shopping in a retail business where we made the (mistaken) assumption that the employees were being paid to offer us service. My 9 year old daughter quickly observed that the employees were ignoring us and wondered aloud why they weren’t helping us. As I watched the staff getting their own affairs in order, carefully avoiding eye contact with anyone on our side of the counter, I replied that it seemed like their motto must be, “we’re going to help you, but first, we’re going to help ourselves.”
I wish these kind of situations were incredibly rare, but they seem to be downright common. I wonder what might happen if professionals of all stripes chose to make service a cornerstone of their work.
Instead of establishing publicly that a given act of service is not your job, choose to ask how you can help others. Instead of taking care of yourself first, choose to look for someone else to take care of. Instead of ignoring the people and problems that will interrupt your day and cause you discomfort, choose to engage with them directly, on purpose.
The path toward doing meaningful work isn’t about finding meaningful work, it’s in adding meaning to the work you already do. Someone who can add meaning to the work they are currently engaged in will always do meaningful work.
A great place to start is to look outside of yourself and choose to serve others. After all, your legacy will not be about what you did for yourself.