When you give, you will inevitably receive. This relationship is a fundamental truth in life.
There is no greater purpose in life than to serve. Through service, you direct your own time and energy towards the meaningful betterment of others.
If you don’t already take advantage of opportunities to serve, you should start. The experience of giving results in self-discovery and reciprocation of the energy you put forth. There is no consistent definition of what you receive by giving, but the unexpected is always ends up being positive.
A great example of this truth is a friend of mine, Eddie Bob Jones. After suffering a life-threatening bike injury, he came to the realization that life can go quickly and that there is more to it than serving oneself.
After searching for a way to give back, he ultimately landed a position in a grassroots non-profit called Give and Surf, in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama.
Give and Surf aims to empower the local Ngöbe and Afro-Caribbean communities through education, scholarships, after school programs, English programs, surf programs and more. These communities are isolated from the mainland and are often times neglected by the state in regards to funding, education, and support of community infrastructure.
Additionally, cultural aspects of these communities are quite different than typical western-influenced life that we know. In most cases, children do not start engaging in formal education until the age of 8, despite the widely accepted fact that early childhood education is integral to a child’s development. Up until that age, they have little structure in their lives, as their parents often have jobs that allow for a subsistence lifestyle, or low-paying jobs in other areas that barely provide food and other basic necessities for often large families.
As a result, children often times grow up without learning basic skills such as reading, writing and family health.
These people are significantly disadvantaged. As the Panamanian economic drivers shift away from agriculture and in the direction of tourism, the Ngöbe people are not prepared to take advantage or thrive in a newly forming, tourism-driven economy.
This is the purpose of Give and Surf: to provide the Ngöbe people opportunities to prepare themselves for a new, western-influenced society and the new economy that it will bring. The organization hosts volunteers from around the world and visits the communities to facilitate this preparation.
Eddie is the Volunteer Coordinator for Give and Surf. He said to me about his volunteers and the children he helps, “I have found there is no greater fulfillment than helping people and giving them an opportunity to grow, learn, compete, and provide for a better and happier life. I love providing them a service.”
By waking up every day with this purpose of service: to guide good people that wish to support an underserved population, he has realized the many things he has received as a result of giving his time and energy to Give and Surf and the Ngöbe people.
Here are a few things he says he unexpectedly received:
He has experienced the feeling of true worth.
He gives people a chance to learn, develop themselves, and to be happy. The volunteers and children rely on him for guidance and support. To him, there is no greater calling in life.
He has learned new skills.
Eddie has become near fluent in Spanish, learned and taught sustainable line and spear fishing practices and theory, and learned the fundamentals of running a business on a small and dynamic team.
He has learned how to inspire others.
He teaches the volunteers that the greatest opportunity to develop an understanding of yourself, and of the complexities and beauties of life, is when you step and live outside of your comfort zone.
Often times, the choice to volunteer at Give and Surf is the biggest risk and adventure of a volunteers’ lives. Eddie guides them through the experience and motivates them to become comfortable and excited by the risk they have taken.
Eddie serves because he is passionate about helping others. And by following this passion, he has taken advantage of opportunities that reciprocated his energy and good will in the form of new skills, relationships and perspectives. These tools support his passion, and will be used as he continues living a life dedicated to helping others.
Life has a tendency to blind us to the realities of things that lie outside of our interests and daily circumstances. It is important for us to remain cognizant of opportunities to serve. The opportunity will not only provide service to others, but will also provide service to you.