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Who inspires you with their service to the community? A family member, a friend?  A more recent, public philanthropist? Fred Hollows, Mother Theresa? What is it exactly that inspires you?  The type of work that they are doing? The perceived ‘difficulty‘ of their work environment?  Their dedication to the job? Their tireless enthusiasm and hours of devotion?  The level of their skill?  Their selflessness?  A mix of all the above perhaps? My feeling is that whatever answer you have given, you are looking at your own potential.

Two recent movies based on true stories, have really inspired me. Hidden Figures is the first –  1961 – NASA employed a number a African American women who were highly skilled and highly intelligent (mathematicians and computer programmers) and had to work in the face of intense racism and sexual discrimination.  They loved their work and wanted to be able to contribute their incredible giftedness to a project of unforseen proportions ( ie; putting a man into space to orbit the world and safely return to earth). They endured put-downs, segregation, being overlooked for promotion and being treated like they were slaves, until their ‘shining’ made it impossible for them to be overlooked.

Also, Hackshaw Ridge – a recent Mel Gibson movie.  The hero was a pacifist who joined an army corp but refused to so much as to hold a weapon.  He wanted to be in the medical corp and assist the fallen men in battle. During training he was the antithesis of what a soldier is thought to be by the army.  His colleagues brutally bullied him, but he did not retaliate. The army tried to unsuccessfully remove him on the grounds of mental instability. He was reviled, belittled and loathed by all around him, until his ‘shining’ made it impossible for them to reject him. His courage and love on the battlefield was at the limits of human endurance.  He remained on the ridge, deep amongst the enemy when all of his comrades had retreated.  He remained to rescue as many soldiers as he could, constantly risking his life. He was motivated by an internal prayer of “just one more……”

What inspires me in these two movies is the determination of spirit of the main character/s. In the face of hostile opposition and discrimination, their goal remain steadfast and resolute.  Their faith in something higher was unshakeable.  They did not shift their focus away from their objectives. It takes incredible courage, solidity and faith to hold your course when what you are following is unpopular by those around you. Imagine Mother Theresa watching the destitute being brought in from Calcutta’s streets and laid down in her shelter.  She was compassion and love.  I have heard that she laid them down and then placed her hands on them, stroked them, embraced them, loved them. Welcomed them in to her care. Many were profoundly and positively affected by her display of compassion and love. Can you imagine the advice she could have received from detractors? ‘Don’t touch them!  They are full of disease, covered in excrement, violent, hopeless, mad.‘   She showed us what is possible by following your heart. The judgements of others did not alter her course she stayed true to her inner mission. What an incredible gift she bestowed upon humanity by her example.

So the examples I provide are on a large scale, but if you look around your local community there are plenty of quiet, local philanthropists. In Geelong, we have an active volunteer network assisting in scores of worthy projects. One I recently had contact with is a local church group. For 2 nights every week and 6 mornings every week the homeless can turn up for a free meal. The lady co-ordinating this has been doing so for well over a decade. The night that I volunteered about 100 people arrived.  Organised chaos.  Love in action. My inner ‘administrator’ could see what an enormous logistical operation this is. Sourcing the food (which is donated by many different organisations), getting it delivered and prepared, sourcing a constant flow of volunteers, co-ordinating the set up and pack up of the premises. This work is done quietly, but with great love.

Some would ask, why she would bother.  The work is repetetive, long hours, early starts, constantly chasing up food donations, logistical obstacle course and there are no public accolades, high pay or promotional avenues.   Service to others appears to be both the motivation and the reward.  This work is from the heart. The reward is knowing that you are in the right place, doing the right thing for the right people. External praise is un-necessary here.  It’s like the call to be of service is so strong that deviation from ‘the path’ is far more challenging to bear than any challenge that following the path presents.

Some people spend their lives attempting to find the path and feeling confused.  Your ‘path’ is not some disguised secret, encrypted in Aramaic on a lost scroll. It’s quite simple. Do what you LOVE.  What is your favourite thing to do? Whether it seems big or small.  Follow that and watch what happens.  Opportunities will open up in front of you. When we love what we do, it becomes infectious.  You become like a magnet; people are intrigued and want to be involved. When you love what you do, you are inspiring, whether it’s organising a school fair, being an architect or writing a poem.  You are living your path. Go on, be inspiring.