Chapter 6: Path of Service

En Route to Philadelphia from Chicago

A New Volume is Starting

Chapter 6: Path of Service: Who Am I Serving By Serving You?

As I was taking a rickshaw from Jamalpur, the slum community I had been volunteering in in India, the thought, ‘Who am I serving by serving you?’ came to mind. Who was I actually serving by serving others? When I had started to do volunteer work, it was because it made me feel like I had a purpose, as if living for others was the reason why I was here to begin with. Several years ago when I founded Aahana, I didn’t have it all figured out, but I did understand that much.

In those months earlier this year in India, I began questioning my own definition of the word and what it meant to me. The way we serve, who we serve- we all have our reasons, circumstances, and experiences that influence the service we do in our lives. Service for some of us can be taking care of our sick grandmother, spending time with our parents, going to the local old age home, fighting for the freedom of our country or mentoring someone younger.

In the introduction of these chapters, I wrote that I had questioned why Aahana had even existed in the first place. Those months prior, traveling around Southeast Asia, I was questioning why I had wanted to start something so large while there was so much internal work, work within myself, left to do. For a non-profit founder to admit this publicly is a bit unconventional. However, for me, this ability to be honest and transparent is important.

I had realized my path of service was one which many people on this path eventually come to take and understand. I think a lot of us get to the point where the act of internal service takes on a deeper, much more complex and difficult journey. More than the external service, being able to be truly honest and authentic with one’s thoughts and feelings takes a new level of strength. To be able to be kind and respect yourself, in turn makes you kind and respectful to the person in front of you.

There were two things I had remembered which always stuck with me as I continued to journey along this path. Two things I couldn’t quite articulate at the time, but slowly emerged through time.

The first is self. The ability to tap deeper into oneself. The deeper I tap into myself, the more I listen to that pure, inner voice which guides me in the direction which feels “right”. The deeper I go, the more I am able to connect with everything and everyone around me. That is when the magic happens- when the true, authentic beauty is felt.

The second is person. When I was able to tap into myself, I was truly able to feel the meaning of feeling one with someone else. We are all made up of the same elements and at our core, we have the same needs and feelings. My father recently told me, ‘Rina, you love the whole world, but the whole world doesn’t love you’. I shared this with a friend and that friend responded by saying, “expecting that love back isn’t our job to do”. He meant that looking to see if the other person loves us back isn’t for us to constantly look at. His response was beautiful. It is true- whatever we do, expecting that love back isn’t our job. Selfless, unconditional giving and love is all we can do. Understanding that the person is me helps bring peace and acceptance of the person in front of us.

As I learned from many friends in India, internal service and external service go hand in hand. Knowing your self is the key to unlocking my own inner strengths. How can I honestly ‘help’ or ‘empower’ anyone else when I have so much learning to do myself, when I have so much to learn about myself and the world? 

As Gandhiji wisely once said, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”