Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Dialogue on Faith and Service!

Thank you to all of those who participated in last night's online dialogue on Faith and Service!  We were joined by Michael Turner from the local Baha'i community in our exploration of Should life be lived for ourselves and/or in the service of others? How does this affect the priorities in your daily life? What drives you to do good for others?

Check out the insightful video below and take a look through the transcript. Let's keep the conversation alive with comments or questions that can be answered by Michael Turner!

hp8014a said: logs in on 7/11/2012 7:05 pm (et).
Michael Turner: logs in on 7/11/2012 7:11 pm (et).
Kathleen B said: logs in on 7/11/2012 7:17 pm (et).
jdiggs said: logs in on 7/11/2012 7:19 pm (et).
Moderator: Welcome to IFC's Moderated Chat Room! This is Elora from InterFaith Conference (IFC) and I will be your moderator this evening. As this is still new, let me explain how this will work. On the right you should see a video. Please click the play button (the sideways triangle) to begin playing the video and to get our conversation going. If you have a comment and/or question, type your message in the box in the bottom left hand corner of the screen and click the "submit to moderator" button. This will send the message on to me for approval, and then I will post it to everyone where you will see it appear in the chat room. 
And that's it! Are you ready for a great dialogue!? 
As always I would like to remind you of the rules of our engagement. This is a respectful place where we try to understand what experiences others have, what things others believe, and how they try to live out what seems spiritual truth to them. Whether you agree of disagree, we welcome your comments and questions in a respectful manner. Please no profane or offensive remarks, they will not be posted. Try to refrain from stereotyping and remember that values and practices are not the same and that they have different levels of importance to each group. Additionally, it is important to remember that national and cultural differences may not always be the same as religious differences. I am here to make this a pleasant and educational experience for all, so enjoy and remember there are no stupid questions, but there can be hostile ones!
Moderator: Tonight our topic is Faith and Service. Should life be lived for ourselves and/or in the service of others? How does this affect the priorities in your daily life? What drives you to do good for others? Our guest this evening to guide us in exploring these questions is Michael Turner, a leader in the local Baha'i community. You can now begin posting and viewing the beginning comments on the right. As you participate please feel free to send your questions and comments (We Want Your Comments!!!) Also, the video will remain within the sidebar, so feel free to return to it as you wish. Our chat window automatically refreshes to keep the flow going, but if you wish to view the whole of the conversation just hit the archive button at the bottom of the page. Let the dialogue begin!
Kathleen B said: The notion of service is worship resonates. Gandhi said be the change you want to see in the world
Michael Turner: Yet service seems to have limited appeal for most people these days. People are more respected for popularity or wealth, rather than the benefits they have done for other human beings.
Kathleen B said: That is often the case. I also think many people have to work so hard to cover the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing that it leaves little time or energy for service beyond that.
Michael Turner: If we do not use our limited lifespan in service, we have wasted our lives. Our purpose is service, whether we are aware of it or not.
Kathleen B said: I agree.
Michael Turner: Yet so much of what we do is capable of more than one explanation. If I am a farmer growing food, I may be focussing on bringing in a bumper crop to establish an opulent life style, or I can be feeling, in my heart that I am feeding humanity. My actions are the same, but my viewpoint is different.
Kathleen B said: Intensions are powerful. Is anyone else on the chat - please speak up
Eric A. said: logs in on 7/11/2012 7:44 pm (et).
Moderator: Another issue is that because popularity and wealth are more valued in our society then people use service as a means of obtaining it rather than with the intention of helping others
Eric A. said: Michael do you have any ideas or suggestions about how this can be overcome?
Michael Turner: Or service can even be regarded as a punishment. Community service is regarded by some as dishonorable, since misbehaving adults are required to do it.
Michael Turner: We need a change in fashion, so that wealth is only valued for the service it enables, rather than opulence enabled.
Nanik said: logs in on 7/11/2012 7:48 pm (et).
Michael Turner: In ancient Rome, which was not an ideal culture, rich men displayed their wealth by preforming public services. They built a bridge or a road, or provided bread for the poor, or put on gladiatorial games. Of course, this also served political ambition.
Nanik said: Fundamental Question is why serve?
Eric A. said: Right, I think that is always the challenge. I think there may be multiple reasons why people serve, some of them more selfish than others, but it also depends on which is the strongest intention.
Eric A. said: It reminds me somewhat of the U.S.'s use of aid for its own political purposes.
Eric A. said: But does that diminish the service it provides?

Michael Turner: I recall reading that Andrew Carnegie said that the man who dies wealthy dies too soon. If I am wealthy, I must see myself as unfulfilled if I have not put my good fortune to work for others.
Michael Turner: If a rich man funds a charity that benefits me, I may wonder about the reason, and if I determine that a selfish motive is served then I feel less served than taken advantage of.
Nanik said: More basic question is who am I? If I and you are linked to the same source then it makes sense to serve and help our fellow men, if not then service has no basis
Michael Turner: Nanik is right. If the server does not see the served as partaking of the same humanity, as part of the same community, then the value of the service is reduced or negated.
Eric A. said: This reminds me another saying, that if men were truly to practice selfishness then they would give to others because giving to others also benefits yourself
Eric A. said: But people struggle with accepting that they have enough and that they can give even a small percent to others, because when people are in the mindset that they themselves do not have enough then they are not likely to be inclined to give to others.

Michael Turner: There is not doubt that we derive satisfaction and pleasure from helping others. I still think it is different when we have some ulterior motive.
Michael Turner: There are poor people who are generous with the little they have, and rich people who insist that they do not yet have enough to allow them to be generous.
Nanik said: Giving doesn't mean any material loss. Giving can be love, respect which are the most orecious comodities. Moreover, what goes around comes around with interest.
Eric A. said: I was struck in watching the video about the various types of service there are and the various things that you can give
Eric A. said: For example, you can give your time, material goods, your talents like music, or your knowledge, or even your laughter

Michael Turner: Giving should form a connection , or better, acknowledge an existing connection, yet with the wrong motivation can lead to resentment.
Michael Turner: Can we each, when we offer a service to somebody, express in our attitude that, today it is my turn to serve you. Tomorrow it may be your turn to serve me or someone else.
Eric A. said: I like that idea of a connection. Too often the power of love and respect is downplayed over quantifiable things like science and money, but it is connecting with those that have little that can open your own eyes to the power of these things, because those who have little are fully aware of the power of things other than money and material goods
Nanik said: Giving should be with love and with the feeling of superiority. Infact, we are in a position to give because someone (Higher Power) is giving us
ms3423 said: logs in on 7/11/2012 8:10 pm (et).
Nanik said: sorry, not with the feeling of superiority
Michael Turner: It is the feeling of service, true service, proceeding from a sense of obligation, that is what is really of value, rather than whatever material component may be involved.
ms3423 said: logs off on 7/11/2012 8:12 pm (et).
Michael Turner: God has given me a duty to serve my fellow servants, and I am grateful that I am able to render you some small service as a token of the love I feel for God and humanity. Something like that, perhaps?
Eric A. said: Is there a selfishness or difference in servicing because you feel it will put you in a better light in the eyes of a greater being?
Michael Turner: Good question. If I am smug because I think I have scored points because of my service, then I think it is the same as if I had funded a gladiatorial game to win an election. Not real service at all.
Michael Turner: Humility is pleasing in a giver.
Kathleen B said: I think I can serve others with humility and know it is also in my highest good to do so.
Michael Turner: If I love someone, I will do things for that person, always looking to the next service, and never thinking, There, I've done enough.
Eric A. said: I think it also goes back to the idea that you must serve others to find the most fulfillment in life, which is what I believe a higher being wants us all to achieve, and so your service benefits not only that other person, but yourself and the higher being as well
Michael Turner: Service becomes a continuum in which we partake, since, as has been already said, the services we provide are the result of generosity that we have received.
Kathleen B said: As we sow so shall we reap.
Kathleen B said: Thank you, Michael and Moderator for initiating this discussion.

 Moderator: Thank you for your participation!
Michael Turner: Can it be a part of a more up-to-date business model that I must care for the people I hope will be my customers and the people who will do work in my business, so that what goes around comes around in a way that is of some satisfaction.
Eric A. said: I also liked the quotation about how service can take any form. I think people always think of service as something you do extra outside of your daily life and for those who are materially poor, but simply living out your life to the fullest doing the most that you can for everyone you meet is real service
Moderator: We have about two minutes left. Please submit any final comments at this time.
Michael Turner: There may be some professions that seeing the potential for service may be more difficult.
Eric A. said: This is true.
Moderator: If you would like to be added to the listserv for further information about upcoming chats, please email me at Also follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more updates!. I am committed to making these chats the best that they can be so please send me any comments on what worked, what didn't work, and what I could do to make the chats better.
Michael Turner: Thank you, for your thinking. 
Moderator: Thank you everyone for your participation in this first chat of the summer! I encourage you to spread the impact of this dialogue by sharing the knowledge you have gained with those around you!
Moderator: Have a good night, and we will 'see' you next week! 

Here are some conclusions we came to:

Service benefits all: assists the person who is served, brings fulfillment to the person who is serving, and pleases a higher being.

Service functions as a circle with our ability to serve others being a result of the generosity and blessing we have received, and by continuing to give we will only continue to receive.

Service does not have to be seen as a sacrifice, but rather as something we benefit from spiritually.

The intension behind service is very important.  There may be multiple benefits and reasons behind an action, but which one of these that has the greatest importance will define if others are being served or taken advantage of.

There are many ways to serve.  Service does not have to be something that is done outside of your daily life and provided only to those who are materially less well off.  Rather, living your life to the fullest potential and helping all of those in whatever way you can, is also service.

There are many things you can give.  You can give your material things, you can give your time, you can give your talent, you can give your knowledge, and you can also give your personality through a friendly smile or laughter.

Popularity and wealth have greater value in our society than service.  For example, community service is often used as punishment for crimes.

Service can often not be given until people find contentment with what they already have.  Unless you feel you have enough, then you cannot see the things you have to give. 

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