Learn, Serve, Work, Repeat – A Pattern For Personal Growth
By Richard K. Harder
During the 19th century in America, the spring season was often the best time for dusting, because it was warm enough to open windows and doors (but not warm enough for insects to be a problem) and the winds would carry the dust out of the house. This was the “spring cleaning” of the time.
Today, modern rural households find practical value in continuing the tradition of “spring cleaning.” It just feels good to tidy a garage, donate some lightly used clothing, rearrange some furniture to give the family room a “new look” or deep clean the house. How might this “spring cleaning” tradition be applied in our work, service, and learning experiences? Let’s explore this tradition as it relates to our learning, serving and working.
Learning, according to an old Chinese proverb, is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere. One of my university academic advisors asked me one day how I felt after completing the requirements to have earned a master’s degree. My reply, as I recall, was that the more I had learned during the past several years of graduate studies, the more I realized how little I know. My advisor’s response was that the mark of an educated person is one who recognizes how little they really know and therefore seeks continuous learning. The “spring cleaning” desire for continuous learning—about anything, is an awesome aspiration. In the present electronic age, access to new information is readily available to those seeking this treasure called learning. A good “learning spring cleaning” initiative is to make a point of learning something new every day. So, go for it and enjoy.
Serving others by lending a hand, giving a word of encouragement, or offering a simple act of kindness benefits the receiver and the giver. “If you can’t do great things,” Mother Teresa used to say, “do little things with great love. If can’t do them with great love, do them with a little love. If you can’t do them with a little love, do them anyway.” This quote, for me, is a wonderful “personal spring cleaning” state-of-mind, suggesting that we can approach each day with a renewed enthusiasm for serving others. We do not need to look very hard to find someone who is in need of a kind act of service. It may simply be a pleasant “good morning” to the first person that crosses your path during an early morning walk or picking up that piece of litter that catches your attention while enjoying the great outdoors. “One of the great ironies of life is this: he or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” -Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand For Something
Working can be defined as engaging in physical or mental activity to achieve a desired result or income. Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, said that, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Work can be pleasant or unpleasant, meaningful or mundane, challenging or burdensome. Most people spend the best waking hours of most days of the week engaged in the physical or mental activity called work. So, why shouldn’t our time spent working be pleasant, meaningful, and challenging? If not, then let your “work spring cleaning” center on answers to some thought-provoking questions such as: Do I have a healthy balance between time spent at work and my personal time? Is work a meaningful experience for me? Is it enjoyable? Am I finding challenging and excitement in my work? Does my work-life need a spring cleaning? Serious reflection and change initiatives in response to these questions can be beneficial—and can enhance quality of life.