Service is Also the Small Things

When I flew from Austin the other week, I was so grateful to have TSA precheck because the regular security line snaked around the airport. As many as 1 million people descended on Texas so the airport was packed. However, I ran into a snafu.

When I handed my ID to the security guy, he said, “You don’t have TSA precheck.”
“What?” I exclaimed. “I do have TSA precheck.”
“It’s not listed on your ticket.”
“Really? Can I just give you my known traveler number?”
He shook his head. “No, it’s through the airline. You have to turn around.”

Noooooooo. Visions of missing my flight danced through my head as he told me I’d have to get my ticket reissued or go through regular screening. I reversed my way out of the security line and approached the airport ticketing helpdesk. Hallelujah, they reprinted my boarding pass with the known traveler number and I breezed through TSA precheck after all. I chalked up the experience to Mercury retrograde shenanigans because this stuff happens all the time under that transit.

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Opportunities for service abound. Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Cut to a few days ago when I was on my way to Chicago and the same thing happened to a woman ahead of me in the TSA precheck line. Because of my experience in Austin, I was able to lean over and tell her she could go to the airline helpdesk and get her ticket reissued. In that moment I thought, “Huh. Isn’t that interesting.” In 12-step programs, we say that overcoming our difficulties can be of use to others. It’s encapsulated in the third-step prayer, which is: “God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of Life. May I do Thy will always. Amen.”

So often I think of difficulties as mine and mine alone but what if they aren’t? What if they’re for me, sure, but also an opportunity to be of service to someone else? My spiritual tradition is big on service. The two tenets are self-realization and service to the universe. They are like the wings of a bird and you need them both to fly. Usually when I think of service, I think of feeding the hungry, or building a home with Habitat for Humanity, but service is so much more than that. My spiritual teacher says, “[People] will have to consider themselves as instruments of the Supreme Entity, and throw themselves unreservedly into the work desired by [the Supreme Entity].”

What if being an instrument of the Supreme Entity is more than the things I can put on my LinkedIn profile? What if it’s also the small things like a kind word to a stranger, holding the door open for someone, and sharing about overcoming a challenge? As I wrote about last week, everything is a vehicle for liberation. Maybe everything is an opportunity for service too, including a headache with TSA precheck.

I dream of a world where we recognize everything that happens to us can eventually be of service to someone else. A world where we realize no experience is wasted. A world where we understand we can help others if we choose. A world where we know service isn’t only the large things, it’s also the small things.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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