Often times we approach our day with a “what’s in it for me” mentality. However, many spiritual texts advise that we should be looking for opportunities in which we can serve others.

Yesterday, a friend and I fed the homeless in downtown LA. Now part of that was done to serve my own ego so I could feel good about myself and write the above line. Yet, the experience itself was truly rewarding.

To literally serve the people with  nurturance and sustenance was an experience I think everyone should have. There were hundreds of people there- from all walks of life. Some suffered with mental illness, as evidenced by the headphones they wore to cope with auditory hallucinations. Some were women who looked fearful and showed the marks of domestic violence around their eyes and along their limbs. Some were just your everyday average joes- who had come up against a string of bad luck.

Many people carried a sense of shame that they now found themselves with their hands out. Some had lost all pride and were simply in the depths of despair. A few had reached a stage of acceptance and were cracking jokes (one of my favorite was a guy who said “Cous-Cous? No! No!”) And of course, there were also the occasional ones who complained about the selection or portion sizes we were giving out.

I tried to look each person in the eye. I wanted to relay to them that we were all connected and just because I was on the other side of the table didn’t mean we don’t share the same hopes, the same fears, we all want to love, and be loved, we all have experienced loss, and eventually we all will die. None of us are immune to life.

There are many ways we help the less fortunate. We can write checks to charties, donate toys and clothes, and throw large benefit galas. Yet there is something that happens internally, on another level, when you are rolling your sleeves up and in direct contact with someone in need.

I believe this is our purpose. The purpose of our life is to be of service to others. There is no other thing, acquisition, person, or material possession greater than this, in my opinion. I think its such a cool concept that I actually get paid to do this everyday. Yet I gain a deeper satisfaction when volunteering.

This truly is part of the path to lasting fulfillment. So often we default to a “treadmill” mentality- “I’ll just get this promotion and then I’ll be happy,” or “I am going to lose 25 more opounds and then I’ll feel better,” or “I’ll get that new Audi I’ve been dreaming of and then I’ll be set.” Yet the cycle doesn’t stop. Ironcially by feeding our addiction to “things” we are creating an ever-increasing hole of need within ourselves.

To genuinely get closer to well-being and fulfillment we must turn our focus towards others. What can you do today to be of service to another person? Do you have a friend who needs someone to just listen? Do you have an elderly neighbor who needs help in her yard? Do you know of a co-worker who could really use a break?

Benevolence is what the “B” in my BALANCE model stands for. Benevolence doesn’t have to be a complexly orchestrated event. You don’t need to build better agricultural systems in Uganda or solve the Israeli/Pakistani peace conflict. You will find many opportunities to serve if you open your eyes, ears, and heart to whats around you today.