Green sign against wood background, words are Help Others

To be of service is to work to help others, to serve. Service recognizes human interconnectedness and our ability to contribute to the lives of others in positive and active ways. Service is an active form of caring, compassion, or love. We call people who work for government “public servants” because their job is to support people, rather than to make a profit or to build a powerbase.

(The word service can also imply work as a servant for pay, a government branch, or a religious observance. Those are not what these quotations describe.)

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Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.

The best index to a person’s character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can’t fight back.

— Abigail Van Buren

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

— Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s, Often attributed to Lilla Watson, who said she was “not comfortable being credited for something that had been born of a collective process” — the attribution here is the one she accepted.

Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting, and enhancing life and that to destroy, harm, or to hinder life is evil. Affirmation of the world — that is affirmation of the will to live, which appears in phenomenal forms all around me — is only possible for me in that I give myself out for other life.

— Albert Schweitzer

Sometimes our inner light goes out but is blown again into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.

— Albert Schweitzer

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.

— Albert Schweitzer

If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.

— Alex Noble

If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.

— Alex Noble

Most of all, I remember those children in the classrooms and those kids who grabbed me around the knees, and I think of the old people who really need a voice when they’re trapped in wheelchairs in dirty nursing homes. The person in this office really must have a conscience to know that how they direct this government dramatically affects the lives of those people.

— Ann Richards

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

— Anne Frank

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

— Audre Lorde

There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.

— Booker T. Washington

There were two classes of charitable people: one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all.

— Charles Dickens, Bleak House

Human life consists in mutual service. No grief, pain, misfortune, or ‘broken heart,’ is excuse for cutting off one’s life while any power of service remains. But when all usefulness is over, when one is assured of an unavoidable and imminent death, it is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick and easy death in place of a slow and horrible one.

— Charlotte Perkins Gilman, suicide note, August 17, 1935

The Universe will never require you to set yourself on fire to provide heat for others.

— Clyde Lee Dennis

There is a call to us, a call of service — that we join with others to try to make things better in this world.

— Dorothy Day

Holy listening — to ‘listen’ another’s being into life, may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.

— Douglas V. Steere

To look forward and not back,
To look out and not in, and
To lend a hand.

— Edward Everett Hale

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

— Edward Everett Hale

Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.

— Eleanor Brownn

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Those of us who are warm and dry and safe and well-fed must show up for those who are cold and wet and endangered and hungry. That’s a rule of life. Every ethical and religious and spiritual tradition in the world agrees on that rule.

— Elizabeth Gilbert

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

— Emily Dickinson

Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man’s business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. Thousands of years ago the question was asked; ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society.

Yes, I am my brother’s keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality but by the higher duty I owe myself. What would you think me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death.

— Eugene V. Debs

We shall grow in the attempt to help others to grow. Every human being is valuable…. Neither individualism, nor altruism is the satisfying life. People grow and develop in proportion as they help others grow and develop…. The attempt to actualize the potential in others, unfolds resources dormant in ourselves. This dedication to self and others harmonizes the ever conflicting claims of individualism and altruism. The good of oneself, and the good of others, emerge together.

— Felix Adler

To care for anyone else enough to make their problems one’s own, is ever the beginning of one’s real ethical development.

— Felix Adler

Ethical religion can be real only to those who are engaged in ceaseless efforts at moral improvement. By moving upward we acquire faith in an upward movement, without limit.

— Felix Adler

Caring about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people, brings happiness.

— Harold Kushner

Many persons have no idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.

— Helen Keller

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?

— Hillel the Elder
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