The following is not an exaggerated account of the exchanges between my friends and me. It is an accurate reflection of the conversations that we had as teenagers when they slept over at my house.
“Hey man, do you think you could hand me a blanket? I’m cold!
No! Get yourself a blanket, punk! I am not a wimp and here to serve you.”
As young men, we are often socialized to believe that serving others is a behavior to avoid. We believe doing something kind for another person conflicts with our embodiment of masculinity. Growing up, I saw my mother and father give their time, talents, and other resources away. I respected them and did not think less of them for their willingness to serve without monetary compensation. My parents encouraged my sisters and me also to help houseguests and others in our community. Nonetheless, somewhere in my environment, I picked up the idea that expressing acts of kindness toward my friends was not part of my identity.
When I was a teenager my closest friends, FAAM, were a group of guys who I met when I was in the fifth grade. In my book, I discuss how they became more than my friends. They were family, and I appreciated them given my status as the only boy raised in a home with five girls. The FAAM and I were inseparable and spent time with each other before, during, and after school.
To this date, I continue to stay in touch with several of the guys from my elementary, middle, and high school years. Due to family, work, and entrepreneurial activities we don't talk as frequently as we used to, but we remain in contact with group text. It's inevitable, that whenever we get together someone in the circle brings up their memories of staying at my house for sleepovers. In unison, they agree that they enjoyed staying at my home to steal extra looks at my sisters, but hated that I would make them get their blankets, towels, or whatever else they needed from the linen closet to feel comfortable.
Service was sewn into the fabric of my family, but occasionally I missed the stitches or details and did not apply it in my interactions with friends.
Despite my parents’ teachings and examples, I didn’t see value in serving others. My mother hosted dinners at our home nearly every Sunday where she cooked a full course meal for our family and guests. In the community, I was aware of my father’s volunteer activities with hospitals and non-profit organizations. Service was sewn into the fabric of my family, but occasionally I missed the stitches or details and did not apply it in my interactions with friends.
Service is fundamental to leadership. It is an essential complimentary activity to gratitude practices. Volunteering, assisting others, making monetary contributions to positive organizations are examples of service that can make a positive impact in your life and others. The more I grow as the romantic partner to my wife, father to three children, mentor to young people, consultant and personal development coach to individuals and organizations; I understand how fundamental serving the needs of others is to success.
Throughout June, I will share content relative to serving the needs of individuals and organizations in need. For starters, I have created a campaign to support the Capoeira Arts' Foundation based in Berkeley, California. It is a non-profit organization that offers scholarships and community initiatives via the art of Capoeira. Due to teaching and student experiences in Capoeira for the past twelve years, this organization has proved instrumental to the understandings of leadership that I possess today.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and if providing impactful services via the arts resonates with you, please consider supporting me and the Capoeira Arts Foundation at this link.
*A previous version of this article appeared in my column at The Good Men Project.