Why Giving Without Getting Is Really Good For You

Why Giving Without Getting Is Really Good For You


Service has never come easy to me.

In yoga teacher training, I’d do whatever I could to get out of the karma yoga – cleaning the bathroom, mopping the floors, or whatever menial task was assigned to me in the name of selfless service. It wasn’t so much about the actual cleaning, but rather that my time was being taken away for nothing in return.

As a waitress, a job that is now referred to as a server, it was the same type of work as the karma yoga… except I was rewarded with a tip at the end. This completely switched up the whole exchange. Waiting tables wasn’t what I wanted to do, yet it provided a means to an end — I was paid! There was nothing selfless about being a server.

Years ago, when I was already deep in my styling career, someone suggested I volunteer my service to a charitable organization – like Dress For Success. I listened to the advice…sort of. After going through the motions to see what was entailed, I discovered a grueling sign-up / training period that was way too daunting for me to get past.

I ended up at New York Cares, a local non profit that has a slew of volunteer opportunities across the board from hospital beauty visits to playing basketball with kids. I enthusiastically attended their one hour welcome session only to realize afterwards that I couldn’t (wouldn’t) find the time to actually perform the service. (It’s not too late!)

Then there’s the school. They always need volunteers. Between the PTA and all the other committees, there should be pretty much something for everyone, right? I’ve managed to keep quite the distance from most of these activities until a friend became president of the PTA. Then it was harder to stay away. One second, I’m hanging out at the recess yard chit chatting with my friend (El Presidente) and the next thing I knew I was wandering around the school after the Holiday Fair holding an industrial grade coffee maker trying to clean the thing out. (Too large to fit under the bathroom sink!) Was I out of my element. 100%. But when it was over (and I finally found the school kitchen sink), I felt good in a way that only comes from giving selflessly. (Btw, restocking books in the library is way more my thing.)

Now, I’m a mom – the ultimate sacrifice of time, energy and pretty much everything else. Is it selfless? Completely. Could it be considered Karma? I actually do believe that the kids we get are a result of karma…but that’s another post. The point is that I willingly do my mom stuff…out of love. It’s not selfless service. It’s parenting.

Selfless service is about stepping out of your comfort zone to give without getting anything back. It’s often inconvenient. And it’s one of the best ways to get out of your own head, and focus on another.

I was recently given the supreme opportunity to serve.


Talk about karma!

I didn’t get trial jury duty–the one that takes 2 days, 5 days tops. (The one that DH got out of work for 2 days and ended up at the movies.)

Nope, I got called in for the big guns — Grand Jury Duty (yes, I meant to capitalize this term!) which is a minimum of 2 weeks, and up to several months.

My first reaction — sheer panic.
Then — I’ll get out of it, like I always have.
Until finally– — Oh, just do it.

It is the law to serve jury duty so not exactly a volunteer situation I’m faced with.

But it is a step in the right direction of giving without getting anything in exchange.

Who knows? This time, it’s Grand Jury Duty.

Next time, President of the PTA.
(Or more realistically, getting back involved with New York Cares.)

How do you feel about volunteering your time and do you ever do it?

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12 Comments

  1. girlgatheringwisdom@gmail.com' girlgatheringwisdom says:

    Elysha,
    Great topic! I fought the idea of volunteering for years (I had every “reason” (really excuses) in the book why not to). When I finally made the step (volunteering in a hospital) there was a definite transition period. But all of a sudden…….it kicked in……the giving with no getting (I called it “no strings attached”). It is truly a win-win! That doesn’t mean that there weren’t times I really didn’t feel like going….but by then my time was counted on….and so I went. Giving without getting works in every relationship and situation as a good outcome for both the recipient and the giver. Again, thanks for the topic!

  2. You nailed it, GGW — thank you! Your volunteering in a hospital is an excellent example of giving without strings attached. It’s an offering of pure generosity.

  3. sara_foley@bigpond.com' sara says:

    Yes, great topic Elysha. I am a community minded person, so I do a fair bit of volunteering – I have been P&C secretary for 5 years and have just been re-elected secretary of my writers group for the third time. I support community events as much as possible. I remember a conversation with my mother regarding selfless service or karma yoga, and when I pointed out to her all of the service I already did, she replied that I choose front of vision positions with status, and perhaps my service is not completely selfless. Ouch! But true. She said I should focus on things like cleaning and gardening for my karma yoga practice as well as dropping my attitude 🙂

  4. Dropping the attitude…I think once that happens we’d be able to do the rest of it. Good advice from your mom!

  5. justsylph@gmail.com' Maia says:

    Elysha! I am finally getting your posts through the reeader. I am not sure what I did since I clicked several buttons lol. But who friggin cares?! I can ultimately follow you now. Let me officially announce myself as your stalker – hahaha!

    Jury duty, huh? My only experience with that is either books or films. Yours will be the first hand account of how it’s like… oh… you may not be allowed to lol.

    Karma yoga is simply the best. Just give. Period. Regardless what it may be. Little or big things are irrelevant. They are always big to the people receiving them. =)

  6. Maia!!! You’re here!!! I am so happy to see you. And your beautiful comment — Just give. Period. — will stay with me as I move along my day.
    Thank You Thank You Thank You!

  7. I love the volunteer job that I do. I volunteer working with children in bereavement. I think it all comes down to what type of volunteer work suits you. There is the right position for everyone. I think when you have the right fit that life feels balanced.

  8. Well put, Michele. And what an amazing position you’ve found. It must feel so good for you to be helping in this way– you’re inspiring!

  9. justsylph@gmail.com' Maia says:

    I tried in vain to reply to this earlier on my phone. I swear it’s not my phone but the app grrr!
    And you’re very welcome! Having your posts in my reader sort of makes up for being unable to reply – bahaha!

  10. Hi Elysha,
    Great blog post about your journey with service. I also have been a waitress/server. In college/undergrad I used to work for the SVO: Student Volunteer Organization (just volunteer). Also, then, for pay, I used to raise funds for non-profit groups by calling members and people who showed interest. So awesome!!! Likely as a result of SVO, I worked at a Navajo reservation with kindergarteners – which is probably why later I ended up tutoring in elementary students and teaching Burmese refugee high school students ESL (for pay). Interestingly, it seems like work and service go hand-in-hand, which is why I really love your post. You really ‘show up’ with your experiences and express from a truly authentic place in your journey here on your blog. When I went to see Amma a few years ago in New York, I gave my massage services as Seva. That was another profound experience. Now, if I can just figure out how to continue to inter-weave these projects. For now, I’m dedicating my current practice to those who participate in my evolving, “tree project.” In case you are interested in contributing some content: http://fiestaestrellas.com/2015/05/29/art-is-happening-in-my-house-a-special-request-fill-this-tree/ write a comment at the link – and tie it to a new or existing “tree-related” project of yours. The attunements are for business success. Pretty cool. It’s so good to share practices. Best to you, Stylish Elysha~
    Love, Ka

  11. Hi Ka,
    I love how you say that work and service go hand in hand. I totally agree with you! And you’re an Amma devotee?!?! I met her (+ got a hug!) in NY many years ago. I can imagine how it must’ve been to offer your massage service as Seva in that setting –> intense + beautiful!! As far as figuring out how to inter weave your projects…it seems like it’s been figuring itself out for you…one service opportunity (SVO) has led to another (tutoring) and so forth. Eventually it does all come together, and though it may not seem to make sense to your mind…as long as you stay connected + on your path…it will unfold exactly as it should. Thank you for sharing your kind + thoughtful words here. I’m going to make my way over to your blog + check out your tree project.
    Best to you, Sweet Ka!

  12. Haha! I have trouble working WP on my phone as well. The app isn’t very mobile friendly. Oh well…love having you here!! Thank you x x

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