The sole purpose for our existence is simply to be happy. And we will never know true joy until we freely share our gifts, our time, and ourselves.

Jesus discovered this powerful secret.

He knew that his very reason for being was to share himself and his wisdom with those around him. Doing so was as natural for him as breathing because he understood that all fulfillment comes from giving oneself.

Jesus was also very specific in his instructions to us about service. He told us that whatever we do to the least of us, we also do to him. When we feed the hungry or help the sick and weak, we serve the Divine. When asked about helping our neighbors, Jesus gave the example of the Good Samaritan. Jesus told the rich, young ruler that the way to heaven was to sell his possessions and give them to the poor. His was a Gospel of compassion and generosity, leaving no wiggle room to avoid service.

Many of us find this concept of service to be foreign or unattractive. As with several of the other practices I have written about, service is not always met with enthusiasm. It is an idea loaded with misperceptions and confusion.

We have all been taught that service is a good thing, but it doesn't always feel that way.

We may think that service means hard work, with a promise for rewards at some undesignated time in the distant future. We may also have heard that service requires great sacrifice in order to be considered legitimate. Somehow, this beautiful practice has been turned into something to be avoided rather than pursued and celebrated. Case in point: A friend of mine recently shared that he was in a meeting where several people said they didn't like the word service because it implied being a servant, which seemed demeaning.

Jesus presented a very different picture of service. He showed us what happens as we mature spiritually: Our reasons for giving become more fully developed. We find ourselves serving, as he did, not to get something in return but because we recognize that giving is the essence of who we are, so we experience the joy that comes with it. …

We serve best when we are involved with something that uses our gifts.

Anytime we give from our passion, we give wholeheartedly and joyfully. Our enthusiasm is infectious, and people often join in because of our influence.

Service challenges us once again to look at our attitude toward receiving.

Instead of teaching us to sacrifice, service teaches us how to accept gifts. That may sound like a contradiction. But when we give for the pleasure of giving, we see how others get the same pleasure from sharing. We let them give to us because we know that it brings them joy, since that is our experience too. …

We also have a tendency to judge some acts as worthy service and others as less honorable. In truth, all service is notable. We all have the ability to contribute to the well-being of our planet, and no job is holier than another. I was reminded of this recently when I saw a vulture picking at a squirrel that had been hit and left On the side of the road. Now this is not a pretty picture, and we don't often think of vultures as doing us a service, but imagine a world where there were no scavengers. Their job is to act as the cleanup crew for Mother Earth.

However insignificant we may feel our own contribution is, we should always remember that our good works are vital to the well-being of the whole. Without our efforts, someone would suffer. …

Serving others does not have to be difficult; in fact, when we are spiritually fit, it is rather easy.

During morning meditation, we simply state our intention to be of service to the people we are with. Then, as we go about our day, we silently ask the questions, How may I serve? What Truth principle wants to express through me at this moment? How can I love God's beloved? Then we let it go. We don't define it or control it. We simply make ourselves available to Spirit.

This means looking past any false appearance to the essence of each person before us. We serve the highest ideal by seeing people as God's beloved. Imagine how differently we would treat other people if we saw them that way. We would not necessarily do anything special, yet we would treat every encounter as a sacred moment. We would breathe in each person's divine essence and communicate this to him or her through our words and presence.

We serve others by honoring them for who they really are because we open the door to possibilities they may never have thought of. Ultimately, we serve them by expecting the best for them.

Another way we serve is by being our authentic selves.

When we remember who we are as blessed sons and daughters of God and act accordingly, we serve as an inspiration to others. But it is not just our good deeds that encourage others; we also serve by sharing our challenges and failures. …

When we give freely of ourselves and our abundance, we affirm God's presence in our lives.

Consequently, God's love grows in us and we become the catalyst for spiritual evolution in our world. As we discover our unique gifts and develop them in a way that contributes to the well-being of others, we begin to see how we are repeating what Jesus did. ... As we serve simply and purely, we add a little bit each day to Jesus' vision of a more compassionate world.