"Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve…You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love"

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the great man said, we all can find a way — even many ways — to serve. In order to do that, we must first know all of humanity to be unified in spirit. And we must believe even the "lowly" are worth our time and effort.

I am reminded of the scene with the Ghost of Christmas Present in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. He stood wrapped in the richness and wonder and joy of his Christmas robes, (his spiritual life) yet he was helpless to aid the two starving, wretched, frightened children clinging to his ankles beneath his robe. Scrooge asked the spirit whose children they were.

"They are Man's," the Christmas ghost mournfully decreed of the destitute, hollow-faced little ones at his feet — as if that were not only the origin of the children's birth but also the reason for his own helplessness. "and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree. But most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing is erased."

As a champion of the poor, Dickens was cautioning his readers about their lack of consciousness (ignorance) of the dire destitution (want) that defined existence for too many people during his time. The ghost was pleading to take action — to stop ignoring the needs of others.

Over the years, as I have read that passage many times, I have come to find more meaning in Dickens' vision than just the social comment which was so close to his heart. To me, Ignorance also became ignorance of the spirit — ignorance of the real self, the powerful, joyful self. And Want became the experience of lack — the loveless-ness and emptiness that can only be known when one attaches too greatly with the physical world and loses touch with that spirit within.

Today, as in mid-nineteenth century London, there is great lack, hunger, and want. There are those who only want a chance at a new start, a greater education. Perhaps we could see ourselves in the faces of our brothers, and share not just money or food or old clothes, but encouragement — real encouragement. That might make the greatest difference of all.


Close your eyes and think of one person in you life that you sometimes ignore, even if it's just because you're busy. See yourself embracing and encouraging this person to know your love and support, as well as their own unlimited possibilities. Feel the compassion that embraces you both.

You don't have to serve at a soup kitchen to serve in the world. All you need to do is encourage whomever you can to discover the spirit and the truth in themselves. Help them find the power to take action, to believe in themselves, and to know who they are inside.

Those who do not rise up out of their circumstances of birth or poverty often stay stuck out of their own ignorance. They are ignorant that there may be another way, that they have the power to change things if they make an effort to do so. We have an opportunity to encourage them to act, but to do this we must also lift ourselves out of our own ignorance. Ignorance implies lack of awareness. But actually it comes from the words "to ignore." In this way, disregarding anything or anyone is an act of ignorance.

Unfortunately, in spite of living in the information age of technology, we are a race of beings that have fine-tuned the act of ignorance! We ignore our habits. We ignore our bodies. We ignore our emotions. And most of all, we ignore our spirit. This may be the most devastating act of ignorance there can be. For it is this spirit, this divine spark, that provides us with the consciousness to change, the power to grow, and most importantly, the ability to love.

In Dickens' time, in cities, on trains, on ships, wherever one went, the lower class was separated from the gilded society. It is now gilding of the ego that separates us from our spirit. Loveless-ness is the greatest lack of nourishment there is. And, unhappily, it is a want that is created by our own hand and by the ignorance we find easier to maintain than to challenge.

The greatest service we can do is to share our spirit with the world. Share your spirit through love, through kindness, through compassion, through generosity. Encourage everyone who seems dispirited to take one little step in this discovery for themselves. And once they feel the excitement of knowing a new purpose that gives their spirit a voice, then together we can change the world.

(from The Journey Magazine, Awakening from Ignorance to Service, by Sharon Anne Klingler. All rights reserved.)