Most spiritual traditions and ethical systems value the idea of service to the community. Helping out is one of the basic threads that hold society together. Individuals work together for the benefit of the group and, in exchange, the group looks after the individuals within it. We want to help those who help us.
Money is one kind of exchange for service. We call it our pay cheque. But when we’re providing a service for free, the exchange isn’t so clear, and in some instances it can seem non-existent. At times like this, we need faith in the workings of karma or, if we’re Christian, faith that God’s blessings will eventually come our way.
This doesn’t mean that we’re serving our community in order to get something back, not at all. The best kind of service is selfless, but how many of us can truly say that our service is completely selfless? Selfless or not, paid or not, service is service. The point is whether we’re helping out our community or not, whether it’s serving someone in a restaurant, emptying garbage bins, making roads, teaching, nursing or running a hospital or a charity. If we’re the CEO of a big company and we are truly ethical and are aiming to do the best for the community, we are doing service, but if we are merely trying to make the most money we can, we are not serving anyone, least of all ourselves.
Sometimes I look at my service to my communities and think that I’m not doing much. Sometimes I feel as if I should be doing more, or doing more important service, like social service, but is one kind of service really better than another?
It’s easy to look at occupations like health and education and see the value in that, or in things like land care, volunteer work aboard or lobbying for positive change, but not everyone can do those kind of things. It would be great if we all had the skills for such things, but most of us don’t. We can still serve though, in everything we do, we can aim to help others, then everything we do becomes service. Let’s not forget the importance of cooking and cleaning!
I volunteered with a Buddhist distance education group for 12 years, then I swapped it for time spent on the internet supporting Indie authors who write quality books. Sometimes, I think I’m wasting my time, that this isn’t an important thing to be doing. I doubt I’ve sold more of my own books because of it, though I have made some lovely friends, but in the end what I get out of it in tangible terms isn’t relevant, what is important is whether it’s really helping the community. For sure, it’s helping the Indie author community, but is that a worthwhile cause?
The reason I’m doing it is because, due to the prejudice against Indie books, these authors are the underdogs trying to prove their worth in the big brutal world of publishing. I figured that those who write really good books could do with some help in letting people know this fact. Add the fact that most of them have very little money and you can see that this kind of free help is really important for them.
But they’re writers, you might say, that’s not feeding the poor or healing the sick. True, but man does not live on bread alone. Writers are artists, and art is important for the cultural health of our society. Look at popular fiction. It leaves a lot to be desired, but the mainstream publishers keep churning out the same old stuff. Indie books are where the change will come from. Only from Indie publishing will new ideas and movements in literature spring forth. Only they can offer your children books with healthier role models than those published by the mainstream. Without them, we would have no other choice. These new voices, the previously unheard, deserve to be read, and our society needs their fresh input, like all alternative movements, they enrich the fabric of life for all.
So is my work to support and promote Indie authors a valuable service to society? Or am I just saying this to convince myself that I’m not wasting my time?