If you take the literal definition of public service, it means service rendered for public (interest). If it is for the common good, then it is public service.
My idea on public service deals with individualism, apathy and perhaps pro-elitism yet it is a very practical, applicable, and simple principle. My idea stems from candidates for national election, who often say, they want to help and serve their country men when asked , “Why do you want to run for president/ mayor/ senator?” Can you not serve the people by being a private citizen? Do you really have to run for a government position to be of service?
Here’s what I’m thinking. Between a city mayor, who takes care of his city but keeps large sums of money for himself and a trash collector, who works hard to feed his family, who is a better citizen? It is not because you are a leader, you are contributing more. It is not because you belong to an institution which aims to protect the state, it means you are helping the nation.
Here’s my formula for public service.
“When you do good, do you your best, do what is right, you are already making a big contribution to the society. ”
As what I said, my idea sounds élite, self-centered, and apathetic yet very practical, applicable, and simple. But with my formula, anybody can be of help. Anybody can be significant. You do not need to rally on the streets to be catalyst for change. Though it sounds easy, it is not really applied by most of us. Hence, my three-step in making big contribution to the society is one of the most difficult things to do.
Sometimes, the people who are in need of our kindness is within our periphery. We are often farsighted. Kindness is not only about helping victims of natural disaster. It would be an act of hypocrisy and irony if you send cash and goods to victims of flood but cannot even give alms to your hungry brother, neighbor, and friend. Sometimes people think big without having enough introspection and reflection. I remember talking to someone who was teary as she shared her sympathy for the victims of Sendong. She suggested we should form a group to give some donation for the victims. I thought of her condition. She had nothing to eat, no coins in her pocket. She had a lot of debts to pay. I was thinking that the biggest help she can give to this world is not giving donation but to get a job, work hard, and improve her life. Kindness does not have to be in big package all the time.
Do your best.
This one is the hard part. Most of us settle on mediocrity because of convenience. And just because one dream failed us, we do not give our best on what we have. For instance, some of us may have dreamed of becoming lawyers, doctors, nurses, actors, and painters. Due to unwanted circumstances, these dreams remain dreams. Some lack drive to improve themselves because they feel they are the unluckiest people on earth. But as what Joel Osteen said, “Bloom where you are planted.”
I go back to the whole meaning of “public service.” I have nothing against TV celebrities running for government position. But my point is: If you’re an actor and you do your best to perfect your craft, you are already making a big contribution not only to the film industry but to the country as well.”
As what Plato said in The Republic, “We will not let our cobblers go to war. For we might not have the best shoes.” Plato might have already regarded shoes as basic needs. In short, we need all kinds of people who are at their best. If we apply this principle today, we will not let
Lito Lapid be a senator because lawmaking is not his expertise. Making great movies is equally significant as making laws.
Do what is right.
I go back to my question: “Between a city mayor, who takes care of his city but keeps large sums of money for himself and a trash collector, who works hard to feed his family, who is a better citizen?” Sometimes, a virtuous act is enough to be useful in this world.
Bottom line: When you help yourself, you help the universe. Each of us has a domino effect in this world. We do not need to be philanthropists to make a difference. If you can be a leader of an NGO, why not? If you can be the president of the world why not? But they are not the only ones responsible for the health of the universe. Focus on what you can do. If you are a housewife, be the best wife and best mother. And you will make your children productive citizens someday. If you are a comedian, make as many jokes as you can. Then, you will make a lot of people happy. If you are a government official, don’t just be satisfied in the projects you make. But live a life that can be an example to others. It is not about the nature of your work. It’s about what you can offer.
“Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing himself”