Service (extra chapter)

Excerpts from Service

(not in final book)

A Pure Delight

Steve finds it bizarre that when someone gets in trouble with the law, if it isn’t too serious, he can be fined with community service. “What kind of message is that? That service is a punishment? It’s just the opposite. Service is fun. Service is an opportunity. Service is a pure delight.” Steve makes sure it is fun. He brings creativity, playfulness, and his love for people to his service.

Steve once met an elderly woman who was living in a nursing home. She didn’t have any children or relatives, so Steve made her an honorary grandma. He frequently visited her, and even brought her to his home for Christmas dinner with his family. One day, he invited Steve Chandler to join him for one of his visits.

Steve Chandler writes:

‘Bring your guitar,’ Hardison said. ‘We’re going to sing to all of them.’

‘I didn’t think you sang,’ I protested.

‘I don’t, but I’ll be there to support you while you sing. They’ll love it, and so will you. And I’ll dance. I may not sing, but I’m a great dancer. No one dances like I do.’

‘Steve,’ I said. ‘They’re in wheelchairs.’

‘Doesn’t matter!’ he said.

So, one evening the two of us went to the nursing home and I went to the front of the room and sang and sang and sang while Steve danced with the elderly women in their wheelchairs. I’ll never forget the sight of him hopping around and dancing and spinning their wheelchairs around while I was singing. He had an insanely blissful look on his face and the people at the nursing home were obviously enjoying themselves completely.



Steve gets a special delight when he can help people in check-out lines at stores. On one occasion, Steve found himself in line behind an expectant mother with four kids, two hanging onto the cart, two walking with her. He observed as the kids plied her with requests. “Mom, can I get this? Can I get that?” They could get only one thing.

As they approached the cashier, Steve asked, “Can I pay for your groceries today?”

“What? Why?” responded the surprised and harried mother.

“Because I wish someone had done that for my mom when I was a kid.”

So fun.

On another occasion, Steve was at Sam’s Club, a wholesale retailer, standing in line behind a woman who was buying a sheet cake—or trying to. “Happy birthday” was scrawled on the cake with pink and green frosting. For some reason, the woman’s payment wasn’t going through. She was upset.

“Can I help you?” asked Steve.         

“I don’t know . . .Do you want to pay for my cake?”

“I would love to.”

Steve paid. She thanked him.

A few minutes later when Steve left the store, the woman was outside waiting for him. “I want to thank you for what you did. I work at a care center for the elderly and we are having a birthday party for a gentleman who is turning ninety today. Everyone is waiting for me. I am behind schedule. You are a life saver. I wish you could see the people that are waiting for this cake.”

Steve said, “I would love to.” And he meant it. He went to the care center and joined in the festivities with eight elderly people, one who was turning ninety.



Sometimes service can be scheduled. Occasionally it might even be convenient. Often, you have to seize it when you see it. That is why Steve makes a point to not pack his days. Spontaneous service demands mental space and clock space. Both kinds of space only exist through a concerted effort. It’s worth it.

One day Steve was turning onto his street after his seven-mile walk. As he passed his neighbor’s house, Lorraine was out front. Lorraine is about ten years older than Steve. Her husband, Jim, passed away the year before. “Hi Steve. Are you going on your walk?”

“Hi Lorraine. I just got back.”

Her face fell. “I would have liked to walk with you.” “Let’s go,” said Steve. What’s another mile or two?

As they walked, Steve asked her questions about her life. He asked her to tell him the story of how she met Jim. He asked about her favorite memories with Jim. He asked about their kids. They walked for a quite a ways and then returned to their neighborhood. When they got to Lorraine’s house, she said, “Do you mind if I walk with you to your house?” It was clear, she wanted more time.

As they walked, Steve asked her what she liked most about Jim.

“He was thoughtful and asked questions, like you do. You are my closest experience of being with him since he has been gone.”

Jovanka Lipovic lives next door to Steve. Her husband passed away in 2002. Even with his limited handyman skills, Steve has been an indispensable next-door neighbor. He has killed a snake that wandered into her garage. He has fixed broken sprinkler heads. He has called servicemen. When she bought a new car that barely fit into her garage, he strung up a tennis ball that would gently bump into her windshield when she reached the point where she should stop driving. About once a week, he helps her in some way.

Jovanka’s son, Alex, lives in California, but comes to visit frequently. On one of his visits, he and Steve were talking in the driveway. Steve apologized for something. Alex stopped him and said, “You never need to apologize to me. We are so glad that you are my mother’s next-door neighbor. You have done so much for her.” Alex is a manly man, so what he said next surprised Steve. “Steve, I love you.” It is one of Steve’s most cherished acknowledgements.

The Impact

Steve blows the customary parameters of service to smithereens. For Steve, opportunities to serve are everywhere, all the time. It’s a perspective that is highly contagious. Karan Rai says:

I admit it. I'm an adrenaline junkie, and I'm okay with that. I jump out of planes. I jump off bridges and all that stuff. But I probably wouldn’t have taken on the monumental task of going to Antarctica and running a marathon on a glacier, with crampons, at fifty below just for the excitement of it. I had to fly to the tip of Chile, and then fly from Chile to the South Pole. It’s just too far to go. It's just too much effort. It's too much training. There are other ways for me to get my thrills and my fixes. It really came down to wanting to be of service. This marathon was for the Navy SEAL foundation. We were raising money for the families that had lost Navy SEALs. It was for their kids’ bonds. We ended up raising over half a million bucks, just with our group. Working with Steve got me in tune with just how much pleasure I derive from being in service. It's the ultimate selfish way to live.