My parents were role models to me in supporting the community. While they were of modest means, they were tireless in giving their time when it was needed in the small Indiana town where I grew up. They ran my Cub Scout Pack when no one else stepped up; my father served as Pack Leader and my mother ran three different groups of boys as a Den Mother out of our home. When something needed to be fixed, painted or otherwise kept in good order at our little country church, my father always volunteered. My mother taught a Sunday school class for years and helped run Vacation Bible School. Outside of formal groups doing good work in the community, my mother spent many years making weekly visits to elderly friends who couldn’t take care of themselves but wanted to stay in their homes. She organized her friends to step in and help, too.

It seemed natural to me to get involved in community service work due to the example my parents set. Throughout my adult life, I’ve had the opportunity to support and work with groups that funded scholarships for physical therapists, provided group foster homes for at-risk boys, and ran job training programs for young people and adults who needed a hand up. I was fortunate to spend many years on various Red Cross boards and got to know the mission of the outstanding organization very well. Of late, I’ve served as an elected member of my local school board, as I feel that supporting public education is one of the most important things that government does in our society.

While it’s gratifying to periodically get recognition for community service, the real reward is in making a difference. Knowing that my friends and I helped scores of physical therapy students earn their degrees — and that these students each went on to help hundreds of people — gives us a profound sense of purpose. Finding a way to help troubled boys get their life together made a difference. Providing job training programs to thousands of people during the Great Recession was immensely satisfying. And, of course, the important work of our schools and the Red Cross is well known to all of us.

The lessons one learns in serving the community can make a positive impact in every area of life. Servant leaders are not only effective in community work; they are essential in leading any business. If your motivation is to be of service to your customers and employees, you’ll be a tremendous success in business, and likely feel a greater degree of satisfaction as well. When your friends and family know that you’re always there to help, it will be returned to you in kind.

It’s easy to become isolated and detached in today’s electronic society. Medical professionals struggle with an epidemic of depression and melancholy. Too often it seems that everyone is just out for themselves in life.

But I suggest that there are many ways to overcome this through service to the community. It’s hard to be down when you’re helping others and making a difference. When you reach out to make a difference to others, it will make a difference to you as well.

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-Rick Parks