IMPULSES: Service above self: Living the best work of life


By Herman M. Lagon

What does it mean to serve selflessly? This question is at the heart of civic organizations like the Rotary and Junior Chamber International (JCI). During the JCI Tamasak Induction Rites for President Gilmarie Joyce Lingga on June 16, 2024, at the Barotac Nuevo Municipal Building Social Hall, I was given the privilege to share my insights on this profound commitment to scores of Jaycees. Without batting an eyelash, I quickly stressed the Latin term “Magis,” which means “more”—doing more, being more, and striving for the greater good. This principle is not just a concept but a way of life, especially relevant in today’s fast-paced, self-centered world.

Magis, deeply rooted in Jesuit education, pushes us beyond mediocrity, beyond the self. It is about finding joy and purpose in serving others. With my 21-year Ateneo formation, I shared with the all-dedicated, young Jaycees that Magis is not about wealth, power, fame, or status. It is about serving the divine and the universal good. As Fr. James Martin, SJ, notes in “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything,” Magis calls us to find the extraordinary within our unique circumstances, driven by love and devotion.

Former Jesuit and author Chris Lowney, in “Heroic Leadership,” identifies four pillars essential for Magis: self-awareness, love, ingenuity, and heroism. Self-awareness involves understanding our motivations and actions. By knowing ourselves, we can serve others better. Love drives us to care deeply and act selflessly. Ingenuity encourages creative solutions to problems, and heroism calls us to make a difference in the lives of others.

The Rotary principle of “Service Above Self” and the JCI creed, “Service to Humanity is the Best Work of Life,” align perfectly with Magis. Both emphasize putting others’ needs before our own and recognizing that true fulfillment comes from positively impacting others’ lives. By embodying these principles, we enhance our communities and grow as individuals.

How can we then operationalize these principles in our everyday lives and in being with service-oriented organizations? Here are some practical ways: Deploy mobile education units to bring books, internet, and learning aids to remote areas. This addresses educational needs and embodies being men and women for others. Set up rotating health kiosks by volunteer health workers to provide essential services like vaccinations and screenings. This proactive approach ensures we are not just treating diseases but preventing them. Convert vacant lots into community gardens, teaching locals about sustainable farming and conservation. Engaging the community fosters ownership and responsibility towards our environment.

Organize leadership boot camps to harness the energy of young people, fostering a new generation of leaders committed to ethical service and community development. Capture elders’ life stories to preserve cultural heritage and build intergenerational ties. This project gives our young people a sense of continuity and history while also paying respect to our elders. Encourage community members to teach and learn from one another through skill-sharing sessions, which will improve self-sufficiency and respect for one another. These interactions strengthen the resilience of the community and promote cooperation.

Volunteers with a strong tech background who tutor senior citizens in smartphone use and e-government services can help close the digital divide. In a world going digital, this project promotes participation and inclusivity. Ensure communities thrive despite challenges through proactive preparedness. Conduct drills and education sessions on disaster preparedness, fostering a culture of readiness. Mobile legal aid clinics offering free consultations and services in underserved areas ensure that justice is accessible to all. This initiative ensures everyone has access to legal resources and support.

Living out Magis is not limited to grand gestures. It can be as simple as performing daily acts of kindness with greater intention and depth. Giving spare change to a person in need, engaging with them, understanding their story, and directing them to helpful resources elevates everyday acts of kindness to create a lasting impact.

In our professional lives, Magis means constantly seeking to improve ourselves to serve others better. This might involve learning new skills, pursuing further education, or adopting healthier practices that enhance our efficacy. Taking a proactive role in addressing community issues, volunteering for projects, and advocating for social justice are all ways to contribute positively to societal development.

Magis is not just about doing more; sometimes, it is about doing less but with more focus and alignment with our purpose. This approach helps avoid overcommitment and burnout, ensuring that our endeavors are personally satisfying and service-oriented. Balancing ambition with humility, staying grounded, and focusing on meaningful actions is vital for sustainable service.

In our pursuit of service, JCI and Rotary—the same with Lions, Zonta, Kiwanis, Toastmasters, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, Knights of Columbus, Gawad Kalinga, and the Masons—walk parallel paths, driven by a commitment to economic justice, the brotherhood and sisterhood of people, the and the belief that service to humanity is our most noble cause. Service is the oxygen we breathe, forming a global network of efforts contributing to positive change worldwide.

Ignatian values are universal and ever-relevant, no matter your religious, political, or ideological persuasions. They guide us to live lives of service and significance, striving to do and be more for the greater good. Embracing these values calls us “men and women for and with others,” serving with love, communicating with wisdom, and living with depth.

As we embark on this life’s journey of service in whatever expression, organization, or platform we have, I invite you to embrace the humility to serve, the courage to lead, and the wisdom to see the divine in every act of kindness. Guided by St. Ignatius of Loyola’s call to “set the world on fire,” let us strive to do more, be more, and achieve greater things for the greater good.

As I put it, a Jaycee, a Rotarian, an Atenean, and many others who share the same core for selfless service are people for and with others, allergic to mediocrity, and selfless advocates for social justice. Whatever we do, no matter what our status in life is, let us go forth, inspired and uplifted, to serve our community and each other with faith, love, justice, and magis.

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