“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.” — Leo Tolstoy

In order to have a more meaningful and fulfilling life, being connected to the greater community at large is a path worth considering.

This path can manifest in a number of ways. And it simply has to fit your lifestyle and values. This could anything from donating money each year to a charity or non-profit organization, to being a mentor at a local Boys & Girls Club. These acts of service can be a promising few of many steps on your path toward a meaningful life.

Sense of Belonging

Community relationships can offer a feeling of belonging, comradery and a web of support when feeling spread thin. Neighbors, friends, workmates and others are able to help when unexpected events happen or a natural disaster threatens the community. In essence, people are stronger together. Life is more meaningful when shared.

But before getting involved in your community, consider the big picture when deciding how you want to be of service. Your personal strengths AND your values/beliefs about the world come into their own, when finding service that brings the most meaning.

We all have the capacity to make positive change happen with the lives of those around us.

Simple acts of kindness to strangers, a loving word, a donation to a local food shelter. These all take relatively little effort yet can help positively shift someone else’s life. Spend five minutes with someone you normally never connect with. Be open, and you’ll be surprised at the results.

People can offer time, talent or treasure.

People at different chronological stages of their lives can be of service in many ways. And everybody has their own unique offerings to the world. Some might be able to share the gift of their skills or talent, but perhaps not able to donate financially. Others may be able to write a large check, but don’t have the time to build a low-income family home on the weekends. Identify the kind of help you and others have and allocate accordingly.


“Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

More than one billion people around the world volunteer each year. There is power and real change that can happen if we give of ourselves, and there is scientific research that says giving your time, talent or treasure offers a sense of happiness. Here are a few ways you can build community and be in service by way of volunteering.

VolunteerMatch is an online network of opportunities made to connect people with nonprofits and local organizations. If you are a non-profit organization, they can help you recruit volunteers that match your required skills and needs. If you are someone looking for an opportunity to volunteer, they match you to local organizations.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a mentoring network of individuals that develop positive relationships and manifests meaningful change for children and young adults. According to a recent study, BBBS makes a positive impact on school performance, increases self-confidence, and helps children avoid risky behaviors.

After you’ve figured out how you can give your time, talent, and/or treasure, you might be able to narrow down how to funnel your gifts of service toward a specific organization.

A World of Service

Idealist offers a pathway toward volunteer opportunities and non-profit jobs at a glance. The online platform functions more or less as a job board. Yet you can see how your gift of time and talent may be applied in the real world.

Peace Corps is an example of a service-oriented organization that sends volunteers around the world to be changemakers in local communities. Volunteers get paid to pair with local leaders to train communities and solve issues worldwide.

Many organizations have found a niche due to being proactive about our planet’s climate change crisis. One Percent For The Planet is a network of businesses from around the world that have committed to giving one percent of their profits to campaigns for the environment.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation tackles critical problems in the world through gifts of time, treasure and talent combined. Their Global Health Division saves lives in developing countries through technology and science. They help to increase opportunity for people, provide resources toward healthier lives, combat global poverty, and advocate for fair and strategic policies worldwide, to name a few.

The following are a few other pathways that you may take to find a life in service.

The Green Economy

Green America gives us a network of channels that support positive change for the environment, social justice reform, clean food and water and fair labor. There are hundreds of campaigns to choose from. If you’re able to give the gift of treasure, consider other ways to give through Green America.

Or what about products? By selling shoes, TOMS has helped to improve millions of lives through the gift of sight, clean water campaigns, providing safe child birth, and helping to counter bullying.
This year has seen a substantial increase in our younger generations coming up with creative solutions for world issues. Do Something is a network for youth-inspired campaigns that promote positive change and innovative solutions for our world.

Live Your Legend is another organization that exists to help people find meaning in the work they do. They specialize in helping others find their individual purpose, often in service.

Individuals in Service

I Come To Play
Tony Robbins may be known for his eccentric conferences. Yet his approach is undeniably inspiring. Robbins created not only a successful life for himself, but his life and perspective has inspired a global movement of changemakers. He is in essence a performance coach, an author and a life coach who offers financial, philosophical and life advice to millions of people. He playfully tells us that he is not our guru through his documentary. And Robbins offers an almost infinite amount of sage advice with his online videos and conferences. And the Tony Robbins podcast offers a plethora of everyday modeling tips to lead a successful life.

Greg Boyle’s Homeboys

The largest gang intervention program in the world was started by Greg Boyle, Los Angeles Jesuit Priest and founder of Homeboy Industries. Listen to an On Being conversation about service as a result of compassion. And how he has arranged his life around Christian service.

The Shores of Recovery

Big wave surfer and three-time Maverick champion Darryl “Flea” Virostko created Flealab, a sober living environment that promotes positive change for addicts. Through his personal interests and pursuits, he inspires a life of outdoor adventure and activity for individuals. From personal experience, Flea has created an opportunity to help others that struggle with addiction.

Finding Your Pathway

With so many pathways toward service, it can be a little overwhelming. Remember, narrow down how you see yourself in giving back to the community, volunteer or join an organization for change. Here are a few other pathways that may help guide you toward a life of service.

80,000 Hours can be a helpful way to guide you through this kind of decision. They posit that we have 80,000 hours of work to do in our careers. They exist to help us narrow the field so we can use our time wisely in helping to solve problems and crises.

The Heroic Imagination Project was started by the famous psychologist Philip Zimbardo in order to train ordinary people to be extraordinary heroes. What does that entail? They help people develop a Growth Mindset, combat the Bystander Effect, and reduce bias in our culture. They help educate teachers, students and individuals on how to be a hero every day.

On the next page, learn about long-term service; what we know about meaningful service at different ages and stages, and how developing a love for service helps us.