Service Over Self: Helping Each Other, No Matter What

This article is written from the perspective of Reuben Shetler, a purchasing agent at nuCamp. This is the second in a series of four connecting nuCamp’s core values to the Amish culture. The company has four core values — work hard, always do the right thing, service over self, and care genuinely.

What is service over self? It is setting aside one’s own desires and comforts in order to provide for the needs of others. It is forgetting about me and thinking about you. It’s about doing whatever it takes to ensure that those around you are taken care of.

The Amish practice service over self in their daily lives. They strive to follow the example of Jesus who proclaimed that even he did not come to be served but to serve. Jesus ministered to the hurting around him, even when he was tired and weary.

When I think of service over self, my mind goes back to the death of my wife’s grandpa.

It was cold on the day of calling hours. The wind shrieked over the snowy fields, full of icy fury. It pummeled relentlessly against any living creature that dared to venture into it. The pale sun hung in the southern sky, like a helpless onlooker. It provided no warmth on that frigid, winter day.

We climbed out of the van and scurried for the shop building as fast as we could. As we hurried on the sidewalk, I saw a man standing at the pasture gate. He was directing buggy traffic into the field, where the men could tie their horses to a wagon loaded with slices of hay. The man directing traffic was hunched over in the wind. His ears were bright red. His nose looked like the rosy beak of a penguin. There was no doubt about it; he was cold.

It was late February, and the coldest week of the winter had descended over Ohio. Not ideal weather for a funeral at all, but death has no regard for human comfort.

Most Amish homesteads have a house, barn, and shop building. The shop building is usually a big structure with one large room, like a gym, and then maybe a bathroom and a small kitchen. The Amish use their shop buildings to host church, weddings, funerals, and family gatherings. It’s the perfect place to host a large group of people.

It was warm inside the shop building with a cozy fire crackling in the woodstove. I sat beside my wife on a bench filled with relatives. We watched people enter the shop and file past the open coffin. Then they shook our hands.

It was interesting to see who came. People from all over the community. Their faces were red from the ruthless wind. Their hands were cold, even after shaking hands with numerous people. Some had ridden for miles in buggies without any heat. The weather was hostile, but still, the people had come.

Through the window, I could see the men standing in a circle on the lawn. They looked like Eskimos, loaded down with heavy coats, thick gloves, earmuffs, and mufflers. They huddled for about ten minutes like a football team. Then they broke apart.

For the next two hours, I watched them bustling about. They shoveled paths through the snow so visitors could walk from the shop to the house. They erected a tent on the lawn and set up tables for people to pile their excess clothing before they entered the shop. Wheelbarrows filled with manure zipped out of the barn. Stalls were being prepared for the horses that had come long-distance.

Wind gusts rattled the windows of the shop. It began to snow. The sun disappeared behind a gray mass of clouds. A shivering man stepped inside the door to warm up a bit. “It’s getting colder out there,” he remarked to the man next to him.

A skid loader traveled back and forth on the driveway, spreading gravel. Moments later, three men with shovels appeared. I could hear the scraping as they leveled the gravel and made sure all muddy spots were sufficiently covered. I marveled at the precision and thoroughness of that crew of neighbors. They battled that icy wind all afternoon and got the property into tip-top shape for the funeral.

Inside the shop, women were also bustling about. They were preparing food for the evening meal. The four ministers of the church sat at attention on a bench behind the family of the deceased. As I watched, one of the ministers got up and walked over to my wife’s grandma, who had just lost her husband. He placed his hand on her shoulder and bent down. “Are you warm enough?” he asked. “If not, I’ll put more wood in the stove.”

She nodded gratefully. “Please do.” So he disappeared out the door to the woodpile.

The next day was the funeral. There were hundreds of people packed inside the shop building. Outside, the wind screamed with renewed vigor. The cold had not relented.

The same minister who had filled the stove the day before stood up to preach. “Death has come to the neighborhood,” he said soberly. “And we have again been reminded that life isn’t just about ourselves. Let’s all do our part to help each other, and to comfort the family of our departed brother.”

His words spoke loudly to me. They were more than just words. I had seen service over self in action these past two days. I had seen it in this man, and all the caring neighbors. Each of them placed the needs of the grieving family above their own and didn’t let the cold stop them from taking care of the family.

Helping others is the most rewarding thing in life. It’s only when we let go of ourselves that we can truly find fulfillment.

The work culture at nuCamp practices service over self. I’ve seen people work late to help a fellow employee or donate money to a coworker who wasn’t able to work due to illness. I’ve seen dedication by our Customer Experience Team to do whatever it takes to provide assistance to our customers. And I’ve seen our Executive Team go the extra mile to provide a positive experience for the employees and customers. Just a few months ago, our Executive Team made pancakes for all of their team members.

Service over self. It’s so easy to say. It’s so hard to do. As I was writing this, my son spilled crayons all over the floor. He asked, “Daddy, can you help me pick them up?” I said, “I’m writing.” Then I remembered what I was writing about. So I got down on my knees and picked up crayons.

We can always watch for opportunities to practice service over self. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture. Sometimes it’s the small things that impact people the most — whether it’s assisting fellow employees, picking up crayons, or shoveling snow for a neighbor on a cold winter day.

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