Ten Ways I Bettered the World This Week

Ask a person in recovery – a happy one, that is – the secret for long term success and the answer will likely include the word “service”. What that involves may be much different than you’d expect.

I was shocked and pleased by the outpouring of support I received from others when I began blogging on “Day One” without alcohol. There were so many kind, encouraging comments from complete strangers who simply understood the struggle. What a wonderful surprise! As it turns out, the twelfth step of AA is to help others selflessly because giving sends strength in both directions.

I am not in a twelve step program or any program, but I respectfully draw from the wisdom they provide.  I reviewed AA’s 12 Steps and SMART Recovery’s 4 Principles to ask why each one is helpful, how I could make use of it or adapt it for my own self-managed pathway.

At first I assumed the concept of “service” simply referred to being a sponsor of someone else in a program. Then I realized that all the comments and support I was receiving on my blog were acts of service, and that I was benefitting greatly from them. I began to follow suit and encourage new readers in the same way – a wonderful shared experience. Eventually I saw many opportunities to be of service in everyday life, as well.

I’ve always been a people pleaser, but that is not the same as service. People-pleasing is doing things to make others like us. At its core, it is manipulative and self-centered. Service is about helping others without any expectations. Big difference. BIG difference. Check your motivation: are you doing things for others as an act of pure kindness or because you want them to like you, feel beholden to you, or to prove that you are a martyr?

I have had to work hard on this shift, I confess. I see the results in lowered resentments, higher self-esteem, and a true feeling of joy.

Here are ten simple ways that I gave service this week:

  • Answering UnPickled blog comments and emails. It takes courage for a reader to make a comment on a recovery blog, whether it is to ask for help or to say “me too”, so I always do my best to respond. In fact, any time we take a moment to respond to any blog post or comment – regardless of the subject matter – we are acknowledging another person’s efforts and showing gratitude.
  • Sending surprise gifts. I was shopping and stumbled across a clearance rack of cute socks. Impulsively I scooped up ten pairs for friends, and realized I would then need envelopes to send them by mail. I hunted those down next and brought home my little bundle. I went through my address books and randomly chose names, reminding myself that the purpose was kindness and not to be a people pleaser. I tucked a short note into each parcel, which only took a moment but is itself a rare gift these days. This was a great exercise and I am so excited to drop them into the mail today.
  • Shoveled beyond my own sidewalk. Yesterday was out first big snowfall of the year here in southern Alberta and it was a doozy. Instead of hopping on the treadclimber for exercise, I headed out to shovel our driveway and noticed that our neighbours on both sides were not yet cleared. One neighbour has two small children and often works late shifts, the other has a son in hockey and is out the door before sunrise on Saturdays to head for the rink. I knew both would appreciate having their sidewalks cleared, but I stopped myself. Maybe they won’t appreciate the gesture. Maybe they won’t even notice. Maybe they will never reciprocate. Pause, focus Jean. Kindness, right? Is this a kind thing to do? Yes. Will it help them regardless? Yes. Okay then, let’s proceed.
  • Next I was headed to the grocery store. I took a moment to call my elderly parents and ask if they needed anything. Again, had to remind myself that this was not a “good girl” move but an act of kindness to save them from having to go out on a snowy day. They needed nothing, and I was interrupting Murdoch Mysteries.
  • I saw that an obituary in the paper for old acquaintance of my father and offered to take my dad to the funeral. This was not someone either of us knew particularly well, but I had a feeling that he might want to attend if given the opportunity. My dad is no longer able to drive and hates to ask for rides unless absolutely necessary. I am so glad we went, as it was a chance for my dad to offer a gesture of kindness to the grieving family. His days of shoveling snow for the neighbours are over, and he needs opportunities for service just as much as anyone else.
  • I take my neighbours garbage can to the curb if it isn’t already out when I am moving my own. Missing garbage pickup sucks, and as I said they re a busy family with little kids so I presume that their garbage can is full of diapers that really need to be emptied!
  • I tweet kudos whenever I receive good customer service, taking care to tag the business. Another option is to simply thank someone who treats you well and say, “I appreciate the way you do your job.” This goes a long way, I promise. One of my sons works in the food industry and he often shares how meaningful and encouraging he finds customer compliments. They not only make his day, but perpetuate his resolve to continue to work hard.
  • I let the neighbours know that I enjoy their children. Our kids are grown and our household is pretty quiet, and often our neighbours will apologize for their kids’ noise. I could easily say, “no problem” and stop at that, but I make the extra effort to say, “You have great kids and we love hearing them play. It is a happy sound.” Again, the point is not to be sugary sweet so they will like me better, but to ease any worries they may have – don’t young parents have enough to worry about already?
  • Recovery has made me a nicer driver! I let people merge. I wave if they let me in. I assume the slow driver ahead of me is learning, elderly, or lost – not an “asshole” or an “idiot”. In my drinking days I was careful not to drive drunk, but I surely was dysfunctional behind the wheel. All my resentments, anxieties, and insecurities were aimed at everyone else. I can literally feel the difference in my heart now when I am in traffic.
  • I rarely walk past littler without picking it up and tossing it in the nearest garbage can. Nothing gross, of course, but if someone has randomly tossed a cup or wrapper I think nothing of whisking it up on my way by. This is a habit I formed long ago, hoping others would notice and (a) think highly of me and (b) follow suit. (Or at least stop effing littering. Jeez!) My new perspective shift has me checking myself to do it simply as an act of service – see or unseen – because it is right.

Now it is your turn to reflect. What can you do for someone else today? What kindness did you perform yesterday? What do you do every day to be of service, and do you have the right mindset? Please share your thoughts and ideas below – an act of service in itself to inspire us all!


  1. This post is full of so much goodness and is so refreshing! We all need these reminders!

    Last weekend was the first weekend our gym opened back-up on Saturday and Sunday (due to COVID-19). And we treated the desk attendant to Starbucks, as we were so appreciative that they were open again on the weekends!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Service is key for me. I am in the 12 step programme so I do service at my home group and more widely. That makes me have a commitment to turn up and be there and engage for a start I could so easily just sit back expect others to take control and moan when the group withers and dies or there is disharmony in my mind with wider issues. Also this saved my life so I need to turn up and give that back to others to help them get what I’ve got.

    I like your service stuff though since in step 12 it says “… practice these principles in ALL our affairs”. Oh– that is my entire life then… tall order but I hold the door for people, be polite, helpful, don’t drive recklessly, etc. etc. all part of my service to the world even if noone else notices that is not the point


  3. Hey there, I found you via the NaBloPoMo blogroll.

    I too pick up litter. I do this so much I carry a few sets of gloves in my handbag in case something is extra gross and yucky. 🙂 The gloves is a germophobe thing. The picking up of litter is a for our planet thing. 😉

    As part of NaBloPoMo I try to comment on as many participating blogs as I can, and I add participating blogs to my feed reader.

    So I’m just dropping by to let you know I’ve added your blog to my feedreader, I’m reading you loud and clear, I have a link up going at my place so my readers can find participating blogs which you are more than welcome to add your blog link to.

    Looking forward to seeing your posts, and you’ll likely see me drop by again during November.

    Happy NaBloPoMo to you!


  4. I love your perspective UnPickled and you are so very right. There are many ways to be of service. Thank you for writing about this. Hugs. 🙂


  5. I loved this post and find it so inspiring. as a new member of aa (day 76), I sometimes feel like I’m too new to be much service. your post pointed out so many simple and wonderful ways to serve just by being a kinder human being 🙂 the tip for being nicer on the road is one i will put into action tomorrow am 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jean, I must admit in the past I had been a highly ambitious “people pleaser” as well….always looking and listening for the ‘gold star’ comments and resounding recognition…ugh! When I think about it now I feel shame and my heart is sad. But I have started doing and advocating service. My husband and I do whatever we can to help friends, neighbors and family. We truly feel a difference in our daily lives…so filled with love and adventure. Our hearts are light and we absolutely love to give little gifts to well deserving service providers, most of the time with a note attached, anonymously.
    This post was amazing! I love the “ten simple ways” you gave service this week. Really dig the socks idea : )

    Suz. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks Jean for your 10 ways. Today I organized my bosses birthday party at work with a smile and did it without complaining to my coworkers. I think the lack of complaining on my part was what gave me the joy. Awhile back I realized that all the complaining at work is contagious, so one day when we were about to begin, I said, we are lucky to have jobs with health insurance and paid time off, also we all get along. It really changed things for me, being grateful for a job instead of thinking about all I deserve at work has changed how I feel about my job.
    You are an inspiration to me with all your acts of kindness.


  8. Almost five months for me..I don’t know about service, but I try to be a lot kinder,.I know I don’t blow off the handle as quick lol. I think before I speak now, and have noticed a difference. Will a rude comment make the issue better, probably not, calling someone down behind their back only makes the speaker look bad, with self esteem issues. So being sober now, I am honestly focusing on just being a better/nicer me. It’s easy to be a nicer me, cause I’m truly loving being sober, now I honestly never thought I’d say that!
    …they say you never fail at trying, you fail when you stop trying…


  9. Hi Jean, I wanted to thank you for your post today. Reading through it gave me a new perspective on service to others. The general principles are ones I try to follow anyway, but the chance to focus on why and how was refreshing. Thank you so much for the giving of your month to introspection, public growth and public service. I’ve been following your blog since way before I had the courage to become sober myself and now I find myself beginning my third month of sobriety. I, too, am trying to be sober on my own, without using 12 step programs. So I’m doing all the research I can to help me through this. You’ve been a great inspiration. Good luck with another Alberta winter. I survived a good many of them in Edmonton before moving to the Left Coast some years ago! Thanks, Barb

    Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2014 16:50:40 +0000 To: barbatlarge@hotmail.com

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You are one of my NaBloPoMo ‘neighbors’ on the link list and I’m so happy to read this post. I love the be nice to be nice concept – goes right along with do to others as you WISH was done to you… I try my best too and you have some great ideas. Thanks and I’ll be back~

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great post! Very encouraging, thank you. Still hoping to get through this Day 2 and stay accountable through my own very new blogging journey. I spent a precious hour and a half of kid-free (paid babysitting time) helping out both my mother and my aunt, and it felt good. Thanks for helping me see things in a better light 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. These are great ideas. I will take up the one to tweet about good service – that is a great idea. The merge one and litter one I already do. Can’t do the snow one (yet), but I will look around for those missing garbage cans next week.


  13. Coach Daddy’s blog had a similar theme today on “being there”, about what we can do for others. It came from a different place, not service or sobriety, but the messages from both of you are the same: How are we “there”? What can we offer?


  14. What a great reminder of the little things we can do to be of service and act in kindness. I do think that love and kindness are the fabric of what makes up this crazy universe. I know one of the reasons I write is to share my journey so that it may inspire someone else to get sober, or at least to feel less alone, so I guess that is being in service. I try to respond to everyone who comments on my blog too. I never really thought of this as being service, but I guess it is! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I took a neighbour’s child (who is a friend of my children) to their Speech and Language appt when their original lift fell through. I was going to that town anyway so it was not a problem for me and them missing this appt was a big deal to her family 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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