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Chaplain's Corner: Service before self, humility and baseball

By Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Brian Musselman | 673d ABW Chaplain | July 27, 2015


The "Chaplain's Corner" offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey  endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.

I believe one of the most difficult of our Air Force Core Values is "service before self."

It is one thing for a person to plan for times to help others as a method of service before self (operative word being "plan"), but it is altogether a different animal for a person to drop everything she's doing - in the blink of an eye and with deadlines to meet and office work to complete - in order that another person might be helped.

Just the other day, I had the fortune of practicing this core value.

Believe me, contrary to public opinion, this core value doesn't come automatically to Chaplains. It must also be learned, honed, and practiced time and time again.

A military member riding her bike across a parking lot fell within ear shot of where I was walking. The first thing I heard was a glass bottle shattering. I turned to see what the noise was and witnessed the falling of a helpless person.

She rose to her feet, walking toward the chapel looking for assistance, and all that I could see was blood running out of her forehead and down her arm onto her uniform. Half an hour later, she was getting stitched up at our hospital and soon thereafter released.

Believe me, it was not planned that I help her. I had a ceremony to attend to in 45 minutes, and I didn't have the time to practice serving others before serving myself, but the right thing needed to happen, which was to drop everything and help an innocent person.

Needless to say, the right thing was done. My foot-stomp point is this: service before self can be very challenging.

I've heard it said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of your self less.

Think about how this attitude and putting humility into action will positively transform your relationships, friendships, and professional careers and personal satisfaction.

Spiritually speaking, as a Christian, I am challenged yet inspired to practice humility as I ponder the words in James 4:6 which says, that God "gives a greater grace. Therefore, it says 'God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Practicing humility has never been easy, and I can't say that I've figured it out.

Another passage in the Bible that encourages my faith is from 1 Peter 5:5, "and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another."

I don't understand the DNA of humility and how it positively affects our activities of daily living, but through personal experience I've seen humility in practice work towards transforming relationships.

When we begin to think of ourselves less, it's not that our self respect disappears or that we lose our identity, but that the window of opportunity opens to focus on the needs of others - this, at least, I've witnessed.

I'm the head coach of an Anchorage baseball team. Recently, we held practice and I began the practice with this question: 'Which position is the best one on a team?'

After a few moments of gazing into the eyes of some puzzled young eleven and twelve-year-olds, I heard this answer from them: "The pitcher, yeah...the pitcher." I shook my head as if answering 'no' and responded with, "Take a lap." (We were practicing on the older kids' field ... larger and longer. They ran around it). They returned from their lap, exhausted, huffing and puffing. I asked the same question once more.

After conferring with one another for a longer period of time, the answer came, in the form of a question: "the catcher, because he gets to see all the players and all the plays?" My response: "take a lap." I was quickly becoming their worst coach.

This exchange went on two more times. When finally asked a fourth time; the kids were more hesitant to answer. After a long pause, a few of them shouted ... "no one - there is no best player; we all are players on one team." Ecstatic, I shouted, "Yes, practice over!"

What about you? Do you see yourself as a team player or team member?

Perhaps by inviting humility into our thinking, acting and doing, together we will experience a greater effect of being a team player. Serving others before ourselves isn't easy, but it is often the right thing to do.