“On a really hot day, left a bottle of water in the mailbox for the mail carrier.”
That was the message left by a woman on the ServiceSpace website in the section called “Stories of Kindness from Around the World.” ServiceSpace, founded by Nipun Mehta and friends in 1999 and originally called Charity Focus, is devoted to promoting small acts of generosity and kindness. According the group’s notes about their first planning meeting, Mehta laid out the organization’s mission plainly: “Let’s serve without any strings attached, just for the sake of giving.”
ServiceSpace is run entirely by volunteers and supports many projects that help charities and encourage people to take advantage of everyday opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way to the life of another. The website is as busy as an open-air marketplace, with people from all over the world sharing acts of kindness they’ve given and received.
“You know,” Mehta said in an interview with Richard Whittaker, “there’s this myth that you need to have things before you can give. I always say that service doesn’t start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take. It’s about renouncing your desire, your want. As soon as you let that go, then whatever you do is an act of service.”
Radical Joy for Hard Times loves ServiceSpace, because our own global community is devoted to finding and making beauty in wounded places. Our particular focus is the wounded places of the land and waters. However, the acts of generosity to the Earth that members of our network offer with such depth and creativity often inspire gifts of beauty to humans as well.
Giving beauty and kindness is always life-affirming and especially so in hard times. In giving, whether to land, animals, or people, we transform sorrow, powerlessness, and a feeling of being overwhelmed into delight, belonging, and empowerment to change our reality.

 

—Trebbe Johnson

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.

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