Epiphany of the Day: “To Be Great, Serve”

To be great, serve.” ~ Bill Holston

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

These are beautiful words, but I’m not sure I understood them until an event several years ago. Through this experience I came to believe that service is a privilege.

I have practiced law for 30 years. I have had the privilege of providing pro bono representation for people seeking asylum here in the United States. Through that experience, I’ve had the opportunity to hear the stories of very brave people who faced prison and torture because of their race, their pro democracy activities or how they worship God. I confess I used to pat myself on the back that I did this free legal work. An experience totally changed my mind about that, and led to this epiphany.

A number of years ago, I represented a young man from Zaire, now called Congo. He had been a pro democracy activist. This resulted in his arrest. He had managed to escape and make his way to America. He was lucky to be alive. His wife and children were in hiding in the town of Brazzaville. I assisted this young man to obtain political asylum here. Months later, he showed up unannounced at my office with his wife and children. They were no longer in hiding, but now making a new life in the United States. He introduced me to them and said, “I wanted to thank you in person.” He thanked me. I told him rather casually, that it was my pleasure. He looked at me, paused and said, “No, I know what you did for me, you gave me my life.” Then it hit me. It was I who was getting the most out of this relationship. Most people never get a chance to hear something like that.

This was perhaps the greatest moment in my career. It was unobserved and produced no money, but it was as close as I’ve ever been to greatness. I learned that it is a privilege to serve others, and now I’m thankful for the opportunity. Currently, I’ve represented people from 19 different countries, seeking refuge here in America.

This act of service on my part not only resulted in the highest compliment I’ve ever received, but now I have the privilege of devoting all of my professional energy to this cause.* Jesus once told his disciples, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” I think he was telling the truth. ~ Bill Holston, Dallas, TX

**On January 15, 2012, Bill left 30 years of law practice to become the Executive Director of The Human Rights Initiative, the agency he was accepting asylum cases from.

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