Hitchhiking To Alaska: The Way of Soulful Service

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Hitchhiking To Alaska: The Way of Soulful Service

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How can spiritual practice (whether or not it is formally religious) help me to help others better?
How can I “hang in there” in service, when the going gets tough?
How can I grow in faith through service?
How can I go deeper in helping relationships?
In this guide to soulful service, Jim Burklo draws from his deep well of experience working with homeless people, leading service-learning programs for university students, and pastoring churches. With touching stories, poetry, and parables, HITCHHIKING TO ALASKA illustrates universal principles about the spirituality of helping relationships. It shatters facile assumptions about what it means to serve. It inspires people of all religions, or of no faith affiliation, to aim higher in their works of service. HITCHHIKING TO ALASKA is recommended reading for anyone in any kind of helping relationship. It is particularly useful for service-learning professionals and students in secondary and higher education, and for leaders and volunteers in religious congregations and faith-based service organizations.

“Jim Burklo’s HITCHHIKING TO ALASKA: The Way of Soulful Service is a must-read for those interested in exploring the intersection between service, learning and meaning-making. Through stories and thoughtful prose, Burklo offers a loving critique of our common preconceived notions about service and artfully presents a framework for engaging in ethical and meaningful action. I know of no other person who could better blend deep intellectual explorations with rich spiritual questions through such powerful story telling. Pick-up the book and begin hitchhiking to a more profound way of seeing service.” Kent Koth, Director, Center for Service and Community Engagement, Seattle University, and Director, Seattle University Youth Initiative

” Written with raw heart energy fueled by years of disciplined reflection and practice. Whether you are Christian or not, read this book when you are close to burn-out and ready to quit your job in the good works department.” Dr. Ulrike Wiethaus, Professor of Religion and American Ethnic Studies, Wake Forest University

“In this powerful and provocative book, Jim Burklo brings to life the faces of those whom we so easily marginalize, and in the process redefines the spiritual life.” Retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World

What Is Service?
(the chapter headings of HITCHHIKING TO ALASKA)

Service is honoring the dignity of the other.
Service is seeing those who are unseen.
Service is listening.
Service is asking questions, helping each other refine our stories until they ring true.
Service is taking, as well as giving, gracefully.
Service is letting go of attachments.
Service is social change, not just personal charity.
Service is persistence and faithfulness and patience.
Service is grace that redefines and regenerates justice.
Service is healing, not just curing.
Service is empowering people and nurturing community, building social capital.
Service is living in paradox: entering impossible situations and staying awake to unintended consequences.
Service is being with, not just doing for, others.

“Having a higher goal than our immediate intentions serves us in building a better world. Knowing we are hitchhiking to Alaska gets us to Seattle quicker, and with a better attitude. It delivers us to the holy compassion at the heart of service.”

“Dignity or bread:
don’t make me choose!
Too often the bread of charity
is baked in the shape of chains.
But the aroma of justice
makes the heart hungry
and unlocks the fetters of the soul.”

“I have discovered that the skills required for me to be aware of the states of my own mind and body are also essential in listening and responding sensitively to other people. I may not be a success in fixing all the problems of the people I aim to serve, any more than I can solve all my own. But in the process of trying, I can have loving, caring, soul-satisfying relationships. To attend to others lovingly, to accept them as they are, to be present with them fully – this enables me to be more useful to them. It leads me out of selfishness and into the heart of the divine.”

“No matter how good our government policies might be, no matter how strong a “social safety net” we weave – and in America we’ve got a lot of weaving yet to do – there will be times when love must trump the rules. Being of service leads us to take graceful action above and beyond the written and unwritten rules by which our society functions. And we trust that our acts of grace will lead by example, pressing for change in the system.”

Website: JIMBURKLO.COM Weblog: MUSINGS Follow me on twitter: @jtburklo
See the GUIDE to my articles and books
Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

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