It takes a lot of patience, determination, and faith to serve others. Robert Wicks, a professor at Loyola College in Baltimore and author of over 30 books, calls this availability "the freedom to be present when needed." The call to reach out to others actually begins with self-knowledge. Wicks comes up with a scriptural image for what this entails: "We are leaving the 'ninety-nine' (those consciously acceptable parts of our personality) to find and reconcile those seemingly alien parts of ourselves with the rest of our personality." In other words, we have to get our own act together before we can serve.

Being available to others means seeing the hand of God in relationships and acting from the heart. Or as Pope John XXII put it: "Whoever has a heart full of love always has something to give." The challenge of service is to discern what God would have us do in the midst of the helter-skelter of everyday life.

Wicks concludes this meditation on the spiritual joy of helping others with the following thought: " 'True availability' is born and grows only in the presence of the Lord." It is fueled by prayer and propelled by hope.