Lenoir City author David Crocker believes serving others is an overlooked but powerful change agent to make communities better places to live.
And he believes serving makes us feel good.
As a pastor in North Carolina in 1995, Crocker first conceived of Operation Inasmuch. The program mobilizes churches and trains them in how to conduct community projects such as building wheelchair ramps and visiting nursing homes.
“Matthew 25:40 tells us in as much as you have done to others, you have done it to me,” Crocker said.
As pastor of a church in Knoxville in 2002, he continued to build on the idea. Operation Inasmuch is today in 25 states and four countries. Crocker withdrew from the organization full time in 2017 in order to write a book on what he had learned about serving others.
Crocker’s book, “Compassionaries: Unleash the Power of Serving,” published in March by Carpenter’s Son Publishing, explores the many facets of serving others and tries to explain why it makes us feel better about ourselves.
Engaging in activity such as helping a neighbor, providing a day of service for your church or volunteering to help a student learn how to read offers multiple benefits, Crocker said.
“The upshot of each of these serving actions is as predictable as the sunrise — you feel good when you serve others. In fact, that is one of the reasons you serve … because it makes you feel good,” he said.
Psychologists believe there is a direct correlation with overall well-being and giving our time, money or other resources to a cause we are passionate about. Studies suggest people who volunteer report better health and more happiness than people who do not.
Crocker said there are three primary reasons why we feel good when we serve others. He calls these the Happiness Trifecta.
First, service is hard-wired into our brain.
Neuroscience has demonstrated that serving others releases oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, hormones with the effect of boosting our mood and counteracting the effect of cortisol, the stress hormone. Medical science has found serving reduces mortality by 22 to 44 percent. People who volunteer have 29 percent lower blood pressure and spend 38 percent fewer nights in the hospital.
Second, serving strengthens connections with others.
“We were created as social beings,” Crocker said. “We need other people. We need interaction with others. Some of us need more than others, but we all need relationships.”
He quotes author Marta Zaraska, “If you can do just one thing for your health and longevity, that thing should be finding a great partner and committing to the relationship.”
Third, serving enhances our sense of purpose.
“When you have a purpose-driven life, you’re a happier person,” Crocker writes in his book. Serving improves self-esteem because everyone wants to think he is of value to others. Serving people in need gives you that sense of purpose and value, he said.
During his years of serving and training others to serve, Crocker has had lots of opportunities to ask others why they serve.
“I have talked with thousands of people engaged in serving and have yet to hear one person say serving does not enhance their own sense of value,” Crocker said.
In addition to helping those who need help, serving can make connections between groups that might have trouble working together. Divisions in America over political and social issues are a good example, he said.
“If more of us would develop a serving mindset that tends to build bridges,” he said.
Crocker described an effort by the Nashville Police Department to connect with residents of a high crime community. Officers went into the community to serve and were able to improve relationships.
“The people living there became friends with the police, not enemies,” he said.
Crocker said he is always looking for opportunities to spread the word about the power of serving. He is available to speak at churches and civic groups about his book, which may be purchased online at www.davidwcrocker.com.