Friday, 18 September 2009

What Does It Mean To Be Of Service?





Everywhere we are talking about a peaceful humanity, a peaceful world. This is not from prayer, not from technology, not from money, not from religion, but from mother. This is my fundamental belief. Mother, I consider, our first teacher. (Women of Tibet, The Great Mother), Dalai Lama

My sister in law Munia lives with the poor in Ecuador. “I am not necessarily a good person,” she says. “I was just born fortunate. I had a good mother, a good father, food, education, and love. It is my duty to give it back.” Not everyone is called to live and work with the poor but everyone is indeed called to something greater than themselves. Whether or not we hear the call, or even recognize the call is another matter entirely.

So what does it mean to be of service? Is it volunteering your time to a local charity? Calling in on the sick? Tossing the proverbial 10% at the collection plate on Sunday morning? We all periodically do this throughout the course of our lives, but this is not what it means to be “of service”.

Being of service is a relationship, a state of mind, a way of life. (Which might in fact include the above, volunteering, visiting the sick, etc. but not an end unto itself). It is a meditation of unending gratitude for those of us who have to keep us ever mindful of those who have not. I believe that in this gratitude, this eternal state of gratitude lies grace and out of grace is born compassion and compassion gives rise to empathy. “Why do we complain all the time?” asked Munia this morning over coffee. “We have so much,” she said. “Yes, but still wanting more, still incomplete,” I added.

She was only here for one night, visiting Cottarton with her beautiful daughter, Anita and her twin girls, Teresa and Margherita. It was as splendid as any ballet to watch the two of them in concert with each other, laughing, singing, sharing the responsibility of the babies. I got the feeling that they knew each other so well they didn’t even need words to communicate the next step. Like Nureyev and Fontaine they glided across the floor from cue to cue. The hungry cry, the sleepy cry, the wet cry, and the frustrated one they responded artfully, intelligently with humor and fatigue.

It is truly a remarkable occasion to witness the numinous in the domestic. The numinous at table, in a small kitchen feeding a hungry baby and then the peace that comes with the last bite.


Not all of us are favored with the presence of a good mother, in fact some of us are actually injured by the birth mother who was never taught or never learned how to mother herself. I have a small photograph in my collection of framed pictures on top of the china cabinet in the hallway that very few ask me about, which surprises me because it’s obviously antiquated and doesn’t look anything like my family or friends, but Anita did – she asked. “Who’s this?” “That’s a picture of the fantasy mother and me,” I said. “It’s a picture of the way I would have liked it to have been. An image.”

I’m sure you’re wondering now the link between service and mother and it’s this.

If mother is the point of entry, then mystery is the point of exit. It is the relationship between the good mother and the Great Mother, the mystery that beckons us to be of service. Like Munia and Anita in the dance of the mother at my kitchen table last night, the good mother reflects the magnitude of the Great Mother in her attention to that what is vulnerable in all of us. It is our cue as humans to listen for the call from the Great Mother, the mystery to listen for what we should be giving back. We must give back – it is the road to home.

PS Munia is Rose’s daughter and Anita is her granddaughter. I have been gifted in the company of women that have come into my life through marriage; Theresa, Basia, and Ciocia Renia….how fortunate am I.

1 comment:

  1. lovely entry and photos! wish I could have been there! :)

    ReplyDelete