Listen, first, in order to understand. –Robert K. Greenleaf
I have been taking time to stop, step-aside and reflect upon two words: ‘to serve.’ As Greenleaf notes, the search is everything. As I search, via the discipline of reflection, I strive to create an inner space where I might go and search and then to ‘listen first, in order to understand.’
Consider, Gentle Reader, two thought-full positions. The first is captured by the great Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz. He writes: It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:/Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
The second is captured by the great American poet, Maya Angelou. She writes: We all must be serving someone or something:/Do you know, do you comprehend, in the moment, who or what you serve?
I believe that both are correct. How can that be?
What motivates me to serve? My parents were powerful role-models for me when it came to serving. They raised six children. My mother was a nurse, my father was an ‘old-time country doctor’ (that is, he was a doctor who did it all – attending to those with a cold, assisting at child-births, performing surgery, making house-calls, etc.).
My mother co-founded a ‘Service League’ in our city. This was a volunteer group of women who served the under-served in our city. She served the ‘League’ and our city for close to 70 years.
When he was 74 my father gathered together four of his physician friends and they volunteered their time at the ER (we had one hospital in our city and the younger docs at that time did not want to work in the ER). One unintended consequence of their serving in this way was that more and more folks came to the ER because they would receive great care from these veteran docs. The hospital finally hired ER specialists. My father ‘practiced medicine’ until he was 82.
When I was six years old my father woke me one night and asked me if I wanted to go with him as he was going to make a ‘house call.’ My father routinely invited one of us to go with him; he would then have father-child time. He drove into the country and went to a farm house. He said he was there to help a mid-wife deliver a baby. When he returned to the car several hours later the farmer followed him. The farmer carried a large container of beans. When I asked my father what the beans were for he looked at me and replied: The beans are my payment. He then paused, gave me the ‘father-look’ and continued: You don’t serve for money!
Why do I serve? Who do I serve? How often do I serve for money? If not for money, what do I serve for?
[to be continued…]