My husband and I have a lot of animals so I spend a lot of time at our local feed store. The one I visit is run by a family with four children under the age of sixteen. The kids are home schooled so they help out at the store It’s not unusual to have their thirteen-year old daughter ring up your Rabbit Feed; or to have their fifteen-year old son forklift a bale of hay over to your car.
I’ve talked to their parents about this. “Your kids are getting quite an education here, right? I mean not only are they learning about math and writing. You’re helping them develop business and customer service skills. That’s an amazing gift you’re giving them.”
The parents seem pleased. The kids shrug and carry on business as usual.
One time their ten-year helped me load up my car. He carried a 30-pound bag of dog food and waited patiently for me to scratch through my purse and find my keys. I found the keys, opened the car, and he hoisted the bag into the hatchback of my Prius.
I thanked him; and as he turned away, I stretched to pull down the hatchback. I was standing on uneven ground and the door was slightly out of my reach. I felt him turn and look at me, anticipating my possible need. He hesitated, ready to help. He was looking for a way to serve. He’s ten.
In an instant, I became aware of service in simple moments. This young boy didn’t have to wait. He didn’t have to stand poised with keen interest in helping me. He could have rushed off to assist the next customer or to play a video game in the back room of the store. Instead he gave me his full attention.
I once heard someone say that a mystic embodies these qualities: when eyes are closed, a mystic contemplates peace. When eyes are open a mystic asks how may I serve?
Perhaps this ten-year old was a mystic in the making. Perhaps we all are.
How do we see the mystic in all of us? How was it possible to glean mysticism from that tiny interaction?
I’m not sure. I do know we’ve been focusing on cultivating invisible service, at our Spiritual Center, something we learned from ServiceSpace. Things like: “Instead of grumbling about the trash on the hiking trail, quietly pick it up. Put shopping carts back in their place. Do the thing that will get no accolades whatsoever but do it as if you’re going for a Nobel Peace Prize. Be the change you wish to see but if possible, remain unseen.”
I have found that my willingness to serve invisibly makes the service of others visible. That’s so weird, and so paradoxical, it’s got to be Divine…
Shortly after my interaction with the ten-year old boy, I dropped by the feed store again. I had a small bag of heart pins for the kids, and a card for the parents telling them how much I admire their family. I didn’t stick around to watch the family discover the hearts and card. Doing my best to be invisible, I deposited the gift with their daughter, and snuck back to my car, trusting the blessed ripples to multiply.
What small acts of service have made a difference in your life?