Archive for the ‘Service’ Category

Serving The Invisible Person

November 26, 2021

Not long before the world shut down, I went to visit a friend in home hospice. The nurse on duty was her niece, who showed me to my friend’s room, and then asked, “Do you mind if I shower while you’re here?” I did not mind. My visit surely gave me more than it gave my friend who lay at the threshold of heaven. On my way out, I ran into the niece again. “Thank you,” she said, “I hope that wasn’t too weird for me to ask.”

Rebekah Curtis

This story came to me in a newsletter this morning. Last night we watched an English murder mystery on TV. The murderer was a talented individual who had been overlooked his entire life. There came a breaking point when past injustices led to his imminent death, and he snapped.

Sometimes it takes multiple experiences before something finally bubbles into my awareness.

Like—how many invisible people have I passed by who could have used a helping hand, a small amount of service, a kind word, an acknowledgement of their worth?

As we enter the Christmas season with all of its pleas for donations for this or that cause, let us open our eyes to the invisible people who surround us.

Let us open our eyes, but with love not the underlying arrogance of Mr. Shirley, the CEO in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (we had our annual kick off of the Christmas season watching it last night). “This experience taught me that it’s people who count, little people…like you.”

No, we are all children of God who deserve to be noticed and loved.

How You Treat The Poor

November 16, 2021

Prayer or Words? The guarantee of one’s prayer is not in saying a lot of words. The guarantee of one’s petition is very easy to know: How do I treat the poor? The degree to which you approach them, and the love with which you approach them, or the scorn with which you approach them – that is how you approach your God. What you do to them, you do to God. The way you look at them is the way you look at God.

Oscar Romero

Jesus told a couple of stories.

Once two men went to the central religious meeting point, the place where you could get closest to God, the Temple in Jerusalem. They went because they wanted to be close to God. But there were other, hidden reasons.

One man was a visible member of the very religious club. He actually went to be seen praying. And he prayed on a visible corner with many (probably long) words. The other man went to a place not on the Main Street. He assumed a posture of humility asking God for forgiveness and support. This is the man Jesus said went away justified.

Jesus was tested by another member of the Religion Club. The question centered on the “second commandment” to love our neighbor. He needed an explanation about what love your neighbor meant.

Jesus responded with a story. We call the story The Good Samaritan. All good stories have many points. The man who followed the commandment was an outcast from Jewish society. The man also did not just pause on his journey to say a prayer. No, he stopped. Bandaged the wounds of the injured traveler. He took him to an inn and paid for a room and medical care.

Loving your neighbor is not words—it’s deeds.

Oscar Romero, venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, became one of my spiritual heroes by the early 80s. His teaching to us is actually more than doing. He also addresses attitude. How do you approach others who are different from you? Then what do you do for them?

These are challenging questions. I am challenged. As, I hope, are you wherever you are.

What Good Will I Do Today?

November 3, 2021

What good will I do today?

Sometimes I write about goal setting, as in New Year’s Resolutions or the like. Actually I write about not doing that. Just thinking about what kind of person I’d like to be. And writing it down.

This question makes that thought real. Every day, if we do it. This is a practice handed down from the early American “founding father” and statesman Benjamin Franklin.

Begin the day asking of yourself What good will I do today? End the day answering What good did I do today?

It is best not to leave that question in the abstract. On one hand, we could remind ourselves to be open to at least one opportunity to make someone’s day better.

  • A bigger tip for the barista
  • A smile and helpful hand to someone you meet
  • A donation to a worthwhile charity
  • Participate in a food drive or blood drive

Following good Getting Things Done (David Allen) practice, perhaps we should write at the top of today’s calendar or to do list one thing we will do. Writing something and then crossing it off the list is oddly satisfying.

I had not thought of doing that next step that of writing down a specific action until I started writing this post. Maybe that’s my good idea for the day.

Now, what’s the good thing I can do today?

Anger

October 13, 2021

It happens sometimes that someone disappoints me. A low-level anger grows within my gut. Not rage. But my emotions are aroused.

It happens sometimes that I react with an email promptly.

That is always a mistake. I know better. Walk away. Let the new situation digest. Then I can respond from a recognition of the new situation.

Time. Allow for understanding. Readjust thinking. Now response comes more calmly and constructively.

For example, a referee calls and says, “Sorry, but I cannot do that game tomorrow that I promised I would.”

Anger does not help. The new reality is that I must find a replacement. My thinking must quickly move toward accepting the new reality and devising solutions. That requires calm.

Sometimes the anger may be deeper. Politics can stir deep and lasting emotions. Injustice in the world. Someone in the workplace or within the organization beats me out of a position and I lose status and money.

We cannot let the anger grow and control us. What is the situation? What can we do? If we can do nothing (like politics in Washington other than vote every couple of years), then we have to accept our limitations and work where we can provide solutions.

Maybe I can’t solve world hunger (I worked for an organization once that tried that.) But we can feed the hungry family down the street or send money to an orphanage to help feed the kids. I can let the anger provide energy for useful responses.

Once we go that far, then as we rest daily with God in the spirit of meditation in our daily disciplines, we can let the spirit of God guide our responses now that we’ve calmed enough to accept it. When anger is in control, we can’t listen. When we decide to recognize this new situation, we can listen for God’s guidance. This channels our life into more useful responses.

Labor Day

September 6, 2021

Today is Labor Day in America. A national holiday. And, like pretty much all of our national holidays, it’s just a Monday off work (for some, but not many people laboring to serve us). This holiday traditionally signals the end of “summer” and the beginning of fall activities. Schools once opened after Labor Day since they were not air conditioned and days are becoming cooler–at least in the north.

It’s a day of grilling on the patio with some family or a final weekend for camping and boating.

And labor?

Not so much respected for the last 70 years or so. We have developed a gerbil exercise wheel culture of ambition and activity where we think that the only people of worth are those ceaselessly striving for riches and power.

Many manufacturing leaders have adopted a management style called “Lean”. The central tenant of this movement is respect for people. The idea that everyone, including laboring people, has values and can contribute to the overall success of the enterprise.

I wholeheartedly support this. As a writer on manufacturing with a fairly large following (my Website is starting to nudge 200K viewers a month, very good for a niche publication), I’ve had the opportunity to visit many plants both in Europe and the US practicing this methodology.

It is not only industrial and manufacturing “labor” that serves us. Let us pause, even in those countries not celebrating the holiday, and thank all the people working in hospitals and other healthcare facilities whose stressful work keep us alive even when we don’t practice good health habits. People work even through the holiday to serve us at stores and restaurants and fix our Internet connection and restore our electricity and so forth.

They serve us. We can serve them. I’ve been reading in Evagrius who taught that service (charity) was a spiritual discipline that helps us overcome some of the spiritual ills we face.

Attached To Your Power Source

May 28, 2021

This week I interviewed the CEO for my technology blog. The company manufactures fabric with solar cells stitched in as part of the finished product.

Imagine that you are hosting some sort of outdoor reception. Perhaps in the large back yard of your mansion. Or perhaps at a park. You would like to have some lights. Perhaps you are generous and thoughtful enough to wish to provide some power outlets for your guests to charge mobile phones. Or wire one or more as a WiFi hotspot to provide Internet connection to your guests so that they can be rude and check social media during the reception (OK, I joke).

This company provides fabric for tents, canopies, or even large coverings perhaps to cover outdoor storage in an industrial setting providing enough electrical power to charge an electric fork lift.

The power source is attached to the product. It’s integral with the fabric.

This morning I thought about how life in the spirit must be like that. We have receptors like solar cells build right in. If we are so inclined we can tap into the power source.

The writers compiled into the New Testament must have had a vision similar to that. About us connected directly to the power source of the spirit. Our lights on and WiFi available to serve others.

Edging Toward Normal

May 3, 2021

I’ve been back in Ohio this weekend for my first soccer weekend in two years. Sunny. Temperatures in the 70s. Beautiful weekend.

Of course, I witnessed all the varieties of personalities and emotions that are exhibited during competition. That would just be humanity. But 600 kids having fun and hopefully growing some. 1200 more or less parents cheering them on. Given 95 games very few examples of poor sportsmanship.

There is money to be made by the clubs sponsoring these American youth tournaments–of which there were four in southern Ohio this weekend. But not mega-millions.

We can contrast to the money grabbing of a half-dozen owners of the world’s largest soccer clubs recently. While our kids were playing, parents had mobile phones out tracking the events at Old Trafford in England where fans put on a giant protest about the owners of Manchester United leading that money hunt.

Once again, humanity. On the one hand, good competitive environment providing opportunities for kids. On the other hand ego, pride, greed.

Every moment of every day in which we draw breath, we get to make that choice. Are we helping other people? Are we wrapped up in our own pride and greed?

Choose wisely.

Time To Grow Up

April 29, 2021

The same or similar observation from different sources often hit me at the same time. My first thought is about how it applies to other people. There is a momentary feeling of superiority if it is one of those moments of self-awareness. Followed, of course, by the convicting thoughts–what does it say about me?

Author/philosopher Mark Manson was on the Guy Kawasaki podcast. This podcast is released on Wednesday mornings. My ritual is to listen to this podcast while I’m cleaning floors. Makes the time go.

Manson said, “We have become a nation of babies.If we don’t get our way, we go on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram and complain.”

Later in the day, I’m reading in Greg McKeown’s latest book, Effortless. His first book, Essentialism (which I highly recommend) sold more than a million. McKeown (pronounced mc-kune) wrote, “We live in a complaint culture that gets high on expressing outrage, especially on social media, which seems like an endless stream of grumbling and whining about what is unsatisfactory or unacceptable.”

He is the second writer I’ve run across recently who talked about trying to change his own habit of complaining by adding a habit of saying something of gratitude to counteract the complaint. And was shocked at the realization of how much they complained seeing that they both thought of themselves as positive and upbeat people.

I’ll pause while you and I ponder on how much complaining we actually do.

Back to Manson. Kawasaki followed up on the comment about how we seem to be complaining babies by asking about how to become an adult.

“You become an adult when you give a shit about something beyond yourself,” Manson replied. (You have to realize he wrote a book where the title drops the “f-bomb”.)

I think he’s on the track with Jesus and John and Paul and the gang who talked about becoming spiritually mature when you love (action verb) one another.

I guess it’s past time for all of us to grow up.

Check Your Fruit

April 22, 2021

Jesus had been teaching. He pointed out a number of actions we should be doing. As he begins summarizing the teaching, he answers the question listeners may have had in mind–“how will I, or anyone observing me, know I am following your teaching?” He also answers the question, “Whom should I believe?”

So, he answers, you know people by their fruits. Good trees cannot bear bad fruit, and bad trees cannot bear good fruit.

Some people cannot gain insight through metaphor. I wrote recently about a chemical substance. Someone replied with the chemical formula and some actual physical effects. The concept of a metaphor is tough.

If you are an engineer and like things more concrete, then try substituting “results” for “fruits.”

Looking back on your life or that of someone who is trying to teach you, check out the results of what you’ve done and said.

Do you leave people better off than when you met?

Did you buy a hungry person a meal? Give a coat to someone cold? Provide transportation to a doctor? In your teaching, have you inspired people to help others or have you provoked people to harm others?

Your fruit is what you’ve left behind in others. Hope fully it’s a nice, ripe, juicy fig, not a rotten apple.

Jesus Turned Power On Its Head

March 8, 2021

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:42-45

The Roman-ruled world where Jesus and his followers lived was structured on power. At every level of society, someone had power over some others. And they were expected to exercise that power, brutally if necessary.

We often overlook the Roman context of the 1st Century and its influence on the writings. It is likely, for example, that Paul never saw the end of Roman power until the end of the age. John’s vision with which the Christian Bible is ended places that vision in metaphorical language.

Jesus turned that all upside down. Leaders were not to exert power over followers. Leaders who followed him were to lead with the attitude of serving. This is a teaching that leaders who call themselves Christian often seem to forget judging by their words and actions.

Jordan Peterson has published a new book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. He discusses this power relationship.

Those who are power hungry–tyrannical and cruel, even psychopathic–desire control over others, so that every selfish whim of hedonism can be immediately gratified; so that envy can destroy its target; so that resentment can find its expression. But good people are ambitious (and diligent, honest, and focused along with it) instead because they are possessed by the desire to solve genuine serious problems.

Peterson, Beyond Order

These describe a human condition. Political leaders, bosses, CEOs, parents, pastors… If you thought of someone immediately when reading this, that may be true. The most important person to consider from this point of view is the one in the mirror. How do each of us, you and me, handle ourselves when we have authority at any level? Are we following Jesus’ teaching?