“Oh no, no. I can get it. I don’t need to be waited on!”
Have you ever said these words?
If so, I invite you to ask yourself why.
Your answer might purport to have something to do with humility, or not placing yourself above another.
May I challenge you on that?
The experience of being served by a friend, a colleague, or a “superior” can be very humbling indeed. But that which we call “humility” in Self—is often pride.
Consider the scene of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples (John 13). Theologians and scholars have made thorough and smart attempts to unpack the scene. What emerges for me is not a political notion of equality, nor a sense of a grand gesture from the Almighty to the mortal—but rather a Divine example of the beauty of service.
There’s nothing I like more (and I believe I mean that phrase literally) than to host a dinner party. I scrounge through my cupboards, look for coupons, and I make a dash to the thrift store or village market in search of that one small detail that will make the evening perfect. I set a table, light some candles, play some music—and then I receive my guests, my kids, my colleagues—whomever.
And I encourage them to sit as I finish preparations—and serve.
I equally enjoy being treated to dinner at a restaurant or at a friend’s home. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But when a friend chooses to serve me, I don’t object.
My mom taught me this principle. And my Ugandan friends fully believe in caring for each other, gracefully serving each other—and receiving from each other. In Uganda, all food and drink items are presented covered, and on a tray (or on whatever humble object most resembles a tray when one isn’t available). My friends are entirely present with the notion of our interconnectedness.
And they receive with equal grace.
In one of my earliest days of graduate school, I was at a university cocktail party. There were mountains of food on grand trays, but no servers. Mingling elsewhere in the room was a friend who I knew had not eaten anything the whole day. Without thinking about it, I picked up one of the trays, and made my way through the crowd. Napkins in one hand and this great tray in the other, I offered my friend and her guests a nosh.
As I made my way back to the buffet, I noticed some sideways glances from colleagues. I then realized that perhaps they presumed, since my friend is a VIP, that I was kissing up. I started to explain, but then I shrugged it off—and wrapped myself in that warm feeling of service—one to another.
Service doesn’t have to be an indicator of stature; rather it can be a revelation of the spiritual in the language of the human.
The next time you have the chance to serve, do so—regardless of what people might think.
And the next time you are served, don’t resist. Receive.
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