Photography courtesy of Pert Roddy Garraway, who grows these beautiful plants.
In my observance of Lent this year, I worked with others in an online retreat reflecting on the question “What is mine to do?” The question comes from Jesus when he said” “What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do.” When his own death was approaching, St. Francis told us, “I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours.”
For me, the answer to the posed question is simply that what is mine to do is to practice serving. I am not sure why, but my friend’s photo of her beautiful Cereus reminds me of serving. It may be because this exquisite blooming only happens at night, when it is unseen by many. It does not require the brilliance of sunlight to bloom on, offering its beauty and fragrance. for a brief time.
I have become aware of the difference in helping, in fixing, as opposed to serving. When I worked as a registered nurse, my connection to patients was best applied in service to them and to their families as opposed to a goal of repair. I am aware that in my community relationships, my parenting, and my grandparenting, my calling to serve may be played out in many different roles – in offering hospitality, in gardening and cooking and sharing the beauty of art and music. My joy in any of these is heightened as I realize that this, too, is serving.
“Serving is different from helping. Helping is not a relationship between equals. A helper may see others as weaker than they are, needier than they are, and people often feel this inequality. The danger in helping is that we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity or even wholeness.
When we help, we become aware of our own strength. But when we serve, we don’t serve with our strength; we serve with ourselves, and we draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve; our wounds serve; even our darkness can serve. My pain is the source of my compassion; my woundedness is the key to my empathy.
Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected.”
–Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen