I grew up learning (reluctantly at times) the value of service. Living with my cousins for a few years - 8 boys!! - and an uncle who, to this day, works as hard as anyone I know (and he's well past "retirement" age) there was little room for girlish reveries or ducking out of responsibility. The only chore I was usually exempt from was milking the cow (though I did have my share of turns in the black of early morning on the milking stool).
I remember a neighbors basement catching fire and the quiet shock we all felt as we waited to hear if they were all okay. Sighs of relief lasted only as long as it took to grab shovels out of the shed, throw our boots on and stomp purposefully down the street. For hours we worked shoulder to shoulder with other church members and neighbors to clean up the basement and by the end of the day, a clean slate shined before us all ready for a new beginning. I remember the gratitude in the neighbors' eyes and the warm feeling that such service left in the cockles of my heart. Through those years, we spent many many hours digging, bucking, hoeing, what-have-you for various friends and community members in need...even the crotchety old widow who you'd think had planted the weeds in her front yard!
Years have gone by and I haven't been in service NEARLY as much as I was then, as a teen. I could say it's motherhood or life that has kept me too busy. I could even try to convince myself that it's because there hasn't been opportunity. But the truth is that I took a "break". A break from being super-gregarious to take the time to get to know myself in the quiet of my little life and to make sure my self-identity wasn't tied up in selfless service to the point of denying myself that same service. I have learned how to serve myself in little ways - a cup of tea savored quietly on the porch while the girls rattle noisily around in the house, an early morning walk, and...don't laugh....nourishing creams for my gardening hands (I could die happy breathing in the scents of sandalwood, amber, and eucalyptus, let me tell you!).
Here we are, in the middle of moving, and I, with my painful injured shoulder (snif, snif) have been trying to do it all. Vince does more than his share upon returning home from work, but during the day I'm wearing my superwoman cape. A dear, dear friend called and offered to help. What? Help me? I couldn't impose....but wait...she was OFFERING! I wasn't asking. So, in an act of service to myself, I accepted her help. She came with her van and her sleeves rolled up and will filled both our rigs to the brim. She followed me up to the new house and as I caught glimpses of her in my rear-view mirror on the winding, rural road I kept feeling a bit of surprise when I'd turn a bend and she, in turn would appear...still there. Still helping. I felt a strange feeling. Another pin inserted in my map of self awareness. Charting the territory of my self, I am learning to value myself but it never occurred to me that others might value me as well. I had never really thought about the "others" for I was on a quest to value myself irregardless of the opinions of others (a quest I might have been failing at terribly, or succeeding at beautifully depending on the day) :)
So, I wondered if I hadn't allowed for others to be of service to me. I wondered if I was one of those moms who didn't know how to receive. In that moment, I was reformed. I was overwhelmingly grateful for the lesson this friend had unknowingly taught me. After she left, I sat on the quiet of my new deck and savored this view. With this as a distraction, will I ever get anything done?
"Individuation does not shut one out of the world, but gathers the world to oneself"
"Serve self you serve society. Serve society serve yourself."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson