"How soon can I come over?". This was the questions posed to me by our family's dearest friend, Amy.
She was referring to coming over to our new place in England. We've just moved from Switzerland to a very rural, very quaint part of northwest England. Although we were all looking forward to discovering life in England and excited about the move, a move is a move is a move-- especially with four children and going from one continent to another-- never easy.
We flew over to our new home country on the 6th of July. Amy arrived on the 8th...arriving even before the moving trucks with all of our belongings.
I told her, "Coming before the Fall is crazy-- we won't be settled. We won't know where all the touristy spots are to take you." "But Jenny, I am coming to help you, not to tour around England. I can come back another time for that."
Here's the thing-- she wasn't kidding. Amy flew in from the States, got off the plane and jumped into playing with four bored little girls, unpacking endless boxes, grocery shopping, Ikea shopping (barf), cleaning empty rooms, readying them for furniture. No one would accept this sort of job, not matter what the pay.
Amy was in England for ten days and left our house about four times. And she was happy to do it.
Her help was invaluable to us. After four weeks of packing, traveling, bickering and unpacking, Amy saved us from total, familial distruction due to lack of sleep, disorientation and sheer boredom.
Later this summer we got away on holiday to South Carolina for three weeks. Amy came down with her husband Pete. They lavished attention on the four girlies again; playing countless games of hide and seek and reading piles of books to them. We had a nice time all together, eating big seafood dinners, playing on the beach and just talking.
On the last day of their stay with us at the beach, I noticed a book that Pete was reading. It was about 'service' and had a picture of one person handing another a glass of water. I intially thought it was about how to be a better waiter...which didn't make sense because Pete is a computer geek working for a huge online company. So I looked closer at the book's subtitle. It was about how to serve people, how to be of help.
When was the last time I even thought of how best to serve someone, let alone read a book about how to do it better, more consciously? I use the excuse that I am so busy and my life moves so fast I don't have time to contemplate serving people other than my immediate family and friends.
That is bull shit.
Serving is a frame of mind as much an action. Serving others is about being open to the opportunity to do so, to see where you could be of help; it may not be obvious. Serving can be grand, like Amy flying over to England for ten days just to babysit and clean house, or a small gesture, like helping an old lady cross the street. Serving can even be done annonymously, picking up trash in front of someone's house, for instance.
And all these gestures, big or small, are done so with joy when you are in the mindset of service. You feel as if you are getting much more than you are giving. You feel filled up.
I used to serve. When I was younger. I was always looking for ways to serve. I felt grateful to serve. And I was so appreciative for my life. So thankful for the chance to help someone out.
I am still grateful, now. And I do things for others, not just my kids, but it's not the same. I am older and grouchier. A lot grouchier. And expectant. I am more of a taker now.
Spending time with Amy and Pete gave me pause to think about what I have become over time; not all bad, but I could stand a good push in a different direction.
A direction toward service.