As an act of service, I used to take care of the lawn and gardens at my church. When I agreed to do this, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. They said they had a lawnmower which was good, because I sold mine years ago. I went down into the church basement and found their mower: an old hand mower, the kind used in the 50s. At first, I was appalled. But then, I realized something. It reminded me of the years of walking our dogs and picking up trash from the sidewalks of Long Beach. At first when I picked up trash, I wondered why I did it, and then I wondered why no one else did. Somehow, even then, I knew it had to do with doing good. I’ve heard that there is nothing more important than being good.
I want neatness in my life. Neat lawns, neat sidewalks, neat relationships, neat life. But those things all take work. If I let someone else mow the lawn, I’m not doing the work. If I use a power mower, I am breezing through the process without doing the work. And if I leave the trash for someone else to pick it up, I am not being present. It’s like leaving the dishes for someone else to do because I don’t want to do them. But doing service and being present and positive is to me the epitome of being good.
We define things by how we relate to them. That lawn must be mowed because I want neatness around me. The dandelions in the lawn are weeds that don’t belong. But I started thinking about dandelions. What’s wrong with them? What are they? Is it a weed or a flower? If I think of it as a weed, it is something to destroy because it ruins my desire for a perfectly neat green lawn. If I think of it as a flower, it is a living aspect of nature. Nature is about bountifulness and change. It is about cycles and balances. When I work with nature, not against it, I am part of the solution. I decided that I have to let go of defining everything in the world by its relationship to me.
One afternoon, as I was mowing the church’s lawn with that hand mower, someone walked by and laughed. He said, “That’s so old-fashioned.” I looked up from the grass and smiled at him, “It’s the wave of the future,” I said, realizing the truth in what I said. I wasn’t pouring carbon pollution into the atmosphere. And I was doing the work. My work. Doing service, being present and being positive. There is nothing more important than being good. Even if I am an imperfect human being, I can commit to being good by doing good acts. Being in acceptance of everything and everyone around me.
Reprinted from https://www.conqueringyourfears.com/post/an-act-of-service