I had a couple of articles written for this edition of The Sower – both super! One was a not-so-pretty evaluation of a relationship that went awry and the other was an article about whining – mostly my whining… Both articles are nixed – scrapped! Thankfully so! Instead I am writing about service.
In the Philippines, I am staying with the benefactor of Seeds of Grace here. Her name is Christy. She offered to host me at the home of her father, in the heart of Manila. Christy comes here a couple of times per year for several months at a time, to help her father who is in his late nineties. He doesn’t get out much – well, at all – and while she is back in the states, she trusts the care of her dad to her housekeeper, a lovely, 71 year young Filipina named Conchine.
Many tasks need to be done that Conchine either is not equipped for, or doesn’t have the authority to do and if they are not emergencies, she must await Christy’s return. Christy leaves her husband to come and see to her dad, because 10 years ago (today, September 8 is the anniversary) Christy’s mom passed away and it is her duty as the eldest daughter to do so.
I have learned a little about the culture since my arrival two days ago. Not nearly as much as I wish to learn, but enough to know that this culture deeply respects their elders. More than that, those in the business of service have a near reverence for those they serve. Truly, a close example would be that of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples! This is how dedicated those who serve others are in this culture.
As I arrived late Tuesday evening, Conchine was the first one out the door to greet us, trying to take my bags from my hands and the hands of Christy’s neighbor and friend who was our driver… All I see is this beautiful little woman with a very crooked neck trying to show me hospitality. However, as much as I didn’t want to share my burden with her, I had no choice in the matter. She drew my bags into the door and locked it after us then shyly took the luggage to my room. These bags were heavy! They were a burden to me!
She waits on me, hand and foot – continually filling my drinking water, making sure there is hot water for my bath, serving food all day long (excuse me – I can’t say no!), all while she keeps this home spotless. She awakens before the rest of the household and makes sure that food is out for breakfast. She makes sure the bathroom is cleaned after nearly every use. She lovingly cares for Christy’s dad as if she were his daughter too. She is subservient to Christy (10 years her junior) in a respectful and admiring way.
Christy treats her so kindly, too! Culturally there are certain boundaries that must be maintained, but there is no lack of love and appreciation between these two. It is a bond of mutual trust that I see, and I wonder where that has gone in my own culture.
We have eaten out a couple of times, and the service at the restaurants (which spanned from the McDonald’s-like Jolibees to a very nice and quite authentic family-style meal in a northern province where the property is that Christy has given Seeds of Grace) the service was wonderful! 2 – 3 people watching to see if there was the slightest need and filling it before there was any request from the table. This is not a well-off country! These employees appeared so happy to be doing what they were doing and so grateful that we were there, in their restaurant eating the food that was their privilege to prepare and serve.
This attitude is missing in America. From the top of the White House to the McDonald’s counter girl; there is really no one in service anymore. (Save for those in the military – but I exclude them for the purposes of this article – it simply doesn’t apply). What I mean is, from the president on down the line of political representatives and even those who are not elected but work in some capacity in government (again- besides the actual military personnel who will receive a dd-214) across the gamut to those whose job is in some field of customer service, people no longer understand the concept of service. They no longer get that they really are in the employ of others, and if they do their job unsatisfactorily, or in some way lose their dedication to the service trade they should no longer do it. Instead I see these people acting as if they are entitled to the position, asking for a raise and treating me, the one who pays their salary in some form or another (my taxes or payment for the services themselves), as if I am obligated to continue to do so without question regardless of the service I receive.
If I expect more from the president or another public servant, I am looked upon with contempt, called names or ostracized altogether. If I expect more from my local Starbucks partner or McDonald’s employee, I fear what may end up in my burger or cup.
You might be wondering what on Earth this has to do with Seeds of Grace… Well, maybe it doesn’t – except that I am going to learn by the example of Conchine in her service to me and others. Today, when I came back across the street from getting a manicure from one of Christy’s friends, I was struggling to put my slipper on. You see, I didn’t want to mess up my nails. What did Conchine do? She, in her tiny, 71 year-old frame knelt down and put my slipper on my foot… first one, then the other – without question. She simply did it. My thanks seemed to me a meager compensation for such a grandly, subservient yet honoring gesture. She is not a slave, she chose this as her career. She loves what she does, and goes the extra mile in so many ways! So, what does this have to do with Seeds of Grace? Well, this is how I will serve. This Jesus-like example is what I want to follow – to learn. This is the direction I will strive to go for the sake of loving the community I am in. I believe that God let me experience this so that I can grow into being more like Him. And I thank Him for the vividly explicit example in my opportunity to learn.