05 February 2012

Moving Beyond Yourself (June 2011)

"Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time." – Shirley Chisholm

Generally, we think of service as something big – something, indeed, to do in our spare time, and how many of us have much of that? But service is in the little gestures, too. And it isn’t limited to other humans.

I was thinking about service recently as I went about my daily chores of tending to the chickens and cats, and pulling (endless!) weeds in the garden. I realized that my chores were a form of service to the animals and land for which I have accepted responsibility. I serve the critters by making sure they have fresh food and water, clean shelter, medical care, and affection. I serve my land by safeguarding it from poisons, working compost back into the soil, and keeping it beautiful.

And the land serves me – nay, all of us – in return. Last Tuesday I harvested my extra artichokes and took them to the Food Bank. A client there was delighted to see fresh produce brought in by an individual; she thanked me. As I explained to her, I’ve been homeless a few times over the years (never on the streets, thank goodness – and the kindness of friends), and there was a time when my partner and I needed the help of a local food bank. These days, in part because of my service to the land, I have bounty to share, so I do.

Several years ago, I wrote a somewhat controversial article for a professional organizers’ newsletter on ethical organizing. In it, I talked about not being in this business for the money, but to be of service. Helping others become organized is a gift with which I was blessed. I use this gift to make the world a better place, to help others remove obstacles so that they can share their
unique gifts. If someone is serious about wanting my help, I’ll find a way to give it. Sometimes, when I feel so guided, I work for free – simply to be of service.

Service doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as putting chairs away after an event, or listening to a friend who needs an understanding ear. Or it can be a larger commitment, like walking dogs weekly at the animal shelter or volunteering at your favorite nonprofit. (Years ago, I volunteered with an adult literacy program, teaching adults how to read.) What matters is not so much how we serve as that we serve.

Tip of the Month
Service takes the focus off ourselves. It humbles us, removes us from our ego, includes us as part of the whole instead of keeping us separate. If you are feeling lonely, overwhelmed, depressed, or otherwise off balance, stop what you’re doing and go be of service. Get out of yourself by giving of yourself. Not sure what to do? Call me (707-268-8585) and I’ll talk it through with you, help you explore options and come up with a plan – my service to you.

Quotes of the Month
Love cannot remain by itself – it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action and that action is service. – Mother Teresa

There is nothing to make you like other human beings so much as doing things for them. – Zora Neale Hurston

If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a kind word of encouragement, or attempts to understand a lonely person, extraordinary things begin to happen. – Loretta Girzartis

The way to get things done is not to mind who gets the credit of doing them. – Benjamin Jewett

Recipe of the Month

At Saturday Farmers’ Market, Claudia’s Herbs has their unbelievably beautiful China Rose garlic available now. Here’s my favorite use of it.

Claire's Bruschetta
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the topping by chopping the daylights out of the following ingredients
and then combining them in a bowl with salt, pepper, and olive oil. (Start with
1/4 cup of oil, then add more if you so desire.)

Topping Ingredients:
One small onion, preferably sweet – Walla Wallas are good
LOTS of garlic – 6 to 8 decent-sized cloves
One tomato (diced, don’t chop this one as finely as the other ingredients)
Basil – somewhere between 1/2 cup and 1 cup’s worth of leaves

Slice a sourdough baguette (seeded is tasty, if it’s available) in half, lengthwise.

Place the slices, crust-side down, on a cookie sheet.

Generously spoon the topping onto the two halves of baguette.

On top of this, place grated cheese –fontina, emmental, gouda, or parrano work well – as thickly or thinly as you like.

Put the whole shebang in a pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Devour (but not too quickly – food doesn’t taste as good when you’ve burnt your tongue!)

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