A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, January 16, 2014
The act of service I focused on today involved driving someone somewhere. More of an errand, and it wasn’t as if the person I drove couldn’t have taken public transportation. Nevertheless, I drove my youngest daughter to and from the community college, where she’ll start spring semester next week.
Have I mentioned that I used to drive commercially for a living? (At least, part-time. That wasn’t enough to live on, but it certainly helped cash flow in the family.) Thinking about the title of this blog post, that’s where the “taxi” part of my act of serving comes from. And “service?” A bit of a pun, but I wanted to write and think more in depth about serving. About taking the opportunity to be available for people.
To begin, I went to Richard Foster’s tremendous guide on the spiritual disciplines and Christian spirituality, Celebration of Discipline. His brief chapter on service is full of pithy quotes and penetrating insights into the place of service, and differing ways to serve in the world.
Sure, I could have gotten all ‘intellectual,’ and become fascinated by the words of various saints and their different takes on service, and the way Richard Foster incorporated them into the chapter. But that’s not the point. My point is to find out what Foster says about serving through transportation. He did talk about it, and gave this example that caused me to think hard about my whole activity of service, 365 days of service.
He spoke of the time he was in the “frantic final throes” of writing his doctoral dissertation. A friend called. The friend’s wife had taken their car, but the man needed to run several errands. He asked Foster whether he might have a ride to do the errands. Foster begrudgingly took the man around. Before leaving, he grabbed Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, just in case he might have a little time between errands. I’ll let Foster continue. “Through each errand I inwardly fretted and fumed at the loss of precious time. Finally, at a supermarket, the final stop, I waved my friend on, saying I would wait in the car. I picked up my book, opened it to the marker, and read these words: ‘The second service that one should perform for another in a Christian community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest service.’”
Through the power of narrative and example, Richard Foster gave us a marvelous definition and description of taxi service. Bonhoeffer’s words can also be construed to mean general acts of service as well, not just those of transportation. (Though taxi service was what Foster had been doing, at this specific time.) God, I am convicted both by Foster’s example as well as by Bonhoeffer’s words of advice and admonishment. I give thanks for the acts of service I find each day. Please, God, help me, show me some service to do tomorrow.