Service: Basic Care
Some days can be frustrating. On second thought, I don’t think the days themselves are frustrating. They are what they are. It is we who decide to be frustrated. Frustration is an interpretation of what’s going on. I suppose frustration is, in most cases, a reaction. Usually frustration boils to the emotional surface when things don’t go our way. I try not to spend much time in that emotional state. It changes nothing and it uses up valuable energy to no good end.
Nevertheless, recently I had one of those frustrating days. It all started with a water meter. Now I have no idea how to make a water meter into a spiritual lesson, so I won’t try that one. But the water meter precipitated what would turn out to be a spiritual lesson for me. For that I am grateful, in spite of some frustration in the process.
The story began a long time ago, it seems. Apparently I have a meter inside my house that is no longer acceptable to satisfy the company. I will confess for a couple times, I ignored their request to come a replace it. But when they threatened to turn off my water, having them come a replace it suddenly made sense! I became co-operative! So we scheduled a two-hour window for some person to come to the house to change the meter.
It amazes me how my schedule and time commitments become such an issue. You would think I was being asked to sacrifice a week or more to make this possible. So I “found” a couple hours to stay home and wait for some stranger to come and change my meter. Things like that interest me so little, I was not even sure where the meter was located! After about an hour into the two-hour wait, I received a phone call from the company. Apparently, the guy (although it might be a female, for all I knew) could not make it. Could we re-schedule?
What am I going to say? No? After all, the threat to disconnect my water still was in place. “Of course, we can re-schedule,” I answered cheerily! So a month or two later, I was back in my two-hour wait. Two hours came and went. I waited patiently. After about four hours, there was no person and no phone call. Frustration entered my heart. Probably beneath that was some anger building, but I did not go there.
My water company is a local company in my midwestern town. I called the Water Company, but they could only send me on. They had outsourced the job. So I was soon talking to some woman in South Carolina, who did not give outward signs of caring about me or my problem. Apparently, she was not worried about her water being cut off. After pursuing the thing, I finally did get a call from a guy who said he would soon be at my place to change my meter.
And this is where frustration begins to be melted by kindness. I hope being spiritual means we try to be more understanding, welcoming and willing to go for the best. Let me put it this way: a water meter man walked into my house to do a job. And he did it. A very nice, helpful, congenial guy walked out of my house. I barely know him, but I was touched by his heart. It is always heart that makes something spiritual. The water meter man had become a spiritual person for whom I have respect and appreciation.
The spiritual question is how did he do it? Of course, the true answer is that I have no clue how he did it. So I’ll make some guesses. The most obvious characteristic was his service. I know he was doing his job. But he did more than that. He did his job with some real care---some real basic care. This does not mean he treated the meter change with tenderness. But he did treat me tenderly. He was understanding. Real care typically is understanding. Truly to care for someone requires some understanding on our part. Somehow this guy knows how to do care very well.
I think care has to be a basic building block of the spiritual life. Can you imagine a truly spiritual person saying, “I couldn’t care less!” I have actually written some about the theme of care in one of my books. I know care is part of what it means to be loving. Of course, love is a very complex thing, but one key component of love is that it is caring. If you love someone, you care for him or her. True love never says, “I couldn’t care less.”
It was the basic care the guy had in his heart that enabled him to treat me kindly in his service. And this kindness was coupled with a tenderness. Care, kindness and tenderness are truly spiritual terms, as I understand them. They certainly are capable of blasting frustrations right out of the picture. A caring guy came to change my water meter and to blast my frustration right out the window.
The spiritual lesson was obvious. It was the man---the guy who had come to service the water meter---became the teacher. He was transformative. Not only did he change the meter. He changed me!