Tales of the unexpected (or, adventures in servanthood)

The starting place for change is accepting oneself and taking an interest in one’s inner world.*
(Edward Deci)

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done for you.**
(Jesus of Nazareth)

There’s a difference between being treated like a servant and acting like a servant. This about the latter.

It is likely that the better world we hope for will only come about through our servanthood. Here’s a good question for the would-be servant from Seth Godin:

What change do I seek to make?^

Here’s something else really helpful for the servant who doesn’t come as an expert – indeed, it could be their lack of expertise that is most disturbing to those who wish to be served rather than serve:

The secret to being good at anything is to approach it like a curious idiot, rather than a know-it-all genius.^^

Servanthood can mean we’re more open to discovering things about ourselves, things we hadn’t known before. We’re connecting to our story, our myth and to the greatest story of all. Notice what is happening here when we step outside of our known and into the unknown, something Joseph Campbell wants to suggest has mythological proportions:

Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to have found an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the centre of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.*^

We will come to what we have longed for, overcome the real enemy, understood our true worth and have found ourselves both belonging and contributing.

In a statement of simplicity beyond complexity, Charlie Mackesy has his character the boy ponder:

Isn’t it odd. We can only see our outsides, but nearly everything happens on the inside.^*

All the time we were thinking that we were helping someone – and, of course, we are – something significant was happening inside of us.

The path of the subversive servant is found in our ancient stories but is still so important for us today:

Sophistication may bring increased knowledge and, perhaps, a refined sensibility. But it may also encourage a cult of experts, dull sensitivity, and may reward flatulence in thought and language. Every society needs a barefoot Socrates to ask childishly simple (and childishly difficult!) questions, to force its members to reexamine what they have been thoughtlessly taking for granted.

We know how remarkable it is to be served by someone, taking more care and paying more attention than we expected. Every day we have the opportunity to bring the unexpected to others:

Think about an instance of great service you experienced in the past week. I can guarantee what made it special was how it was delivered, not what was delivered.⁺⁺

(*From Edward Deci’s Why We Do What We Do.)
(**Jesus of Nazareth, quoted in John 13:14-15)
(^From Seth Godin’s This is Marketing.)
(^^Mike Monteiro, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Teach your tongue to say I don’t know.)
(*^Joseph Campbell, from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(^*From Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.)
(⁺Robert Spaemann, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Teach your tongue to say I don’t know.)
(⁺⁺From Bernadette Jiwa’s The Story of Telling blog: The Unexpected.)

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