This morning, as I did yoga in our small library, Leo crawled around me and explored the room like active babies do. At one point, he found the shelf with my old journals and yanked one out, leaving it open on the floor. I went over to pick it up and it turned to a page where I had transcribed a poem given to me by my mother, to whom it had been passed from my grandmother and to her from my great-grandmother, Blanche Horner.
In the journal, I wrote: "My mom said that my Great-grandma Horner liked this poem so much that she sent it to all 10 of her kids. She said, 'If you read it carefully several times and sort of take it as a philosophy in life, perhaps I will have served just a little.'"
Here is that poem, one withholding much wisdom, passed through the women of my family:
The Pleasure of Serving
All nature has an eagerness to serve.
The cloud serves, the wind serves, the furrow serves.
Where this is a tree to be planted, you plant it;
where there is an error to be corrected, you correct it;
where there is a difficult task that everyone shuns, you accept it.
Be the one who removes the stone from the road, hate from hearts, and difficulties from the problem.
There is the joy of being honest, and that of being just; but above all, there is the beautiful, the immense joy of serving.
How sad the world would be if everything in it were already done!
No rose bush to plant, no enterprise to undertake!
Do not feel called to do only the easy tasks! It is exhilarating to do that which others shun!
But do not fall into the error of thinking there is merit only in doing great things.
There are small things that are real service; to decorate a table, to put books in order, to comb a little girl's hair.
That one criticizes, this one destroys; you be the one who serves.
To serve is not just a job for inferior beings.
God, who gives the fruit and the light, serves.
It would be well if He could call you, "(S)he who serves."
With His eyes on our hands, He asks us daily, "Did you serve today? Whom? A tree, your friend, your brother?"
-by Gabriela Mistral of Chili, 1945