My term of service in
Colorado Springs, Colorado, with Service Adventure was both the best and
toughest year of my young life. A highlight of my year was my job placement. I
worked at Our House: Bright Futures, a day program for adults with
disabilities. I was surrounded daily with individuals who greeted me with a hug
as they walked in the door. It was the place where I grew into the person I am
Yet this place that
was such a source of joy in my life also provided one of my toughest
lessons in service: learning how to step back and be served.
At the beginning of
the year, our unit talked about how we were not only in Service Adventure to
serve, but also to be served. This was not something that I felt familiar or
comfortable with initially.
Towards the start of
my time at Our House: Bright Futures, I noticed an individual standing and hand
signing with a care provider. I walked over and introduced myself by signing – the
extent of my knowledge. Eventually, he taught me more sign language. First the
practical, then the ones that made us chuckle. When this ritual began, I considered
it a learning opportunity for myself; but it turned into much more than that.
By his teaching me, I was backing down and simply being served, just as our
unit had talked about.
Mennonites, we often talk about being the hands and feet of Jesus in our
communities. Yet, sometimes we need to sit down and let others wash our feet.
This is often the image that comes to mind when I think of being served by
others—a parallel frequently drawn by theologists. As a person who is always
eager to help others, I often struggle with this widely accepted interpretation
of the scripture. I was generally uncomfortable with the idea of being
vulnerable and letting others serve me.
Yet I was also being
served by my housemates from day one. When I touched down in Colorado Springs, I
was terrified of what would await me. But I found some of the most
understanding, compassionate and loving friends that I could ask for. That’s
apart from the issue of whether they were intentionally serving me on a daily
basis. We often sat together, discussing our days, which could be anything from
giving advice regarding a difficult work situation or the offering of a hug or
a cup of tea. I learned that it was okay to let my housemates help me through
difficult times, because we were all experiencing them. That’s a part of the
beauty of living in community. You have people to walk with you through a
season of life.
Service is often
mischaracterized as only serving others. Yet the people surrounding you have
just as much to give to you as you do to them. Give them the chance to be
Christ in your life. You’ll thank them for it.