Sometimes, to serve is also to suffer.
From the time I was a small, I had a desire to serve and have some positive impact on the world, yet I often felt unable. Reacting to this frustration I would sit idle, overeat and seek distraction. Craving relief from painful experiences, I wanted something, sometimes anything, to happen.
I needed to learn that inertia and mindless action are forms of selfishness. And I have experienced many times that the result of selfishness is misery. Service is one cure for misery.
Now, I experience grace most often in patient acceptance and am convinced the basis for bettering the world is a peaceful, loving heart. Happily, ways to also lend a hand are everywhere. Amma, my spiritual teacher, reminds us we can always share a smile, kind word and open ear.
She says our duty is to serve the poor and needy. Many times I have been challenged to discriminate when determining need, and I understand when Amma says, "The only difference between the rich and the poor is the rich can buy their problems."
I doubted my readiness to serve those in physical crisis until I had an experience that touched the core of my being. On a rainy, cold November morning, while in my car, I looked left to see a woman two feet from my window. I cannot remember if I saw tears, but it was obvious her soul had cracked and was crying.
I pushed the automatic window button. She was frightened and said something about running from a boyfriend who was nearby and violent. In those few seconds, instinctively I felt it was "safe" to be involved.
I asked her to get in and she crouched down on the floorboard next to me until we were far away. She had been pushed from a footbridge and, though smelling of alcohol, the trauma had relatively cleared her head. We said a prayer, and her words revealed a deep reliance on God.
She stayed with me for a weekend, telling me through tears many events of her life. I was a witness, simply listening and crying, and consoling as I could.
She told me that when she was 13, she left her parents' home after ongoing rapes by her brother. She had mostly been homeless, surviving hundreds more rapes, and some of the most inhuman torture I have heard described. She had two teenage sons who both lived on the streets, for whom she was constantly concerned. She was exactly my age and had a wonderful heart. I call her "Samantha."
I believe those with the heart to serve are sometimes given more than their share of suffering. In enduring pain, they help lessen the burden for others. I also know that God doesn't give us more than we can handle. By these standards, Samantha was a warrior. I bow down to her dogged heart. That her loving kindness survived those 39 years is nothing if not a miracle.
Meeting her showed me the honor it is to serve those in the depths of suffering.
Millen Myrmo is a member of Amma's Eugene Satsang. This column is coordinated by Two Rivers Interfaith Ministries, a network of more than 35 religious and spiritual traditions in the Eugene-Springfield area. For more information, call 344-5693 or visit www.interfaitheugene.org
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|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Jan 7, 2006|
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