That Which We Serve

Is it:

I love that which I serve.

or is it:

I serve that which I love.

Some of the people I met on my recent trip to Idaho had me thinking about these two statements on the way home. As my wife and I debated back and forth on this subject, I think I talked myself into the first statement as being more true. I love that which I serve.

The cool thing about this is I can conceivably learn to love anything if I simply serve it enough.

Outrageous? Preposterous? If I may direct your attention to the two pieces of evidence I have before me…

Exhibit A.

I’ve been married almost 25 years. I wish I could tell you it’s all been bliss…

You see I married an angel. To know her is to love her, and you’ll think more of me once you meet her. It always works that way…

But sometimes that angel says things… Sometimes that angel does things… makes me so mad!

Of course I’ve been known to be an antagonist from time to time myself. Whatever the reason, we have sometimes entered these periods of “by definition” in our marriage.

That is to say “I told you I’d stick with you forever, divorce is simply not an option, but right now I’d rather jab a knitting needle in my thigh than be in the same room with you… so I love you by definition because we’re stuck together until we work this out”. See?

Sometimes these moments last 15 minutes, sometimes much longer than that. But I’ve found a way to bring it back around to love…

I have to do something for her.

I’m not talking about “take her to dinner” or “buy her flowers”. We don’t use hurt feelings to extort luxuries in our relationship. I’m talking about really thinking it through and figuring out what she would do if she had more time, and doing it for her.

Sometimes it’s cleaning a bathroom, or washing her car by hand and detailing it myself, or once it was even as simple as doing the dishes (by hand). I don’t know how to explain what happens… but something in the process of looking for the need, and acting upon it to make her life better cures the mad inside of me. No, wait… It doesn’t cure it, I think it literally transforms it back into love.

When I start out cleaning the bathroom, I am NOT in love with this woman. I mutter under my breath and curse quietly about how dumb this is, and by the time I’m drying the floor after mopping it, I can hardly wait to show her what I’ve done. Or better yet, I leave it and let her discover it and come and find me. She reciprocates at least 20x more than I ever do for her, and it works. We love each other, and lots of times love is a verb…

After 25 years I love her more than I did the day I married her. There are times she walks in the room unexpected and my heart still skips a beat…

When I’m not sure I love her for whatever offense I think she’s committed, if I serve her, by the time I’m done I love her again. It’s worked every time.

Exhibit B.

The evening of July 3 I find myself in the town square of Rupert, Idaho. They have been celebrating the fourth of July for four days now, and on this evening there is a crowd gathering in the square. Some are sitting on the bleachers, most have brought their own canvas chairs. All but a few are seeking the shade because even this late in the evening the sun is still pretty hot.

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The gazebo at the center of the crowd is decorated with red, white and blue, and a giant American flag is hanging overhead from the ladder of the city’s largest fire truck.

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In the corner of the square, behind the large pinion pine, there is a group of men wearing their American Legion uniforms. I can feel the energy from this group, they are talking intently it’s clear. I have to go see. With my camera in hand I walk over to the group.

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It’s soon apparent to me that they are the color guard for the program – and this is not a duty they are taking lightly. The set up of the stage is a little different than what they have practiced, and they are very intent about working out the final details. Getting it right is vital to them.

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My first thought is “well of course, they probably know everyone sitting in the square. Nobody wants to be embarrassed in front of their friends”. I ask permission and start taking a few photos. Now I can overhear their discussion more clearly…

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They are talking about the flag. They are remembering what it means to them, talking quietly among themselves while the leaders figure out the new plan for the presentation of the colors. It becomes clear to me they are not worried about the crowd, they are worried about honoring the flag they have the privilege of bearing.

I wondered what it is about these men, what special thing they had that would cause them to love this flag, and the country it stands for, so much. Particularly in a time when patriotism seems to be waning in our media, in our country in general…

I didn’t have a chance to talk with them. They worked out the new plan and the time was upon them to present their beloved flag… I don’t know what has lead each of them to love the flag so fervently.

I do know this.

It transferred. The honor with which they presented that flag had a palpable effect on the crowd. Goosebumps ran down my arms and a tear formed in my eye as I saw the crowd come to their feet, and heard the reverent hush come over that town square. The color guard acted with honor, it was clear it was to honor their country, and the people responded.

I’m grateful I was there to be a part of it.

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So, if it please the court, I contend that those men love their flag and their country because they have been a part of organizations which exist to serve. I contend that these men love their community because they forget themselves on a regular basis and do that which serves the people of Rupert and surrounding towns.

I also contend that my wife and I have made it to the lofty pinnacle of 25 years because we find ways to help each other when our human nature makes us want to turn our back, or lash out in return.

Hence, I believe you love that which you serve.

Choose what you serve wisely.

I rest my case. and turn it over to you for your careful deliberation.

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