Henri Nouwen on service, starting small and seeing clearly

At times, we might be involved in larger things – clothing the naked, sheltering the poor, helping the refugees, visiting the sick or imprisoned, but it is always small to begin with. It begins with small gestures. Being kind to your family and the people you work with, saying a patient word, writing a card, sending a flower.

Be attentive. Be attentive. Be attentive.

When we pray frequently and know that God is with us here and now, we are very attentive to others because we are less preoccupied with ourselves. We are less worried about ourselves and if we are not very worried about ourselves we see other people more clearly. We see their beauty. We see their kindness. We see that they are not trying to hurt us but that they have their own problems… We realise that these people are also struggling.

We do not do service to earn anything. It is not an anxious need to save the world. We don’t act on the condition that change will take place. If our only concern is “I better help him or her,”or to do things to change a person or the world, or the country, or the politic, or the social condition – if change is the condition of service – we are going to be very bitter and very soon. But if service is an expression of gratitude for the love we have already experienced then we can be free and engage in change without trying so hard.

Henri NouwenFollowing Jesus: Finding our way home in an age of anxiety

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