· I vow to embrace each moment with Not-Knowing, the Practice of Presence and Service as a way of being.
· I vow to transform suffering and anger into wisdom and compassionate action.
· I vow to speak from the heart; to listen wholeheartedly; and to seek the wisdom of council.
· I vow to cultivate respect and dignity in all relationships.
· I vow to use discernment from a perspective of unity and to nurture a culture of cooperation.
· I vow to seek what is needed responsibly, to share generously, to work well with what I have, and to take only what is freely given.
· I vow to promote solidarity and a just economic order.
· I vow to care for the sacred elements--earth, water, air, and fire; to deeply respect the Net of Creation and its infinite forms of life and energy that co-create our precious earth and universe.
These are the words from a friend that she shared via email from her Zen friend’s priest ordination. These vows should be a daily checklist for me.
In my work, I hear a lot of mommas telling their very active daughters, “Girl, you do too much.” That is what I hear in these vows. “Girl, you do too much; you are too rushed, too busy; too fast; too concerned with little tasks and not understanding the priorities of importance. You need to be still and listen.”
When I get rushed, I forget that it is in the stillness that I remember to listen, to cultivate respect and dignity. That is what happened to me yesterday. I forgot to be still. I am not proud of myself for the way I handled a situation.
It wasn’t a big deal to most of the people around me, but it probably was too one man…and to me. He was acting like a child and I treated him as a child.
I was wrong.
When we think of treating one another as children, we talk down to that person. That is never good.
In the work that I do as manager of a food ministry, there is a fine line between hospitality and condescension, between charity and true caring. If I am too nice, I can be perceived as false. If I am too casual, I can be perceived as uncaring. I don’t want to be fawned over because what I am doing is something that helps people.
What I do, I do because I have been told to do it…by scripture and by God. Feeding people is not the cure for hunger due to poverty but it is what Jesus told us to do – Feed my people.
So, when people tell me thank you, I often say, no, thank you. By their willingness to ask/receive help, they offer me an opportunity to do what I feel I have been told to do. There is a certain reciprocity in that.
Therefore, when I fail to act in that way, regardless of how the man acted, I fail to do what I am supposed to do. He walked away unfed…in body and in spirit.
To live a life according to these vows would take constant attention, full intention, and willingness. I can fully intend to do something good and be very willing but have my attention distracted by life its own self. However, it is in the intention that I can trust that it is what God would have me do.
Therefore, I vow to try to do these things, intentionally, understanding the vastness of my arrogant endeavor, knowing that in all things I do, I can do nothing without God.
And most of all, I will remember that I fail to feed people when they walk out the door unhappy with me…unfed.