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An Act of Service

By Thea Iberall

As an act of service, I used to take care of the lawn and gardens at my church. When I agreed to do this, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. They said they had a lawnmower which was good, because I sold mine years ago. I went down into the church basement and found their mower: an old hand mower, the kind used in the 50s. At first, I was appalled. But then, I realized something. It reminded me of the years of walking our dogs and picking up trash from the sidewalks of Long Beach. At first when I picked up trash, I wondered why I did it, and then I wondered why no one else did. Somehow, even then, I knew it had to do with doing good. I’ve heard that there is nothing more important than being good.

I want neatness in my life. Neat lawns, neat sidewalks, neat relationships, neat life. But those things all take work. If I let someone else mow the lawn, I’m not doing the work. If I use a power mower, I am breezing through the process without doing the work. And if I leave the trash for someone else to pick it up, I am not being present. It’s like leaving the dishes for someone else to do because I don’t want to do them. But doing service and being present and positive is to me the epitome of being good.

We define things by how we relate to

them. That lawn must be mowed because I want neatness around me. The dandelions in the lawn are weeds that don’t belong. But I started thinking about dandelions. What’s wrong with them? What are they? Is it a weed or a flower? If I think of it as a weed, it is something to destroy because it ruins my desire for a perfectly neat green lawn. If I think of it as a flower, it is a living aspect of nature. Nature is about bountifulness and change. It is about cycles and balances. When I work with nature, not against it, I am part of the solution. I decided that I have to let go of defining everything in the world by its relationship to me.

One afternoon, as I was mowing the church’s lawn with that hand mower, someone walked by and laughed. He said, “That’s so old-fashioned.” I looked up from the grass and smiled at him, “It’s the wave of the future,” I said, realizing the truth in what I said. I wasn’t pouring carbon pollution into the atmosphere. And I was doing the work. My work. Doing service, being present and being positive. There is nothing more important than being good. Even if I am an imperfect human being, I can commit to being good by doing good acts. Being in acceptance of everything and everyone around me.

Acceptance by Rebecca Ray

True self-acceptance

shows up in that moment

when you realize that

peace cannot co-exist with war.

The moment you choose to stop

being your own enemy and

to love yourself instead.

Participants’ Reflections

  • Thank you. The image of a lawnmower took me back. When I first divorced and bought an old house with a tiny yard, I bought a push mower. That was the way I thought I should be doing it. There was no need to pollute with gasoline or with sound, just be there with the grass. I loved that lawnmower and I loved mowing that lawn. Thank you for that memory.

  • When you talked about different perspectives and wanting order at the same time, mowing the lawn, it brought me back to perspectives on our lawn. One perspective was my brother, a landscaper, who took one look at our lawn and he said, “Your lawn is having a heart attack.” The other is when my daughter was very young, she came up to me and said, “Mommy, we have more yellow flowers than anybody.” It’s all perspective.

  • Count me in on the push mower. I’ll never forget when Life Magazine was being published. In 1953, my father and male neighbors were featured on the last page on Life in America, when they had a lawnmower derby because they had all got power mowers. What I love about a push mower is that it can be meditative, the click-click of the blades, so repetitive. Different than a power mower.

  • I reflected a week ago I was cleaning my yard after the hurricane. When you used the word ‘balance’, it made me realize that in spite of all the dishevel and disturbances, we can return to that center point inside of ourselves just as I brought my lawn back, after hours of work, back to its natural state. We have to go to one extreme sometimes in order to come back to our inner core. That’s what struck me was the word balance in what you read.

  • Thank you for your reading. I can relate to a lot of what you said. I don’t have a lawnmower because I don’t have a lawn. Last week, I went up and down the street and picked up trash. I’m the only one in my neighborhood with a rake for the leaves. I woke up this morning thinking about these meditations and how rich and full they are. It’s hard to choose between one little thing to concentrate on or the whole thing. It’s really great. What I was thinking about this morning when I woke up was the thought yesterday about meditation being an act of kindness to ourselves. As we get older, we have to be our own parents: either the parents we wish we had or the parents we no longer have. It was a comforting thought.

  • I was focusing on the act of doing good. In the Jewish religion, the act of doing good is called a mitzvah. Over the years, I’ve always done volunteer work, and I’ve brought my children along to do these mitzvahs, working with senior citizens and delivering meals at Thanksgiving and holiday times. It’s been important for our family. I began thinking how those opportunities will be on hold for a while and I’m not going to be able to have those mitzvahs with my children. A little sad about that, but thinking about the act of doing good. Hopefully in the future, I can bring that back as a family event.

  • My thoughts went along the same line, doing good. Lately, I’ve been bothered by the fact that I can’t do the things I want to. I have a friend who is older and she walks a long distance to get her groceries. Normally, I would provide the transportation, but now I think twice about it. Who she’s been exposed to, how comfortable is she going to be sitting in the back seat with the windows open, wearing a mask. It just limits us. I volunteered at a homeless shelter, that’s something I can’t do anymore. It’s challenging in many ways to do good. In doing good, you feed yourself as well as the other person.

  • I was also thinking about the do-good part of the reading. Ever since college, being from an immigrant family, I’ve volunteered at different places. I was volunteering at food places and volunteering on a board. Lately, I’ve been finding what you were talking about, the trash. On my morning walks, I feel more compelled to notice the tension, not because I want everything neat. It’s a feeling that we are all in this together in a different kind of way. What else I got from your reading was the allowance, the allowing for who I am, all my parts. That struck me. And how to make room for all the parts I don’t feel comfortable with.

  • Acceptance is really important. Acceptance is a key. I found picking up trash without judgement was a big key, that’s part of acceptance as well.

  • Thank you so much for joining our community today and participating and giving yourself this gift of meditation and reflection. Have a blessed beautiful day.

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