“Service as listening.” With these words, Eduardo Vargas, the assistant city director for DOOR San Antonio, began his report to the local board of directors.
To be honest, I sometimes check out when staff members report to the board. It’s not because I don’t care. Many times, I have already read a version of the report or I can sense where the conversation will go.
Eduardo’s description triggered an avalanche of ideas and concerns.
Most of us think of service as something concrete. People participate in DOOR because they want to serve. When I think of service I go straight to the list of tasks that need to be accomplished.
· Painting a house.
· Helping with summer day camp.
· Sorting food at the local food bank.
· Serving a meal at the rescue mission.
· Running a Vacation Bible School program.
When people come to DOOR, they want to feel good about the tasks they accomplish. They want to make a difference. This is noble and good.
This is my fear: would people want to participate in a program that defined service as listening?
What does listening accomplish?
It doesn’t paint a house, or run a program. Food for the needy doesn’t get sorted, meals go unprepared, and children miss out of Vacation Bible School.
But listening has the potential to move me past my stereotypes and assumptions.
It is tempting, when going on a “mission trip” to have all the answers and solutions for where you are going before you get there.
Listening has a way of exposing the hypocrisy of my prepackaged answers.
Listening first opens the door to authentic service.
When we take the time to listen and be listened to, mutuality is often the result. This in turn creates an opportunity to both give and receive.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this is what service is all about.