The Way of Service
I was surfing on the net for a research on leadership when I found an interesting 2-minute video clip from India entitled “Tree.” The scene opens with a traffic jam caused by a big fallen tree. It caused great inconvenience for the motorists and the commuters. The traffic authorities, however, just ignored the situation thinking it was not their concern. Now a small boy, a passenger from a bus, sees the dead-lock situation. Possibly he was on his way home but got stranded by the heavy traffic. Worse, it began to rain. Faced with this crisis, the boy drops his school bag and begins to push the fallen tree alone with all his might. It was a futile attempt, of course.
But his action was enough inspiration for the others to help. The first ones to give a hand were the other children about his age playing along the street. And one by one people from all walks of life joined in the pushing – muscled grown-ups, ladies even senior citizens. A miracle of teamwork is created. The fallen tree is removed in no time. It showed the triumph of the human spirit. Everyone felt the joy of the accomplishment. The lesson I got from this episode is this: age and size does not determine who a leader is. It simply requires a great heart for service.
In this Sunday’s Gospel from Mt 11:29, Jesus is described as having been invited to the home of one of the leading Pharisees. The banquet must have been extravagant because the guests were vying to take places of importance. The scrambling for the priority seats must have been obvious because it drew the attention of Jesus. It is human nature to seek for importance. Basically, man is called to greatness! Yet some people seek greatness in the wrong places.
The events of these days also drew our attention as to why our nation’s leaders scramble for “political seats” during election. We have seen just the tip of the iceberg. And one of the reasons is because of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Some of our leaders have allegedly misused and abused this discretionary fund and channeled them to “ghosts projects.” It has angered our people because this “power of the purse” has become the source of corruption in government. While we point out the wrong as part of our prophetic vocation, we also need to look at the mirror and ask ourselves whether we have taken part in continuing the system of corruption.
It is a wake-up call for all of us. If our leaders can learn, the way of Jesus has always been servant leadership. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” In coining the phrase “servant-leadership” in 1970, Robert Greenleaf believes that individuals as well as organizations can be servant-leaders. In his essay “The Institution as Servant” he writes:
“This is my thesis: caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built. Whereas, until recently, caring was largely person to person, now most of it is mediated through institutions – often large, complex, powerful, impersonal; not always competent; sometimes corrupt. If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them.”
Our Christian faith calls us to renewal and conversion. The way to change is not to expect others to change but it starts from within. The challenge is to open ourselves into a new paradigm, a new way of being and doing. It is the way of service like Jesus. Pope Francis teaches that “faith is not something decorative or for show. To have faith means to put Christ truly at the center of our lives.” If we become a Jesus for our brothers and sisters, perhaps we can have a more caring, loving and better society.
(This article also appears in the Faith Section of Cebu Daily News)