Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Holiday Service II

Vintage House Senior Center, Sonoma, California, USA

Christmas Day, December 25, 2010

"I cried for not having shoes till I saw a man with no legs." ... old Persian proverb

This essay, Holiday Service II, is the fifth in a group of eleven written on Christmas Day:
  1. High Class Zen
  2. Holiday Service
  3. Out Of My Head
  4. How To Enroll The World
  5. Holiday Service II
  6. A Game Worth Playing
  7. Peace On Earth And Good Will To All People: A Possibility
  8. Five Star Restaurant
  9. Direct Experience
  10. Thirteen Hawks A-Soaring
  11. Staying In Integrity
in that order.

I am indebted to Sondra Costello and to the senior people of our planet who inspired this conversation.

I've got everything I need. When they talk about the man who has everything, that's me.

Let me be clear about what I'm saying.

Secondarily "I've got everything I need" is what I stand for. It's a stand I take. I live Life out of "This is IT! I'm whole and complete.". I play the game out of "It's turned out, and this  is what it looks like when it's turned out.". Werner Erhard calls this "playing from win". When you play from win there's no aspiring to be satisfied - you come from  being satisfied. When you play from win there's no aspiring to be whole and complete - you come from  being whole and complete. When you play from win there's no aspiring to get what you need - you come from  having everything you need.

But that, as I said, is just secondarily.

Primarily it's all of the above  ... plus the additional requirements for where the rubber meets the road  in the real world. I have nutritious food and clean, fresh water. I have a quiet, functional place to stay - I'm cozy and warm and dry  at night. I have a college degree. I have medical insurance - which I don't really need because I keep fit and healthy, but I have it anyway. I have an adequate wardrobe which is pragmatic if it isn't haute couture. I have family, friends, relationships, and inspiring conversations. I have generous touching and physical affection whenever I want it. And I have the love of God in my pretty blue eyes.

Now, you could argue I've prioritized it ass backwards. Arguably primarily  it's the stand I am, and secondarily  it's how my life plays out in the real world. Arguably it's my stand  which gives the quality and circumstances of my life in the real world, and not vice versa. Yes, you could argue this. And you may even be right. That's a subject for another conversation on another occasion. It's not the focus here.

Here's what is: whenever Christmas time comes around, I've already got  all the creature comforts I need. And so rather than focus on where to enjoy another Christmas dinner and more presents (and believe me I love  Christmas dinner and presents), my thoughts naturally turn to those who'll have neither. And this is besides the fact  I consider it somewhat stingy  to celebrate the spirit of Christmas on only one  day a year. "The spirit of Christmas on only one day a year?". If ever there's a definition of unclear on the concept, that's it.

So I volunteer to assist. At a local senior center. One hundred and ten senior members of my community are either too sick or too frail or too invalid to participate in a Christmas dinner. I know I want to serve them.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not completely altruistic. Part of wanting to serve is wanting to give something back. Yes, that's for sure. But the real reason I want to serve is this: serving is the gift. When I serve, I get back - in spades.

I arrive early. I'm soaked by the heavy winter rain by walking from my car to the door of the building. I don't plan on managing. But I'll do anything I'm asked to do. Anything. The supervisor I report to is (I can tell) an excellent woman. I can see I'm going to enjoy working with her. At her behest my first task is to fetch a dolly  and trundle cases of the Christmas staple, Martinelli's Sparking Apple Cider, from the storage locker to the refrigerator, unpack them, and line the bottles up on the shelves to chill.

Then it's time to get started preparing the one hundred and ten meals on wheels  which will be delivered by volunteer drivers. I don plastic gloves and a hairnet. They say it's health department regulations  to wear gloves and a hairnet when preparing food. I don't recall ever wearing a hairnet before. Catching my reflection in a mirror, I look like what my Granny Lena  looked like when she wore a hairnet. I haven't thought of Granny Lena in a while. How great is it she turns up at a time like this!

I'm filling one hundred and ten small plastic cups with cranberry sauce. First I count out one hundred and ten of them. Then I count out one hundred and ten plastic lids. Next, from a big stainless steel tub of cranberry sauce, I spoon cranberry sauce into each cup about three quarters full, close the lids, then line up the filled, closed cups in rows on trays. I manage to get each one of them just so. If there's any cranberry sauce dripped on the outside of a cup, I carefully clean it off before lining it up on the tray. Part of me asks "What does it matter if you clean off drops of cranberry sauce from cups which are filled with cranberry sauce anyway?". It's not that. The question is irrelevant. It just works  to clean off any cranberry sauce dripped on the outside of the cups. So I do it. Now there's one hundred and ten closed cups each three quarters filled with cranberry sauce, with no cranberry sauce dripped on the outside of any cup. Complete  work.

The next preparation task is the boxes which will be delivered to the senior members of my community who, for various reasons, can't prepare or attend a Christmas dinner. An army of volunteers sets up tables then lines up empty delivery boxes on tables so it'll be easy to fill each box by walking up and down the aisles between the tables. Each box is set with a cup of cranberry sauce. Then I open big bags of rolls donated by a local bakery and add a roll to each box, then an orange - donated by a local supermarket. We've got a plan. The supervisor has laid out a sample delivery box with an empty cranberry sauce cup, a roll, and an orange in the top right corner. Now we've got the visual. There's room left for two biodegradable containers: one which will contain a slice of pumpkin pie, and another larger one for the turkey and all the trimmings.

The slicing of the pies goes very well. I join two other volunteers in an assembly line cutting pies, putting a slice of pie into each biodegradable container, then putting the biodegradable containers into the larger delivery boxes. What's interesting is at this point, no one is telling anyone else what to do  any more. Things are just getting done. There's a job to do, or rather jobs  to do - and they're getting done. No one's directing. No one's supervising. This is amazing, I pause to reflect. It's actually quite an intricately co-ordinated series of tasks. And yet there's no one in charge  and everything's working. Truly amazing.

Six of us line up next to a counter in another assembly line to pack the larger biodegradable containers with turkey and all the trimmings. At the start of the line a volunteer puts a scoop of mashed potatoes into a biodegradable container, then passes it to her right. The next volunteer takes it and adds a serving of stuffing. Then to bean salad. Next to yams. Then the man to my left adds his own personal selection of light and dark turkey meat. When it reaches me, my job is to ladle on gravy so it covers the turkey and the mashed potatoes. This is so cool!  I do it with as much import as any other job I'm born to do. The man on my left is German, so I ask him "How do you say 'gravy' auf Deutsch?"  (ie "in German"). He tells me "Soße" - pronounced saucer. I say to him proudly "Ach ja! Natürlich! Ich bin der Soßemeister!" - which I am: no one has ever done a better, more masterful  job ladling gravy over turkey and mashed potatoes than I'm doing now. I'm not just going through the motions. I'm giving this gravy ladling everything I got.

Once the completed meals in the biodegradable containers leave my hands, they're added to the delivery boxes which are lined up for the volunteer drivers to distribute them into the community and to our seniors who'll have Christmas dinner at home after all.

When I leave I discard my gloves and hairnet. But I do take with me, offered by the supervisor, a bottle of the Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider - now perfectly chilled. It's still raining, and once again I'm wet before I get to my car. But I'm full. I'm full of giving. I'm wet and cold yet I'm cozy and warm.

One of these conditions is courtesy the real world. The other is a function of the stand I am.

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