I’m a floater at a cancer clinic, a volunteer who comes in on short notice whenever another can’t make it. Yesterday’s assignment was to be a greeter for four hours. There’s a little table near the reception desk and main entrance, where greeters are stationed, ready to be of whatever use they can be to disoriented arrivals. Another part of the job is to push a trolley around the place every hour or so, offering coffee, tea, juices, and cookies for people waiting to see a specialist or receive radiation or chemo-treatment. In short, not a glamorous task.
And yet, when I walked home after the shift yesterday, I felt elated. The feeling one gets after a job well done. “Would you like a cookie with that?” — how can that be an accomplishment? The explanation lies in the fundamental act of serving, of being a servant to strangers at times of crisis. Pouring an apple juice and making a cup of peppermint tea — mundane tasks in themselves but each acts of kindness and opportunities for utter presence. People thank me, some drop coins into the donation box, others wave me away: it’s me who bows to them.