I’ve spent a lot of time this past week considering this lyric from Mumford & Sons new album, Babel: ‘Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn (‘Below My Feet’).’ In my mind - and dreadful singing along - I kept wanting to switch the lines to read ‘Keep my hands to serve, my eyes to learn.’ But that misses the point that several sources have been trying to teach me over the past year, a point that I think can be summed up neatly by John Green:
'The real heroes anyway aren't the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention ('The Fault in Our Stars').'
This past year in Cambodia I’ve come to recognize that, for the most part, Peace Corps is made up of two types of people: the people who come to change things and the people who come to be changed. I fall into the latter category.
Perhaps my proclivity for passivity is based in a fear of doing (read: a fear of failure), but I don’t think so. I think we can get so caught up in doing that we fail to consider the meaning and impact of those actions. Beyond that, though, I think the simple action of observation is an underrated act of service. We want so much to provide a tangible service that we forget that listening and watching and learning are just as - if not more than - important.
Over the past few days, I’ve fallen into one (of many) slumps during my Peace Corps service in Cambodia. I’m wracked with the futility of my actions here and doubt that anything I do will carry on after I’m gone or if it will even remain a vague wisp of a memory. But that’s a fixation on my longing to make a mark on this world. Why can’t I be more intent on letting the world make its mark on me?
Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn.