Re: Servant

There is a distinction between being a servant or a slave. A friend of my son once surprised those gathered for a back yard BBQ by stating, “I ain’t nobody’s bitch.” Someone had just asked him how he liked his new job and he was telling us that already he wasn’t getting along with the boss. He worked at a grocery store. He was tasked to keep the floors swept so that customers wouldn’t slip on entry. When he wasn’t doing that he was assigned to bringing in the carts from the parking lot. Basic service work, minimum wage.

Recently deceased Queen Elizabeth II, expressed in speeches and in her actions that she saw her life as service. Her servant salary was quite different to that of a grocery cart boy. As a society, I think most of us place a high value on service to others, even while we underpay the majority. A housewife is a role we take for granted in most of the world. Putting aside the sexual discrimination elements inherent in the title, the job description of a person who makes a home for others is a lengthy list which can cover a number of well paid professions: Cook, Laundry Worker, Psychologist, Teacher, Early Childhood Educator, Personal Care Worker, Financial Planner, Management Coordinator etc. If these services were contracted out separately the monthly expenses for a family of four would be prohibitive. The important role of Homemaker could be supported with a government cheque. A guaranteed wage might resolve this issue, as well as other cases where service goes unsung.

Ironically perhaps, the nobility of being a servant was sensitively portrayed in an episode of the television series The Crown. Sydney Johnson, a real life character who was valet to the abdicated King Edward VIII, was shown as a graciously giving fellow, even though he was only a notch above a slave to every royal whim. I cringed when I saw the Duke make a request for his silver cigarette case. I felt like yelling at the screen, “Get it yourself!”

Full service gas stations used to have lots of employees dashing about checking oil, pumping fuel and washing windshields. DIY is now the language norm in more than just filling up your tank. But I must admit to feeling let down when I can’t find someone to help me when I’m looking for a product in a store I don’t frequent. I get royally indignant wondering why the customer is no longer always right. I can relate to the symbolic Karen in these moments.

My father served with distinction in North Africa during the second world war. Later, through his work in community he taught me by example the value of volunteering. My mother was a Public Servant in the manner of an elected official in her region. Growing up with them, I witnessed how giving service to others is an essential part of being human. Everyone wants to feel a part of something, giving of yourself honours your life as well as those who receive your offerings. Volunteerism builds humanity and humility.