To Give Service

La Voz de Galicia – February 25, 2022

Cristina PatoThese days, I have been thinking about the word service because it is one of those words that have a slightly different meaning in the two languages I navigate daily: Galician and English. In English, service has many meanings, but one of these is related to the idea of helping, of doing good, of serving the community…A meaning that in the Galician dictionary appears with the pat phrase: «to give service,» but not in the actual definition of the word. When we think about service, we don’t always think about that meaning.

And it is curious, because the idea of serving the community, of contributing whatever one has to improve one’s surroundings (whether that be time, money, vital energy, or empathy), is something that is a part of our cultural identity as much of our land as of our emigration: in a way we serve one another and it is thanks to it that we survive.

My sister Teté was talking to me about the work she does for her neighbors over the last few years. Teté, a technical industrial engineer, the one who handles big equipment in great projects, also provides «technical support» (as she calls it) in the homes of older women who live alone in her neighborhood. She shared that they felt comfortable having another woman repairing from their television sets or dishwashers to their electric installations. And the more she described those activities she did «just because,» because she wanted, because she likes being able to contribute, the more I thought that the idea of service is exactly that–feeling that one serves to do more than just exist, feeling that we have the responsibility to contribute without expecting anything in return, feeling that this is the only way we have to turn the world around towards empathy, a culture of generosity…

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