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Gabriela Mistral’s Take On Service to Others

Gabriela Mistral in her later years.

Gabriela Mistral’s real name is Lucila Godoy, a native of Chile, and she won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1945. The great poetess from Chile became a teacher at the age of sixteen and was selected by the Mexican government to organize its rural schools in 1922. She has written many beautiful poems, such as “A Teacher’s Prayer” and “White Clouds”.

In the following poem, The Pleasure of Serving, notice how she simply describes the forms of service and how long her words can remain in our memory. Take time to reflect on how we can also serve through our daily actions. Take a closer look at how the author expresses herself or her style.

All of nature is a yearning for service:
The cloud serves, and the wind, and the furrow.

Where there is a tree to plant, you be the one.
Where there is a mistake to undo, let it be you.

You be the one to remove the rock from the field,
The hate from human hearts,
And the difficulties from the problem.

There is joy in being wise and just,
But above all there is the beautiful,
The immense happiness of serving.

How sad the world would be if all was already done.
If there was no rosebush to plant,
No enterprise to undertake.

Do not limit yourself to easy tasks.
It’s so beautiful to do what others dodge.

But don’t fall prey to the error that only
Great tasks done can be counted as accomplishments.
There are small acts of service that are good ones:
Decoratively setting a table,
Putting some books in order,
Combing a little girl’s hair.
That one over there is the one that criticizes,
This other one is the one that destroys.
You be the one that serves.

Serving is not a labor just for inferior beings.
God, who gives fruit and light, serves.
His name could be rendered thus: He Who Serves.

And he has his eyes on our hands,
And he asks us at the close of day:
“Did you render service today? To whom?
To a tree, to your friend, to your mother?”

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