The night before, I had spent an evening in an Italian restaurant. This was a nice little place, with real Italian feeling. The pasta was made on the premises; the garden in the back supplied the kitchen with fresh herbs, basil for the pesto and tomatoes for the salads and sauces. The owner was from the Neapolitan peninsula; he’d left when he was 18 and landed in the midwestern town when he was 28. Over the years he had a restaurant that did well and he bought another one, expanded and brought his brothers to work, other Italian immigrants to serve as well. One of the fellows, Paolo, from Calabria, reminded me of my childhood friend, John Carvaly. Always a smile and a good thought. He had left his life, his family, and here he was smack-dab in the mid-section of this great big country, and he was working, serving food and drinks to people, some who would go home and watch Fox and listen to stories about illegal immigrants setting fires in the Southern Californian desert. Or other ones about local state senators pushing for an immigration policy similar to Arizona's to deter illegal immigrants from entering their state. And on. And on. And. On.
You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir
When I was a young man starting out in this business, I started through service. Waiting. Serving. I tried to tell myself I was paying it forward, so that someday I could sit on a nice restaurant on a Friday night with my pretty girlfriend or wife, and they would serve me. And it did happen. But deep down, inside me, the call to serve never left. This life isn’t about you or me; it’s about the other. It revolves around helping, serving, being at hand. The young sales manager knows that only too well. Recently, her husband fell ill and in a month he was dead. And she was left in the center of the country, with two boys under 10, in an uncertain time, working for a company that was going through convolutions that have shook numerous employees, old and new, out of the company. But she still has to make the delivery to the restaurant that forgot to order the wine for the weekend, and she has to do it before she takes her sons to football practice, on a dirt road, out in the country. Again and again.
You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief
Last month, several of my colleagues and one of our best clients went to the Italian Club for a benefit. The room was set up with glasses for wine and Italian antipasti. The night centered around a loosely woven foundation to serve as a way to honor the memory of a man loved in the community and missed by his grieving wife and family. We were all trying to raise money so that young boys and girls, living in the country with limited financial and educational resources could have access to musical instruments and music teachers. When the widow stood up to talk about her husband, gone barely a year, she talked about how he came from Italy with his brother, also from the Neapolitan peninsula, with a dream to carry on the skills they learned from the father in the New World. And they were successful. Immensely successful. But last May, in the middle of the night, he had a massive heart attack and left this world and all his success and family and everything we know about this world. He served somebody too.
We are called, daily, to set our wants and need aside for the greater good. A CEO asks us to be patient for a few more months. A President asks us to hold on. A child asks us to tie their shoes or wipe their nose. A dying wife asks us for more morphine. A mother asks us for more time. It’s what we are called to do that forges us into the one we become. Daily. It’s more important than money. Or control. If it is a higher calling or not isn’t important. It just is. And whether it is selling Italian wine or getting to day care before the doors are locked, it all must get done.
Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Lyrics by Bob Dylan