early thoughts on volunteering

afternoon silence.
I begin the familiar rhythm of washing dishes.
dipping the green rag sponge into the blue soap, my thoughts
turn to pondering what my role here is.
what is the volunteer work I am doing right now?
when I help cook the meals?
when I comb a friend’s hair? and when I sit by the fire
every morning and evening
stirring the fresh milk, that beautiful, white treasure?
I am not making anything, now. I am not building,
not creating, not even having an idea.
and then I realize what this is: I am just living here. 
between sunrise and sunset I do two things — I participate
in the tasks required to sustain the lives of the people
on this little piece of land, and I settle into enjoying
the flow of what the day has to offer.
sometimes, questions that have been hammered into me
by my own culture surface in my mind, and I wonder
if I am doing what I am supposed to be doing,
or if I am accomplishing enough.
but then I notice how every day I can run
down those uneven stone steps a little faster,
I notice things that need doing a little sooner,
I am able to slice an armful of potatoes without a cutting board.
My work here is that of a student. My job is to learn all I can
about how to exist harmoniously in this place,
and to practice doing just that, twenty-four hours a day.
as far as accomplishing something, all I can do is hope
that my reverence of this village life is somehow
a positive force, however small.
there is no more need to search for answers
as I observe the unmistakable new growth of peace
wisdom and love within myself.
somewhere in a field, one of my Nepali sisters smears fresh guava
onto my cheeks, while the other, looking on,
tucks a stray piece of hair behind my ear.


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