I love this anecdote from Madeleine L'Engle's book The Irrational Season, in which she writes about discovering the power of being willing to serve others. The story happens in the context of her discomfort with her in-laws while going to their house for a week for a family celebration. The truth, though, is for any time and every place.
"I felt inadequate. . . I was clumsy and inept. . . I could not begin to come up to her requirements. . . I tended to be awkward and defensive.
When we set off for Tulsa I had decided within myself that I was going to do everything possible to make this a happy time for my [husband's family]. So, from the moment we arrived, I really knocked myself out to be pleasant and helpful. We hardly had to think about the children. . . so I was free to cook and do dishes and make beds.
It was an eminently successful week. When we were on the plane on the way home I suddenly realized that I had been given the grace to get out of my own way; all my activities had been unselfconscious; and so, all during that week, I had been given the gift of poverty of spirit without even realizing it.
And there in Tulsa, in a world in which I felt myself to be inadequate and inept, I was given a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven."