Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

A Parable of Service

Come, grasshopper, and sit by me. I would tell you of how service should and should not be performed.

Know, O Grasshopper, that I spent yesterday acting as a herald in the Crown Lists. And in this capacity, I was given to observe two ladies, and their differing approaches.

The Chief Herald for the day had assigned list runners to each of the lists -- these are the people who are supposed to act as go-betweens from the Kingdom Mistress of Lists and the heralds. It is a small but important job in running the lists. I had been assigned a girl of perhaps fifteen: youngsters are often given this task, to give them a way to feel helpful during the event.

However, shortly before the bouts were to begin, she and I were accosted by another, older lady, who informed us that the heralds had had no right to assign list runners. Rather, the Lists office had made that decision earlier in the day, and all list runners had to have signed up early. Furthermore, only local Mistresses of Lists were going to be acting as list runners this day. She was quite sure of this, because she had been the one who had drawn up the signup cards -- she insisted on showing us that she had signed up early, and that this was her list. She politely but firmly told the girl to go away. Having no influence on the matter, I had no choice but to apologize to the somewhat crestfallen youngster and deal with this unnamed other lady.

Later in the day, I overheard a friend of mine (a Countess who had previously acted as Mistress of Lists) complaining about being asked to vouch for this lady; apparently, the Kingdom Mistress of Lists wasn't taking her seriously enough, and she wanted someone to attest that she had been acting in this capacity for many years. Later in the tournament, we reduced the number of active lists from eight to four; she succeeded in annoying the Chief Herald by complaining when she was informed that her services wouldn't be needed any more, since we now had twice as many list runners as we needed. Throughout, she was fully competent at her job, but performed it with a deadly seriousness that generally increased the ambient crankiness of those around her.

I know not the name or group of the lady, nor care to. But she succeeded, in her aggressive pursuit of work, in annoying three Laurels and two Pelicans that I observed, in the space of but three hours. Not a small feat.

The other lady began the day as one of a number of waterbearers. However, as the heat rose and the people running the tournament found themselves stuck on the field, she decided that it was more crucial that someone keep everyone fed. So she spent the remainder of the day running back and forth from the dayboard to the field, carrying bowls of food. With a friendly smile and impeccable timing, she would wave bowls of cheese and olives, bread and meat under peoples' noses, never intruding on conversations or work but making herself available whenever the moment seemed right.

By the end of the day, much of the event was prepared to nominate her for sainthood. And indeed, during court in the evening, the Ladies of the Rose singled her out as an example of courteous helpfulness, a rare and notable honor.

It often matters less what you do, than how and why. Attend well this lesson, Grasshopper, and be enlightened.

Edit (May 19, 2004): Just to drive the point home, the "good" example, Lady Sheherezad, was elected Baroness Bhakail not long after this incident. People do pay attention to who the good role models are...

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