Living together brings us close enough to each other that we can see how to serve the needs of others. To live in loving community is to live in a caring community. So, Nouwen includes service as the next feature of a fundamental spiritual formation (p. xxviii).
I’m told that the photograph “The Big Blue Marble” is the most-viewed picture of all time. I’m not surprised, because it is the first time we ever knew what the earth looks like from space. It is also a beautiful photograph in its own right.
Everything looks “wonderful.” But the reason it does is that the picture was taken from 250,000 miles away. The photo could not capture the starvation, warfare, hurricanes, and other natural disasters occurring on the planet.
Similarly, in the spiritual life—the farther away you get, the less you can actually see. Distance desensitizes us to what’s actually going on.
The spirit of service can only be born in those who live close enough to others to realize that they need our love and care. That’s why community is the precursor to compassion. We serve what we see.