In the east there was a master gardener who loved to walk through his garden every evening looking at the many plants he had taken care of. Of all the plants in the garden, none was greater, or nobler as the mighty Bamboo. Indeed, Bamboo was the very best in the entire garden and the Master of the garden was very pleased with Bamboo.
One evening, as the Master strolled through his garden, he stopped and spoke to the mighty Bamboo.
“Bamboo,” he said. “I will use you.”
Bamboo stood tall and without hesitation replied, “Master, I am yours. I have waited my whole life for this. Use me.” Bamboo had waited many seasons for such a day to come. It was the Master that planted him and nurtured him. It was Master that was so careful in aiding to his strength and growth.
The Master did not smile. He had more to say to Bamboo. “Bamboo, if I am to use you, I must cut you down.”
Bamboo immediately complained. “Master, I am the best plant in the garden. I am the strongest and the tallest. I am your best work. Use me but don’t cut me down.”
Master replied, “If I cannot cut you down, I cannot use you.”
Bamboo, sagged a little, and acknowledged his master. “If you cannot use me as I am, then cut me down.”
Master said to Bamboo again, “Bamboo, I will use you, but I must cut off all of your leaves.”
“But Master, my leaves are the grandest of all. They are my pride. Cut me down if you must, but please let me keep my leaves.”
Master frowned a little and said, ““If I cannot strip you of your leaves, I cannot use you.”
Bamboo bowed even lower than before. He replied, ““If you cannot use me with my leaves on, then cut them off. They are yours.”
Once more, the Master said, “Bamboo, I will use you. But to do so I must rip you apart and tear out your heart.”
Bamboo gave no argument at this point. He bowed as low as he could and simply replied, “Master, if you cannot use me without taking from me my very heart, then my heart is yours to rip out.”
The Master smiled and continued on his walk.
The next morning, the Master came into the garden, cut down the mighty Bamboo, stripped him of his leaves, cut him up and tore out his heart. Then, as only a Master can, he fastened Bamboo together again, end to end, section by section. One end was placed in a flowing stream while the other end was placed in the beginning of an irrigation platform designed to carry the water to many gardens and fields.
Bamboo, in his willingness to bow to his Master’s wishes, harsh as they sounded, carried water and life to the plants all around him. Bamboo went from being the mightiest in the garden to the servant of all.
This is what it means to be of service.