Selfless Service and Simply Living

The late Iain Robinson left this poem as a comment to a post about Servant Leadership. It is one of the best known modern Japanese poems, ‘Ame ni mo makezu’ by Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933). This translation is by Hiroaki Sato
With our modern ears, this poem may not sit well however the background sentiment of selfless service sits well enough with me.

Neither yielding to rain
nor yielding to wind
yielding neither to
snow nor to summer heat
with a stout body
like that
without greed
never getting angry
always smiling quietly
eating one and a half pieces of brown rice
and bean paste and a bit of
vegetables a day
in everything
not taking oneself
into account
looking listening understanding well
and not forgetting
living in the shadow of pine trees in a field
in a small
hut thatched with miscanthus
if in the east there’s a
sick child
going and nursing
them
if in the west there is a tired mother
going and for her
carrying
bundles of rice
if in the south
there’s someone
dying
going
and saying
you don’t have to be
afraid
if in the north
there’s a quarrel
or a lawsuit
saying it’s not worth it
stop it
in a drought
shedding tears
in a cold summer
pacing back and forth lost
called
a good-for-nothing
by everyone
neither praised
nor thought a pain
someone
like that
is what I want
to be

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