To Serve Where Serve I Might

Essay 6 in a Series by Hector of the Black Height

In my previous essay, I pointed out the obvious parallels between the SCAdian Chivalry and medieval Chivalry, and between the SCAdian Laurelate and the medieval guild structure. This leaves the Pelicanate, which really doesn't fit into the rigid, authentic medieval mold. Even when medieval models are set aside, many people wonder -- with good cause -- what the Pelican can give his or her dependants. I'd like to examine the form and function of the Pelican-protégé relationship in this essay.

First of all, Peers teach dependants how to do what the Peer does. Can you teach a dependant to serve? I don't know if you can teach an adult to WANT to serve the Society and the people in it. If someone should say to me, "I want to learn how to serve," that person has made a conscious decision to serve, and that's the first step any possible protégé must take. A Laurel can show casual observers a really neat art or craft and fire up their imaginations. A Knight can show a by-stander a cool new weapon style and inspire that person to take up fighting. In a consumer-based, modern society where "service" is something people buy, I don't think I can take someone who has no interest in service and show him or her "service" as a new field of endeavour. You have to WANT to wallop pots in the kitchen for the benefit of all. It’s hard to recruit unpaid dish-washers, especially when you remember that the scullery servant sweating in the kitchen paid her site fee to get on site and exercise the privilege of pot-walloping in fancy dress.

As a Pelican, I would not take a protégé who was not already involved in some form of service or other. The attitude has to be there demonstrably; I'm not going to slap a belt on someone and then try to change his or her fundamental approach to life. That would be no fun for either side in that contract.

So what can a Pelican teach a protégé, who’s already providing service to the Society? How about:

how to serve more effectively;

how and where to serve without disrupting the efforts of others;

how and where to find important opportunities to serve which may have been neglected; 

how to help others serve, including how to teach service to others.

I believe truly that if anyone wants to serve the Society, anyone can. Whatever talents and skills a person possesses can find use. The use may be limited and narrow in scope but it's a start, and then you find new ways to serve and develop new skills to meet the demands of the tasks you find and agree to perform. I think a major part of any Pelican's role is to facilitate others' service, and that's especially true of the service of protégés. Sometimes that facilitation means pointing out a new idea to try. Sometimes it means pushing somebody, gently, to a higher level of excellence.

Pelicans have "been there" and have "done that". My protégés can come to me and draw upon my experience and observations so they can avoid past mistakes. Instead they can make new and different mistakes! Variety is important, and making mistakes is an effective way to learn. Part of the Pelican's role is to make sure the protégé draws the correct lessons from the mistakes made, or from any other significant experience he or she has within the Society.

Perhaps the most important role I can play as a Pelican is being a safety net for my protégés. If a belt-daughter of mine finds her feast is in danger of collapse due to lack of staff, she knows that if I'm at the event (and somebody will take care of my toddler son) she'll have one guaranteed pair of hands in the kitchen. As I pointed out in an earlier essay, as a Peer I agree to teach and to answer questions. Sometimes life catches up with me and, due to outside commitments or other circumstances, I have to say no to a questioner. My protégés have the right to expect that I will say yes to them; perhaps not immediately, but at an agreed time. They should be able to count on me to support them when I can. That's my job as their Peer. That is my side of the contract. That's part of the "family" obligation I feel.

Support and counsel is what I try to provide my protégés. That's also what I try to provide my apprentices. I think that's the same thing that Knights do for their squires. The relationships, the mechanisms within the relationships, may not be entirely medieval in nature but they work here and now, in the Society we have created for ourselves and for those yet to find us. They are what provide our Peerages with their true common ground.

On to Part 7 

Copyright 1997, 1998 Arthur McLean. All rights reserved.