There are times when my family can get a little too entitled. Trust me, I’m including myself in that. You’ve seen it before. No gratitude. Acting like we’re owed something we’re clearly not. Ryan will give me a look, and I know we’re thinking the same thing. It’s time to do some service.
We were in that place a few months ago. The kids were driving us crazy. It was the middle of summer. They were tired of each other and bickering and complaining about everything. When a friend posted about an opportunity to serve, I jumped on it. The plan was to pack meals and the kids were willing though they didn’t know what to expect. When we arrived and got our instructions, my seven-year-old daughter wanted to try and work the scale. I thought she was better suited for scooping the rice in the bag, but the person in charge didn’t balk at her choice, so I let it go. She had to put the bags on a scale and make sure they were within a pretty small weight range. Then, she’d scoop some out when it was too heavy or add to it when it was too light. I underestimated her because she was a champ on the scale -working only a little slower than her adult counterpart. We worked hard for a couple hours -laughing, and cheering each other on.
When we left, we got lunch at Fazoli’s which is a special treat because we don’t really live all that close to one. After lunch, my youngest exclaimed, “BEST DAY EVER!” I said, “Because we got to go to Fazoli’s?" And he said, “No! Packing all those meals!” My six-year-old was in on a secret many adults don’t know yet: serving others makes you really, really happy. Proverbs 11:25 says:
“Generous persons will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed."
And it’s true. God made us to be like Him and Jesus served others on earth. So, why wouldn’t we feel content and joyous when we’re doing the thing we’re made to do?
Years ago, when I was teaching, I wanted my students to practice being generous. Our church happened to be doing a collection for a homeless shelter for teens, so I asked them to join in. When I saw the list of things they needed, I bypassed the regular items: canned goods, cereal, toothpaste, etc. Also on the list were underwear, feminine needs, and deodorant. I thought, this is something they’ll remember. Bring undies to school. Obviously, we were asking for new ones, but still. Canned food drives are wonderful but, since they’re so commonplace, it’s easy to donate without really making it personal. Buying underwear causes us to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who is living without. I was really surprised by the outcome. It wasn’t so much the number of items we collected. We did pretty well, but that’s not the story here. I was surprised by which students got really excited about the drive. Some stopped by on their way to other classes to see if anyone had added to our box. They wanted to know more about the homeless shelter. Some used their own money to buy things. They were cheerful givers.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
-2 Corinthians 9:7
This little service project did exactly what I hoped it would. It made my students think outside of themselves. It bonded the group because they were working together. And it made them really happy.
I remember talking to the director of middle school ministry at our church. He said, “We’ve had huge events where we’ve rented bounce houses, or video game trailers, or paintball venues, and there were so many complaints. 'I didn’t get as much time as he did', etc. Then, once we made sandwiches and passed them out in a rough part of town, and the kids only had good things to say.” They had experienced that same truth. It feels so good to serve others.
I know this is a hard time. There are days I don’t even want to engage the world. It all feels like too much. And stress trickles down to families causing and conflict and complaining. Maybe it’s time to spend an hour or two serving others? Find something that will be a good fit your your family and commit to it. It’ll give you a different perspective. It’ll bring you closer. And it may just be the best day ever.