My parents tried to teach me that service to those in my congregation and community is at the heart of a happy life. I have been lucky to have that example and habit in my life from the beginning. And although we are not always the best at it, Jeff and I are trying to do the same for our kids. We want them to have eyes to look outside of themselves, to see, and to bless others.
We Don’t Have To Do This Job Alone
Of course part of this is that they need to have the tools to really help. Sometimes (like when I go into their bathroom and see the massacre of toothpaste, toilet paper, and hand soap) I wonder if my kids will ever have those tools! But I have learned over the years that I often don’t give them enough credit. Another thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have to do this whole “raising a well adjusted, happy child” thing alone. There are so many in our community who are willing and so happy to be involved in our lives. Here’s a recent example:
A Problem and a Solution
When one of my girls was struggling with reading and I felt at a loss, the thought of having her come to read to my friend, Maria came to mind. Maria is from our church. She is a former Teacher’s Aid who has recently become disabled. She spends much of her day alone. When I had visited Maria in the past, it was usually a one-sided conversation. She felt (understandably) resentful about her new predicament and seemed to want me and anyone who would listen, to know it.
I worried that maybe a child would annoy her or present too much of a strain on the little bit of energy she had. But the thought of having her help with reading persisted. So, a little apprehensively, I called and asked if she would be willing to listen while my girl practiced her reading, once a week. She enthusiastically said, “YES”!
Each week my daughter picked a book and a favorite doll to share with Maria (Maria loves dolls and books). Then I sat back and watched with wonder as miracles happened. My daughter focused harder and read better than I’d ever see her read. My friend Maria smiled more than I’ve ever seen her smile before. It was like she was awake again. She became completely engrossed with what my daughter was doing. Her disability completely forgotten.
Maria cheered when my daughter figured out a challenging word and patiently helped her through passages that were particularly hard (I would have lost patience long before). We all came away with happy hearts and feelings of accomplishment. A total win-win!
A New Tradition
Since that first time, all of our children have started going to see Maria weekly. The older two bring more challenging books to share and the younger two (who are in the early stages of reading) bring their early readers. All benefit from the love and attention of Maria. As a cherry on top, I benefit too. I get a break and another set of eyes and another loving heart helping me in my quest to give them a great education.
I sometimes dream of going to a third-world country so that my kids can have an opportunity to serve in a grand way. I forget that there are hundreds of opportunities right here in our little community. Service has a way of changing people. It changed Maria and it continues to change us.
I’d love to hear your stories of service. What have you done in your community? What have you learned?