A few weeks ago, I had a pretty disappointing experience when I was trying to help someone at a gas station. What was even more disappointing was that before I decided I could do something to help this person, I specifically thought,
"How can I be a good example of service to my son if I don't take the opportunities given? I need to be the kind of person that I try to teach him to be."
Then I got duped.
I was so mad and so frustrated at what had happened. As I was sitting there seething about it, I couldn't help but think of many other instances where I also got played when trying to do something good for others.
While letting my anger grow, I started to get really pessimistic at the world. I kept thinking what has this world come to? There are real people suffering. Why do people think it's okay to take advantage of other people's kindness?
And then I started to worry about how I was ever going to raise Elijah to be kind and open-hearted among people who would want to bring him down. How do I teach him about the importance of serving others and the blessings that can come from it?
I realized that even though I may have had some bad luck in the past, it doesn't take away from the fact that I tried. It doesn't diminish the motivation and love in my heart that I have to want to help others. And it definitely doesn't lessen how much service is still designed to help me become a better person, less selfish and more kind.
As I've pondered on these thoughts and experiences, I decided there are a 5 key things I wanted my son to know about service.
:: 1. Remember that it is the thoughts and intent of the heart, not the act itself, that really matters. If your service may seem to go unappreciated, you will still be blessed for your willingness to help out your fellow brothers & sisters. The Lord looketh on the heart.
:: 2. Keep your eyes open to opportunities all around you to help. It can be small things like helping someone at the grocery store or even giving a compliment to help brighten someone's day. It doesn't always have to include large projects or lots of money. Service opportunities are everywhere.
:: 3. Service is more about how much it changes you than how much it changes or helps others. I firmly believe that service is first and foremost meant to help us grow individually and as a secondary blessing it helps others. When we serve others, we feel more at peace, more filled with love, and have more understanding in our life.
:: 4. Along with that, I believe service is a true personal experience. It is not intended to be "flaunted" to others to show how good you are. With social media everywhere at all times (and who knows what kind of social media will be the new trend when Elijah is older), it can be tempting to want to share everything throughout the day so you can get your friends' "approval." But you don't need other people's opinions or comments to validate your actions. You should know you did something good because of how you feel inside, not by how many likes you can get.
:: 5. And last but not least, always follow your instincts. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people take advantage and people can make terrible decisions. If you don't feel comfortable in a situation, get out or get away. Don't feel guilty about feeling uncomfortable either! (Or even feel bad because you saw someone do something similar on the aforementioned social media site but you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself.) I would rather have you safe and alive than stolen or dead.[too many scary movies and scary stories to not throw that one in there.]
Service truly is an incredible and divinely appointed experience we are all called to take part in. I have seen it bless my life in many ways, both as the one serving and as one being served. I know that it is an important lesson to teach my children to help them be more compassionate to the world around them. And I hope that by teaching my children the importance of service, they will be better people because they learned how to selflessly love others.
And even if they have bad luck like me, others taking advantage of their kindness at times, I will still be a proud parent to know they willingly went out of their way to help another person and show them Christlike love.
Edited: In regards to what I said above about social media, I know social media can be a force for good to help motivate and inspire others to help those around them. I think when done in the right way with good intent it can definitely help others to think outside their sphere. I am specifically talking about when it is done in a way to gain glory from others. Service should be about our personal growth and improvement and sometimes that focus can get lost when we are seeking the favor of others.