Today is the last day of my month of service, which technically didn't last an entire month but hey, who's counting? I haven't posted the last few days' services so I'll catch up on those and then try figure out what I learned from this experience.
Thursday, I took my two little guys to visit a friend. Technically speaking, she is my mom's friend but I've adopted her, too. Her husband passed away about a year ago and all of her children are grown. Most of them live nearby so she doesn't want for family to visit but I know that sometimes she gets lonely. Anyway, I followed the promptings of the Spirit and we found ourselves at her house Thursday morning. I haven't seen her that excited in years. She promptly pulled out some tiny ceramic plates, loaded them with small cookies and banana slices and then poured each of the boys a cocktail of cranberry juice and ginger ale. Then the boys played with some toys while we visited. It was nice to reconnect and I felt we brought some sunshine into her day.
Thursday afternoon, I got sick. Contracted the Martian death flu, as my pal Em would say. Oh, I was sick. I did, however, manage some phone calls and letters between Friday, Saturday and today to people who I felt needed some uplifting or just a simple "I'm thinking of you."
So, what did I learn? Hmmm. I'm not sure. I can tell you some things that didn't happen. I was not visited by angels. Nope, no heavenly hosts. My problems did not miraculously disappear. Peace and joy did not prevail for every minute of every day. I don't think that I changed anyone's life, at least not drastically.
I'm not sure what I expected. I certainly hoped that there would be some positive effects, and there were. For instance, for at least several minutes of every day, I searched my heart for a way to help another. Some of my services took several hours, some just a matter of minutes. But in the time that I was thinking of others, I had ceased to dwell on my problems. It was a wonderful experience to put the needs of others before my own.
I learned that even though the day to day activities of a stay at home mom can mostly be classified as services, there are so many ways to go above and beyond. I needed to be reminded of that. I had gotten comfortable letting my family take care of most of their needs and it was very fulfilling to do a little extra for my husband or children.
I learned that, for the most part, "big" acts of service don't just fall into your lap. Easy services, such as opening a door for someone or giving someone a smile are easy to come by. It seemed that the bigger the difference I wanted to make, the harder I had to look and try for it.
This project brought me out of my shell a little bit. I have struggled with depression for so many years now that I have forgotten how to be normal. Living several miles out of town like I do with my nearest neighbor a quarter of a mile away, I had to get out of my house in order to perform a lot of my services. I have grown so comfortable in my ways. I like to be home. I like not having neighbors right outside my window. I like being able to feed my chickens in my underwear if the mood strikes. (Granted, I could do that no matter where I live, but out here it's a little less scandalous.) Having to make the effort to be dressed, presentable and actually interacting with people has been really, really good for me. A lot of things have changed in my life this month to bring me to the better emotional state where I find myself and I'd like to think that this service project had a lot to do with that.
Although my formal project is drawing to a close, looking for services to perform has become a habit. I know that I will continue to prayerfully consider those around me. I'm going to keep watching for opportunities to make a difference. I always think that service is a bit of a double edged sword, but in a positive way. Like a marshmallow sword with chocolate on one side and caramel on the other (which, consequently I can't eat, stupid analogy). Obviously, someone else will benefit from your actions but the person giving the service benefits, too, sometimes more than the other person.
Okay, I'm throwing down the gauntlet and issuing a challenge. Start your own month of service. Start it today. My friend Nikki noted that February is a good month since it only has 28 days. (Heh, heh, heh, I like your style.) Don't tell yourself that you need a few days to prepare. Go make someone a sandwich and call it today's service. Then you've bought yourself 24 hours to plan. Tell your spouse or a friend. It helps to make you accountable. Maybe ask them to do the project with you. I've had thoughts about doing this again but making it a family project. I don't care if you choose to blog about it, but writing it down has helped me to stay focused.
I'd like to hear about any of you who accept this challenge, whether you tell me publicly or in a private email. I didn't experience any huge, dramatic changes in my life but I did experience change and all of it was positive. How many opportunities will you get with prospects like that?
Go forth, serve, and be blessed.
You are dismissed.