Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Loving Thy Neighbor
Today, I have a need to express a little something. I have been frustrated lately with the way some people seem to think that they don't have to do anything except sit and bask in the completed project, or lesson, or dinner, or program. There is an old saying that says simply:
The world is run by those who show up.
This quote describes for me, what most of us observe in our personal lives. People tend to fall into two groups: Those that are involved in the world around them and activly working to make it better or those who are separated from the world around them.
Do you ever notice when someone gets an award, you often learn that they are also coaching their children’s sports team, serving on the local school board or fire board, heading a committee, or helping their neighbors with babysitting or food? Have you ever noticed that there are a limited number of people you can reliably can turn to when you need something done? Have you noticed that the same people substitute in Primary, or Sunday School, or who show up for the church wood project? Is it a surprise that these same people are usually in both categories?
It is so hard to see people who don't want to participate, who don't want to serve, who don't want to help. I just don't understand it. It is not as if we are not all busy. Many of us are fortunate to have loving families who want a portion of our time and attention. But I know that I want to teach my kids to be helpers throughout their lives. I want them to find and come to know the joy of service. I have found that even serving in the "little things" can bring amazing joy, in ways I never planned for or expected.
So, how can we make sure our children develope within themselves this desire to serve? I think there are a few things that we can do to help.
The first is to remember that: Charity begins at home.
There is nothing more important in your life than taking care of your family and raising healthy, well balanced children if you have them. You should not feel obligated to take on more than you can reasonably be expected to accomplish, especially if those activites take you away from your family. However, you should work at things that you can involve your family to participate with you. We have discovered that family oriented service projects can go a long way toward teaching your children to be willing to serve. Don't forget that service should begin at home. As you get them involved in doing things for each other, they will be more willing to help others. You need to be willing to make your home a place where service is practiced, not just preached. One of the new things we are doing in our family is using a "service block". This is a painted block of wood. When the kids do a service for each other or their parents, they get to pass the service block. That person has two days to do a service for someone else. They love this game. I came home today to find my bed made and the service block placed neatly on the covers. Kids get excited when it becomes a game that everyone plays.
The second thing is: Be a good role model.
Children need good role models. Those people influence them in how their attitude toward service will be for the rest of their lives. They should learn early on that church service, public service and caring for the community are not only good things, but something that should be expected. Balancing these priorities is what will help them make a difference. Who in your neighborhood needs your help and encouragement? Is there a widow who needs yard work done? A young couple who needs a date night? As children see your willingness to serve, they will develop that willingness for themselves.
President Monson said, in his address to the youth of the church:
"As we look heavenward, we inevitably learn of our responsibility to reach outward. To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy. We do not live alone—in our city, our nation, or our world. There is no dividing line between our prosperity and our neighbor’s wretchedness. “Love thy neighbor” is more than a divine truth. It is a pattern for perfection. This truth inspires the familiar charge, “Go forth to serve.” Try as some of us may, we cannot escape the influence our lives have upon the lives of others. Ours is the opportunity to build, to lift, to inspire, and indeed to lead. The New Testament teaches that it is impossible to take a right attitude toward Christ without taking an unselfish attitude toward men:
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40)". Thomas S. Monson, “The Joy of Service,” New Era, Oct 2009, 2–6
In this world that is filled with so much selfishness and despair, let us make sure that we are not contributing to the pain and suffering that is all around us. Let us make sure that we are making the right choices in our lives and following the Savior's teachings. Let us teach our children that loving their neighbor is more than simply a convenient way to show our righteousness. It is the way to perfection.
May we each find a small service to share with those who need us today.