Last week we had a lot of snow in my very southern South Carolina town. We don’t have plows, salt bags, or snow shovels around here. But we do have a lot of hills. These things combined were the perfect formula for being stranded in our house for 3 days. On Sunday morning I knew I would need to drive to North Carolina to get my kids. The trouble is, the driveway is uphill and in the shade. Which means that it was a pretty thick sheet of ice.
Don’t laugh, but I don’t even own a garden shovel. My allergies keep me from doing my own yard work. So, I went onto Facebook and asked if any of my neighbors had a shovel I could borrow. Preferably a snow shovel, but anything would do. (We have a private FB group of neighbors- it’s a beautiful thing!)
About an hour later I heard shoveling and scraping that sounded very close. I looked out the window and several men were out there shoveling my driveway, smiling, and having a great time. I have to tell you that it blessed my socks off. They saw an opportunity to do something to help someone else and they took it.
These men had a day off of work, extra time with family, and instead of focusing on themselves, they served me. This experience was a beautiful reminder of who I want to be and who I want my kids to be. Am I looking for ways to serve? Is this something that is a regular part of our lives? Are we putting this first or does our agenda always seem to be more important?
Galatians 5:3 commands us to serve one another in love, which means I need to be about the business of making service a part of our everyday life. How about you? Let’s do this thing together!
How to put others first in your everyday
Pray for others.
Serving others doesn’t always have to be something they know about. In fact, praying is one of the most valuable things we can do for someone else. Build some time into each day to make sure you are praying for others. If your family keeps a prayer journal, make a list of people who need prayer and refer to it.
We usually pray for others during our morning devotions. Each family member picks someone they want to pray for that day. We name these people before we pray so everyone has the time to think of who they wish to pray for. Although we definitely pray for people who are sick or have deep needs, it doesn’t have to be that. You can pray for anyone who comes to mind!
When my kids were little, we had a basket of sticks. On each stick we placed the name of someone we knew. If they had trouble thinking of someone to pray for, we would pick from the jar. You could take this a step further and put pictures on each stick so the little ones can get an idea in their head of who they are praying for.
Another method that has worked really well is to save Christmas cards and missionary prayer letters in a basket. Each day, pick a new family to pray for!
Write to people.
I know it’s a lost art, but it’s one of the most meaningful things we can do. Plus it bears the benefit of teaching great writing skills. I’ve been writing notes once a week for years to anyone God lays on my heart. A few months ago it occurred to me that this should and could be a part of our regular school day. We can write to friends, relatives, church members, neighbors, and missionaries.
The key is to keep this simple. I buy small notecards from the $1 bins at my favorite stores and keep them in a basket. We don’t aim to write 5 paragraph essays to people. Just a short sweet note telling them we are praying for them or sharing encouraging Scripture with them.
Once a week in their school assignments, my kids are asked to write to someone. I let them pick who, but we keep a running list of suggestions. We also use the church directory (and that basket of Christmas cards/missionary prayer letters) to jog our memory of people to reach out to. For little ones, I let them draw something and maybe mom or older sibling writes a sentence or two. It’s great to have them narrate what they want you to write, but you can choose something, too!
Leave the house with a purpose.
One of my pastors always says that he goes to the grocery store to pour into the life of someone he meets there. While he happens to be there, he gets groceries. I love this perspective. We go out of our house all the time. What if we purposed to look for people to love every single time we leave the house?
If I’m taking the kids to the dentist, I might purpose to look for a young mom who needs encouragement or even a child who needs a smile. When we go to the grocery store, we are always on alert to pick up something that was dropped or help a person using one of the electric carts. It doesn’t have to be a big thing to bless someone and it doesn’t have to cost money either. Something as simple as truly engaging in conversation with the cashier can be a blessing!
One thing we love to do when we go to restaurants is ask our server how we can pray for them. We say something like, “We are about to pray for our meal, is there anything we can pray for you about?” I learned this from our pastor, too. It’s a great way to strike up a personal conversation and let people know you care. No one has ever gotten mad when we’ve asked to pray for them!
Have options at your fingertips.
For the last few years, we’ve been RACKing people at Christmas (that’s Random Acts of Christmas Kindness). It’s become one of the most blessed parts of the season. Around November we print cards, gather supplies, and then do something each day to RACK someone. Recently it occurred to me that if I wanted to see this kind of activity all year long, I needed to be as ready as we are at Christmas. This is what makes it an easy and natural part of our day.
So why not make up a list of ideas or gather supplies and keep them in a special RAK basket? This way you can bless someone else regularly! Remember, it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day.
One final thought: If you want to live a life of service, it’s going to have to be less about you and more about others. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. If we really want to pour loving kindness into someone else, we are going to have to set aside our own agenda long enough to do it. Interruptions are part of God’s plan for our day. We need to plan to accept them!
What I mean is… don’t overcrowd your schedule. In fact, plan to leave a lot of room. If each day is packed with activity, you’ll never have time for what matters most to you. These things happen in the moment, like teaching your child a valuable lesson after an event. If you are always short on time, you’ll miss the opportunities.
You’ll also be moving too fast to notice the elderly lady who needs help unloading her groceries. Or the gentleman who dropped his keys in the parking lot. Teach your kids not to let the busy world rule their lives. Instead, make serving others part of what you do in every moment.
How do you serve others each day? What ways are your family’s favorites or what would you like to start doing this week?