Service SquareI’m not going to lie when I tell you that I have my mother on a pedestal. We have been through a lot together, both good and bad, and she is literally the best friend I’ve ever had. I know not everyone can say that about their mother and I feel overly blessed that I can. 

She has taught me more than any other single person in my life and I know it hasn’t been easy. Contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t always an angel. When people tell me about their difficult children, I feel like giving them my mom’s number. She needs to write the book on raising a strong-willed child.

Apart from channeling her strong-willed child’s determination into mostly positive outlets, she also taught me about service. My mother has never been across seas to do humanitarian work, she’s never opened her own non-profit or raised millions of dollars for a good cause. However, she has lived a life of consistent and selfless service to countless people and along the way, instilled that desire to serve in me. 

Here are 5 lessons she has taught me, without hardly saying a word.

1. It doesn’t matter your circumstances, you can always serve

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My mother has been single most of my life. She sometimes had to work 2 or 3 jobs to keep us fed and clothed and yet she was always serving in one way or another. She taught me from a very young age the importance of helping other people, no matter your own circumstances. 

It’s so easy to get caught up in our own problems and lack of finances. Whenever I feel a desire to serve but the logic in my brain tells me I don’t have enough money or time to spare, I try to think of my mom and her shining example of not having enough and doing it anyway. 

Since exiting her child-rearing years and becoming a little more financially stable, she has become even more generous. I often hear her say how she wishes she could help more, do more. Her personal goals have a lot to do with helping other people. Service is an attitude and she wears it every day. 

2. Anonymous service is the best kind

One Christmas, when we were still in elementary school, my mom told my brother and me about a little boy who probably wasn’t going to get much for Christmas that year. I don’t remember the specifics of the story or his situation but I do remember he lived up the street from us.

I remember the excitement we felt as my brother and I carried a big box full of food and presents and a bike to their front door. It was Christmas Eve and it was dark and cold but we were bursting with emotion as we left the box and the bike, rang the doorbell, and ran through the slippery ice and snow to hide. 

The amazement on the boy’s face was absolutely priceless and I remember we both cried when we saw how excited he was and how excited we were that we could help in such a small way.

All kinds of service are great but anonymous service is the most exciting because you get to keep a special secret. My mom provided many of these kinds of opportunities for us and still to this day, nothing gives me quite a rush like doing an anonymous service.

3. Giving service makes you appreciate receiving it more

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My mom was always on the lookout for a family to help, especially at Christmastime. However, because of some tough times we had experienced as a family, and the fact that my mom was struggling so much to make it raising her kids alone, we were sometimes the benefactors of others’ service. 

I will never forget the Christmas that we had during our short-lived move to Salt Lake City. We came from a small town to the big city in hopes to start over. I was in the second grade that year and by the end, I had been in 5 different classes. We moved a lot during those months.

My mom wasn’t used to all the extra expenses of living in the city and between daycare, high housing costs, and gas money to get from place to place, our finances were stretched to the absolute limit with no leeway at all.

One night, only a few days before Christmas, my mom snuck in my room of our small basement apartment. She woke me up and said, “You have to get up and come see what somebody brought us!” We ran into the kitchen and she showed me a beautiful basket full of gorgeous fruit. Then she pulled out an envelope, opened it, and immediately tears rolled down her face. She said it was money. Christmas money. 

By that time, I was old enough to understand our situation. Christmas would have been very sad for us that year had it not been for some generous people who, hardly knowing us, had been moved upon by God to help. It wasn’t just the fact that Santa could come that year, it was the fact that we were not alone and that God was aware of our circumstances. 

Because I had experience with helping people, I was so much more aware and sincerely grateful for the help we received. The experience has stuck with me my entire life. Other similar experiences have only fueled my fire to help even more.

4. Service isn’t only about Christmastime

Although many of the specific stories I am sharing had to do with Christmastime, that isn’t the only time my mother has served. She is the first one to raise her hand for almost any kind of volunteer opportunity.

If you come to her house in the evening, you will probably catch my mother crocheting. She rarely sits down but when she does, she is crocheting. Sometimes she makes dish rags and puts them in wedding gifts. She has been known to make gorgeous table cloths and baby blessing dresses. But she is famous for her baby blankets.

If you know my mom and have had a baby, you have most likely received one of her gorgeous baby blankets. She gives them to people she hardly knows. 

She gives wedding presents to people she hardly knows. She’s always giving gifts. No matter where she goes, she’s bringing back gifts for everybody. My mother is truly the best gift-giver I’ve ever known.

She pays for people’s groceries at the store and their meals in restaurants. She gives to every fundraiser or good cause that comes her way. She puts her name on almost every sign-up sheet that comes around at church to offer meals or other support to people going through a difficult time.

My mother inspires me, everyday, to look harder for ways to help people and to make them feel loved and important. This is her super power. 

5. Service is the best anecdote for getting through tough times

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We knew the first Christmas we brought my brother home from the hospital was going to be difficult. His girls were still only 9 and 11 years old and Christmas would never be the same for them. 

My mother was still adamant that we were going to help another family for Christmas. We picked some angels off the angel tree and went about buying small gifts, clothes and shoes to fit these kids. 

Christmas morning brought a hilarious surprise when the people who delivered the angel tree presents came to our house to deliver gifts! Apparently someone had put my nieces and nephew on the angel tree. My sister said, “I’m afraid I picked my own son off the tree!” 

Nothing could bring my brother completely back to us, like he was before, but turning our attention outward and looking to help other people made Christmas that year all the sweeter. 

I know there are many women out there like my mom who sacrifice every day to help other people. I don’t know if my mom was aware of the impact she was making in my life when she performed these acts of service. I don’t know if she was even thinking of me with the intention of teaching a lesson. My suspicion is that she did it without thinking of the example she was providing for her kids. She did it because it felt right and she knew how much she appreciated help when she needed it.

These lessons on service also apply to my role as a mother. When I look back and see all the sacrifices she made for us, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Motherhood is one big life of service. I learned from the best because she not only served us, she taught us how to serve others.

The Lord teaches that, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” What a beautiful thing to think about when it comes to a mother’s service. Happy Mother’s Day!

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What did your mother teach you about service? How are you teaching your own children?

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