Category: Charity and Service

5 Lessons On Service I Learned From My Mother

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


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

Best friends

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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Depression: 10 Do’s and Don’ts to Help Someone Drowning In It


Empathy can be difficult when you’re trying to understand something you have no experience with. We can understand lots of things intuitively and still have no real comprehension of what it’s like or how to deal with it in real life.

Depression is no different. While so many of us struggle with it, an added struggle is trying to explain it to people who have never experienced it. They just assume it’s about perspective and it doesn’t seem that serious. “Life is all about ups and downs you know?” “Just try a little harder,” they say. 

I’m going to attempt an analogy that seems appropriate for my experience with depression and hope it might resonate with some of you who have never struggled with it. 

I know all too well that rising feeling of drowning in depression. It’s like floating in a large lake where there isn’t a sidewall to grab ahold of, the boat is far away in the distance, and you’re sinking. Not quickly, but slowly, giving you time to think about why you didn’t just grab ahold of the boat, or why you didn’t bring a life jacket, or why you can’t just kick your legs so that you can at least stay above water a little longer.

The feeling of the water starting to trickle in your ears causes you to snap your mouth shut tightly. You start to feel the water approaching your nose and you instinctively hold your breath. At the same time you’re thinking, “Swim you idiot!” But for some reason your legs and arms won’t work. You know how to swim, you’ve done it in the past, but your limbs are full of lead and you just can’t today. It’s incredibly frustrating to try to convince yourself to do something you just can’t do, even though you know intuitively that you should be able to.

There are people on the banks of the lake who are genuinely worried and they’re shouting to you, “Just swim! Kick your legs!” And you’re sarcastically thinking, “No, really?” You’re so ashamed that you just can’t pull it together and get your dead legs to move. So you frantically look around for anything or anyone that might be able to help you and you realize, everyone else is too far away and they’re on land. You’re alone in the lake. Alone and drowning. You give one last mental push to get your legs to move. Nothing. After glancing around one more time, you just can’t take letting down all these people who want you to swim and you can’t make yourself do it. So you close your eyes and let yourself sink. 

You might totally identify with this. I know some of you are nodding your heads, while others are scratching theirs. It’s so difficult to understand something like depression unless you’ve lived it. People who don’t understand it might think it’s an immature way of getting people’s attention or a lack of positive thinking. Maybe depression comes from a lack of faith in God or in His power to heal. I’ll tell you what it is. It’s a real feeling of being totally incapable. It’s feeling guilty about being incapable. It’s being ashamed that you can’t make yourself do anything or even care that you can’t. It’s a neurological problem.


Recently there was a great tragedy in our community when a loving wife and mother, battling postpartum depression and anxiety, gave up her life, leaving behind an adoring husband and 5 precious children. It literally eats at my soul how devastating this is and how real the feeling is, whether rational or not. We can look at it from the perspective of the people on the banks of the lake and say, “How tragic! How could she just give up? A little perspective could have changed it all. Had she realized how much she had going for her, maybe she wouldn’t have given up.” 

It is easy, and natural, as people from the banks to say this. However, for this precious daughter of God, it wasn’t that easy. 

This woman’s family has started a Facebook page called Nurture the Light that is aimed at raising awareness and helping others to understand how to help victims of depression and other mental illnesses.

One in seven women experience depression in the year after they give birth. This is frightening. For those of us who have experienced it, it might be a little comforting. We aren’t the only ones in the lake.

Some of these women have battled depression, or other mental health issues, for years. It is sometimes worsened after childbirth. Others have never had an episode until after having children. There are some women who also experience it during pregnancy. Depression rears its ugly head in so many different ways and seasons in life. It is different for everybody. What is similar though, are the feelings of helplessness and shame.

As the people on the banks, there are a few things we can do to try and help the drowning people in the lake. There are also some things we should definitely not do. Here are 10 Do’s and Don’ts for helping loved ones with depression.

1. Don’t place judgement

As illustrated in the analogy above, one of the worst things you can do is place more shame or guilt upon someone struggling with depression. If you make snide comments about how they look, act, are raising their kids, how ungrateful they are, or anything else about their life you are only dumping buckets of water on this person’s head. You may think you’re trying to get them to “wake up” but I assure you, you’re making the situation worse.

2. Do learn about depression and be compassionate


A little compassion can go a long way for someone with depression. Compassion will not come if you do not try to understand the illness. There are a million resources out there, from reputable people and organizations that are offering information about depression and how you can help. As soon as you lose the belief that this person can snap out of this fog on their own, you will be in a place to help.

3. Don’t make them feel like a project or burden

As people drowning in depression, the next worse thing you can do is focus so much attention on us that you make us feel like a project you are trying to fix. This just makes us feel like a burden because in our heads, there really isn’t any fixing. We start to feel guilty that you’re worrying so much so we try to shrink away in the hopes that you will focus on something else and move on with your life. 

4. Do offer hope


One of the scariest things about depression is the belief that it will never end. Sometimes, instead of judgement, what a depressed person really needs to hear is that there is hope for them, a genuine reassurance that this will not last forever. 

Encourage them to get professional help. Explain that you wish there was something you could do but you know even if you can’t, there are definitely professionals that are helping to treat depression in millions of other people everyday. There is no reason why those professionals can’t help them.

5. Don’t abandon them

Depressed people are hard to be around. Don’t think we don’t know it. That’s one of the hardest parts of depression. This simultaneous feeling of not wanting to burden anyone but also wanting companionship. When someone close to us says they just can’t handle our negativity it makes us feel like there is literally no one who can handle us. It’s hard to explain how alone that makes us feel. 

6. Do love them


Never let them doubt of your love for them. Offer your encouragement in their choice of treatment, offer a listening ear, offer your hope for the future and your determination to stick by their side no matter what. Ask them what they really need, if they need you to stay or if they really just want to be alone. Offer help with mundane tasks and do it with complete and total selflessness. Any hint of grudge will heap on more guilt and shame for the depressed person. If you truly love them, you will continue to love them and make sure they’re aware of that.

7. Don’t ever take suicide lightly

If you get even a whiff that this person may be suicidal, do not take it lightly. It’s hard to do sometimes when people are constantly crying wolf and we sometimes interpret suicide threats as cries for attention. However, just remember you would never forgive yourself if you didn’t do something when you could have. The old adage, “Better safe than sorry” is the overarching belief we should all have when it comes to suicide.

8. Do take every precaution when it comes to suicide


I found this to be an excellent resource for recognizing a suicidal person or situation and how to deal with it. Get help and offer love, encouragement and hope in the meantime. Let them know that you are taking this seriously and that you are there for them.

9. Don’t give them treatment advice unless you are qualified to do so

Telling someone who is depressed that your great aunt’s brother cured his depression by drinking the blood of a skunk while standing on his head under the light of a full moon is not going to offer hope. While there are natural remedies that some people have found success with, it is more important to encourage someone to get professional help. Depression can be a complex problem that requires a complex solution. Professional treatment programs including medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes have proven over and over to be the most effective treatment for people with severe depression. 

10. Do offer to help to find treatment


Sometimes the idea of setting up an appointment and doing all the little things required to actually make the appointment can be overwhelming for someone with depression. A little help from a loved one could make the difference between getting treatment and continually wallowing in the lake of depression. If you are willing to help search out a doctor, set up an appointment, and even take this person to their appointment, you may have done the most helpful thing anyone could do.

If you know someone who is struggling with depression I hope you realize how much influence you can have on them, either for better or worse. Sometimes it can make us feel helpless when someone we love is struggling with something we don’t understand. Have patience, have faith that the Lord can help you know the best way to help this person, and don’t give up. 

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What are your suggestions for being there for someone with depression?

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