Top Ten Tuesday: Serving Others

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I’ve been challenged lately.  Ever get the feeling that God is knocking on your skull, waiting for His message to sink in?  It started a few months ago when I read ideas on a few different blogs about serving others.  Then this 30-Day Giving Project came up.  (No, I didn’t participate…but I bet it’s never too late.)  Then, I read an article in a little devotional booklet about a lady who has made it part of her daily life since she was a young child to do some act of kindness or service for someone else every day.

It doesn’t stop there, though.  Our church’s Christmas project this year is to serve others.  Each of us has been given five cards to give to others when we complete some act of service for them.  The card simply says, “Today God used me to serve you,” along with a scripture verse and the church website information.  And, of course, our pastor preached on serving others this past Sunday.

Okay, God, so I’m starting to think that maybe you want me to – oh, I don’t know – serve others, maybe?  I’m just guessing here.

Brian and I were discussing this on the way home from our small group meeting last night.  We are polar opposites when it comes to serving others.  I find it much easier to bless someone financially, such as donating to a good cause or purchasing a gift card for someone (not that I do that as often as I should).  Brian, on the other hand, is much more comfortable with physical acts of service, such as mowing a lawn or helping someone with household repairs.

I don’t think one method of serving is better than the other.  I do think it’s fascinating that God put us together.  I feel sure He put us together both to complement each other and to stretch each other out of our personal comfort zones.

So you’re probably wondering about the point of this post.  Well, it’s become clear to me, over the past few weeks and months, that our family is very self-centered.  We have not made serving others a priority for our family because it has not been a priority to Brian and I.  That’s not to say that we never do anything to serve others, but we certainly don’t do so as often as we should and never really consciously as a family.

We would like to begin making service a priority.  Between Brian and I, we have ten of these cards to give out between now and Christmas.  I have some ideas on what we can do, but I would love to hear your ideas as well.  While we, like everyone else this year, have limited financial resources, I know that we have much more  than many people do.  I also know that we have time and skills to offer – and even just simple kindnesses that we can show to others.

I want your suggestions – ways of serving others that have worked for you and your family or even things that you’ve thought about doing, but haven’t acted on for whatever reason (maybe it’s totally out of your comfort zone, like many things are for me).  I’ll pick the “top ten” that I think are doable for my family and I.  I’ll update this weeks top ten list with those ideas…and set to work serving others with my family.

I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

{The following are reader ideas.}

1.  Take a meal to a neighbor.  We actually did this one today (Friday).  It was so cool because I’d been planning it for a few days, but when Brian came home he said he didn’t think they were home.  I got everything ready and he and Megan took the food over.  They weren’t home, so he came home and asked if I wanted him to take the meal to the neighbor across the street.

I wasn’t sure it was enough for them because they have two teenage kids versus the other neighbors whose kids are grown and gone, but Brian said he thought the youngest kid was away at school and the was home on military leave, but is gone again.  So, he and Megan took the meal over.  It turned out that the mom was home alone for the evening and she seemed really appreciative about not having to make a meal tonight.  God knew exactly who needed the meal.  Not to worry…we’ll get the other neighbors soon.

2.  Make a snack for service personnel.  We did this one today, too.  Megan loved taking homemade cookies to the mail lady, who is always so sweet to the kids.  The mail lady seemed to enjoy it, too!  I think this is especially cool for Megan.  It’s obvious the one of her love languages is acts of service (the other one is clearly words of affirmation).

3.  Keep a mom’s kids so that she can have some time to herself.  We’re trying to get this one planned for one day within the next couple of weeks.  I’m really excited about it.

4.  Pay for the meal of the person in line behind you in the drive-thru.  I don’t know why, but this one really appeals to me.  Money is tight this time of year, so I’m not sure if we’ll be able to make this one work, but I really want to try.

5.  Volunteer at the food pantry to organize the food.  I think serving a meal would stress me – I’m weird like that.  You noticed I said that Brian and Megan delivered the meals this week.  However, I totally think we could all handle some behind-the-scenes work.

6.  Adopt an elderly person.  This one makes us all a little uncomfortable, but I’m really feeling a pull to step out of my comfort zone on this one.  I think it would be good for all involved.  Now that I’ve put it in writing, I’ll be more likely to follow through.  Maybe.

7.  Create care bags for the homeless.  This is another one that I’m not sure how soon we’ll implement, but I love the idea of having some Ziplock bags in the car with some basic toiletries, non-perishable snacks, and gift cards for some fast-food places where someone could go in and have a hot cup of coffee or a meal.

8.  Prepare some freezer meals for times when someone needs a quick meal.  I know how nice it is to have people bring meals after a surgery or the birth of a baby, but I’m often unprepared.  I’d like to start stockpiling some easy meals in the freezer.  We could rotate them out for our own meals or simply to bless someone if they weren’t needed in a timely fashion.  I liked the idea of taking meals to an ICU waiting room, too.  I know how much that was appreciated when my grandfather was in the hospital years ago.  It’d also be nice to stockpile some brownie mixes or frozen cookie dough balls for a quick dessert to go with the meal.

9.  Help someone load their groceries 0r pump their gas  for them when it’s raining or cold.  Our church has a place on its website where people can put their stories.  One of the most touching for me was a guy who pumped gas for an older lady earlier this week when the rain was coming down in buckets.

I still remember being at the store with my kids one rainy day with a giant bag of dog food in the cart.  I heard a man on his cell phone say, “Hey, let me call you back.  I need to go help this lady load her car.”  He stopped and loaded the dog food for me and went on his way.  Both of these things cost nothing in money and very little in time, but they are kindnesses that won’t be forgotten.

10.  Encourage someone with a kind word or compliment.  In today’s rush, rush, rush and often grumpy society, sometimes a simple kind word of encouragement goes a long, long way.

Thanks for all the ideas!  I can’t wait to begin making serving others more a part of our daily lives.

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16 Comments

  1. As for our ongoing way to serve as a family, we're stuck off in a bush somewhere. It bothers me as to what we're supposed to do, but I don't know what it is.

    However, at Christmastime we do have a totally exciting way to give. It's a secret mission so you wouldn't be able to give your card though. We take the 12 days before Christmas to give a gift/gifts to a family we have selected. We go at different times and drop the gift off on the front porch and RUN!!! It's based on what St Nicholas did in providing secretly for the poor girls who had no dowry for getting married. We do leave a card with the day of Christmas that it is (the song, ya know?) and tie that into the gift we selected for that day. It does require some planning as you have to decide who to give to, to make sure that they will be home from the 13th-24th (and you would have to be as well – LOL) and to make the commitment to deliver each day. You also need to check out their physical location! We've had some tough yards in the past! You've got to have a way to escape under cover, so they don't know who it is! It's so exciting to hear the kids' stories of delivering it when they get back to the car; they usually take turns with Daddie, but they've also gone on their own. I'm usually the driver of the get-away car. ;o)

    JD

  2. Our local food pantry has two major food drives a year and they need help organizing all the masses of food that comes in. I volunteer to do that in the Spring and the Fall. It is an activity that the whole family could do. A lot of pantries have food drives at the holidays and you could try to help with those.
    Also on Christmas Day one year my family helped deliver food to families that were in need.

  3. I would LOVE to do more service, but it's difficult with my young boys. I'm looking forward to what ideas come in. One thing we have done as a family though is kinda "adopt" a local assisted living place. We have friends who moved in there and we try to visit once a week. We took cookies to the Veterans on Veterans Day and went around and visited with them, we are making cards and are going to sing Christmas Carols to the residents in a few weeks, things like that.
    Two ways of service that I have both done and been blessed by are: 1. taking dinner by to someone who is sick, has sick kids, just had a baby, etc. and 2. babysitting children so the parents can have some time to breathe/pack/shop/rest.

  4. watch someone's kids while they go out shopping.

    carpool with another family on your way to a church activity.

    come alongside another mom who is overwhelmed.

    have coffee (or tea) every week at the same time, and invite a different person.

    make cookies for a single person.

  5. Glad I'm not the only one who feels that God has to knock on my head to get something through to me. Lately He's been really persistent on a few key points. I've been saying that we should add "redundant" to the list of qualities of God, but then I figured it must be just me He has to be so redundant with. 😉

  6. Great post! Here are a few ideas off the top of my head. Most are more long items.

    Visit a nursing home and play games with or read to an elderly person. (Adopt a specific elderly person for weekly or monthly visits.)

    Adopt a single parent family. Watch the kids while the mom (or dad) goes to the grocery store…or go to the store with him/her and pick up the tab. If there are boys in the home, Brian could help them with the guy stuff, building things, teaching them to do guy stuff.

    Notice a yard in the neighborhood that's looking shabby? Do a family clean up day.

    Have a monthly pot luck for those who don't have a family (elderly, divorced, widowed.)

    As you can see, acts of service is my love language!

  7. For the past few years, my daughters & I have baked cookies for the volunteer fire department in our community. Our girls love it & the firefighters love it as well. We actually spend a day baking & take cookies to the fire department & then to the staff at our church. I have them decorate homemade cards for everyone.

    Visiting a nursing home is always a great way to serve. It's not uncommon to find an elderly person that has little to no family.

    As I was reading your post, I was wondering if you've read the book Radical written by David Platt. I've been listening to his messages online & recently our small group went through the book together. As a group we now serve in a local homeless ministry. My personal prayer is that working with this organization will not merely be something I check off my list but will love as Christ loves me.

  8. Kris,

    I can offer you some suggestions based on what our family does to serve. I teach the preschool class twice a month at church and Mason (my 6th grader) helps me. Amber (8th grade) works in the toddler room twice a month at church. Mason and Amber both go to "game night" at a local assisted living center once a month with their youth group. Those are our regular volunteer commitments. We recently put together our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes (one for each child). I know at Christmastime, there are so many opportunities to serve – many libraries and churches put up a giving tree.

    Samantha

  9. I LOVE it when someone cooks a meal for me so take a meal to your neighbor, piano teacher, someone from church or another homeschool mom. It doesn't have to be fancy and be sure to include some paper plates for an easy clean-up.
    PS-Your blog is one of my favorites to read 🙂

  10. I am excited to see what suggestions you find – I've been thinking along these lines as well. I also feel we have been self-centered – focused on OUR needs, OUR wants, OUR time. I've decided to give something whenever asked to – by the guy on the side of the road w/ a sign, by Salvation Army, or whatever. And whenever possible, not just give $, but give a word of encouragement. I plan to stock up on some McDonald or Panera gift cards to have in my car, and enclose them in a handwritten card with a Bible verse, word of encouragement and phone number of our church. That way when I give, I can choose cash or to give a meal instead of cash. God crosses my path with these people for a reason. I don't want to ignore the opportunity as I have in the past.

    A thought, though…I KNOW God calls us to serve sacrificially, and most Americans can go a loooong way doing more before being actually sacrificial, but I want to caution against false guilt. If we are responding to needs God brings our way, we may be serving regularly without realizing it, because it's just a natural thing we do without thinking of it. Case in point: twice in the past ten years I've had people in difficult situations stay in our home. One lasted two years, one lasted a few months. I was telling a friend I thought we weren't doing enough to teach our kids about serving others, and she reminded me of this. It clearly spoke volumes to her of serving and really meeting others' needs, but to me…I never saw it that way. I was just doing what God put in front of me to do and we cared for these people like family, because we felt that way about them. False guilt pounds out "do do do! give give give!" but true service comes as a loving response to a need you see that you can personally meet – even if it's just giving someone a glass of water, the scripture says! It's a lifestyle, not an event. But there is way much more I can do to have a better serving lifestyle, and I'm glad to be on this journey of discovery with you!

  11. I'm a new mom and one of the most helpful things people have done for our family is to bring us meals. It is one service that I cannot wait to pay forward.

  12. Offer to do Christmas shopping for an elderly or shut in, or single mom or military wife or mom of lots of kids who just can't get out!
    Offer to babysit so mom can go shop alone.
    Offer to gift wrap presents for someone.
    Prepare some parts of a holiday dinner for someone – the things that can be done ahead and frozen – rolls, some desserts, casseroles, punch…
    Make a cd of uplifting CHristmas songs for someone who has a hard time during the season (such as lost a loved one at this time of year).
    Would hubby dress as Santa? Arrange a pictures with Santa day and take pictures, email to the families so they can print – instead of spending tons of money at the mall for pictures with a man who looks like a creepy addict of some sort.
    Make some Christmas goodies and take to the neighbors.
    Help a needy neighbor, friend or stranger get firewood cut and stacked.
    Help get someone's Christmas decorations up in their yard.
    When I was in high school our youth group would go to a couple of our elderly widows homes to sing Christmas carols and bring a Christmas tree with decorations and set it all up while we sang to them – we usually had hot chocolate and cookies too.
    See about visiting in a local hospital to people who are stuck there through the holidays. This may be more work since there are certain hospital criteria to meet. After living at Arkansas Children's hospital for 19 days and having some friends who were still there over Thanksgiving and then Christmas – even parents in the lobby could use some holiday cheer. A plate of cookies delivered to the waiting room of the CVICU lifted the spirits of many depressed parents and gave them strength to continue living in the hospital waiting room.

    So many things. A reminder to make this a focus with my kids. I keep telling myself "when they are older…" But they will learn to do it NOW if I will lead them.
    Kori

  13. great post!! You touched on one of the most important things…. serving in a way that works for you!…

    In our family we do different things…. we just moved out of our RV and into a house… and so $$ is tight.. but there are other ways…such as:
    taking a meal to a family
    mowing a lawn/pulling weeds
    cleaning house one afternoon
    washing someones car/detail the inside

    As we get closer to christmas… my family always picks another family in our area.. and we do the 12 days of christmas for them…. leave mall gifts/treats with some sort of little poem every night for 12 nights up till christmas eve when you leave the grand finale present…. we ding dong ditch and hide to watch the family come to the door… its been a tradition and something my kids love to do for service to others… =)

    Good luck finding ways to pass out your cards… I think its a fabulous idea.. and I know you will come up with all sorts of awesome ways to accomplish your goals of serving others. =)

  14. 1. Post one of those cards on your blog. You give to a multitude of people just by blogging.
    2. Make a meal for someone who is struggling.
    3. Give a compliment. You wouldn't believe how many people don't know how great they are.
    4. Pray for someone. Anyone, multiple people.
    5. Sacrifice for someone you know or don't know or a cause you support. (when a craving hits, sacrifice it for another).
    6. Make your kids bed or do one of their chores. Sacrificing specifically for our kids is one of the best teaching tools.
    7. Let the person behind you in line go ahead of you.
    8, Entertain the toddler in the cart in front of you while the harried mom gets her groceries bagged and paid.
    9. Pray for your pastor. He sure could use it.
    10. Be thankful for everything. The good and the bad.

  15. This is such a timely post for me, since it's been on my mind, and I'm writing about it tomorrow.

    I really struggle with this, since I have such grand ideas, but end up getting tossed aside in the throes of every day life.

    One thing that I like to hold to is that acts of service don't have to be big — donate your used clothes to a women's center, or used toys to a hospital; pick up an extra pack of diapers for a daycare … the list goes on and on.

    I love all these suggestions, and will try to put some of these to good use.

  16. Since you're an education-focused family, it might be nice to donate school supplies you're not using to kids whose families can't afford them. A shelter that houses women and children would be a good place to start, or the local school–they usually know which of their kids need help the most.

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