A man’s real life is that accorded to him in the thoughts of other men by reason of respect or natural love. —Joseph Conrad
About Giving …
It is important to offer service in a way that does not embarrass or offend the receiver.
For example, offering to clean a woman’s house can be taken as an implied criticism of her housekeeping. Providing Christmas for a family can be taken as a reflection on a father’s ability to provide. We must be careful never to diminish the self-worth or dignity of those we serve.
When giving Christmas presents to a family in need, we might donate them through the bishop rather than take them directly to the family. The father need not know who donated them, and his children need not know that they came from outside the family. When offering to do housecleaning or yard work, we can make it clear that we are acknowledging an illness or a need, not offering a criticism. If we serve with genuine love and respect, it will usually be apparent to the recipient, and the service will give joy to all.
… And Receiving
In some ways it is a lot easier to serve than to accept service. Pride can make it hard for us to receive heartfelt assistance. But refusing to accept service not only denies our friends a chance for growth but may also hurt their feelings.
When loving service is offered to us in fulfillment of a real need, we can give service to the server by simply accepting the gift and then expressing our sincere gratitude. A simple thank-you is nice. A follow-up card is always welcome.
Sometimes we accept service selfishly without even realizing it. For example, do you realize that your Scoutmaster is rendering you a service at great personal sacrifice of time and effort? Have you stopped to think of the service your Sunday School teacher gives? And who serves you more than your parents? Don’t forget to say thank you. When service is accepted with the same love with which it is given, it brings joy to everyone.
How to Organize a Service Project
—Brainstorm and select an idea to pursue.
—Call ahead to those who will receive the service and make sure that your plan is even a possibility. Clear your plans with the bishopric youth committee and the ward council.
—Check with local authorities if the project involves something that would require a permit.
—Select a date. Be sure it doesn’t conflict with school or ward activities already scheduled.
—Make a plan and break down the preparations into assignments.
—Make assignments and pick a day for everyone to report back with their assignments completed.
—Check with neighbors to make sure they know what is going on and to receive permission if you need to park cars in front of their houses.
—Anticipate having extra tools or other items that might be needed at the last moment.
—Make sure everyone is involved.
—Finish what you start.
—Clean up thoroughly.
Serving Seniors …
Here are some things to keep in mind when planning service that involves senior citizens:
—Sincerity and love will outweigh gimmicks. A simple visit may mean more than a gift or a formal program.
—Remember that each person is unique. Tailor your service to individual needs.
—Diet may be critical. For example, a fruit basket may be more appropriate than a plate of cookies. Ask the Relief Society presidency for suggestions.
—Evening activities can be discouraging to those who have poor night vision or concerns about walking alone in the dark.
—In scheduling, give priority to seasons when days are longer and weather is warm. During winter, visit older members rather than asking them to go somewhere. Falling on a slippery sidewalk may be embarrassing to you, but to someone older it could mean a broken hip.
—Understand that some may have difficulty getting in and out of cars or may feel more comfortable riding with a group. Instead of saying, “I’ve been assigned as your chauffeur,” you might ask, “May we arrange transportation?”
—Make sure someone is seated next to those who may not see or hear well to explain what’s going on. Have speakers use a microphone.
—Include those who are unable to attend formal activities by taking a copy of the program and telling them what happened.
—Some may not be eager to meet new people or make new acquaintances. Be patient.
—Patterns and practices may be the result of years of experience. Try to understand why people do things a certain way.
—One of the greatest services you can give is to become a friend and a listener.
—People are people, whatever their age. They may not mind being called elderly, or old folks, or senior citizens, but try not to offend. They’d probably prefer just to be called friends.
—No matter how much you give, you’ll get more in return.
… And Juniors
Here are some things to keep in mind when planning service involving younger children:
—You don’t have to be showy. Children quickly discern genuine love.
—Keep activities simple. Some things that seem fun to you are too complicated for kids. Some things may frighten or bore them.
—Children may be afraid of people they don’t know. Sometimes having an older brother or sister along will reassure them.
—Parents may be worried to have people they don’t know doing things with their children. Make sure you have permission of parents and others in charge.
—Even with people they do know, parents will be concerned. (What clothing should their children wear? Are adults nearby in case of emergency? Are there first-aid supplies for minor accidents? If transportation is involved, are there proper restraints in cars?) Liability considerations must always be kept in mind.
—Plan for foods that are nutritious as well as appealing. Some parents don’t like children to eat sweets.
—Children are used to following a regular schedule. Be aware of nap times, meal times, etc.
—Make sure toilet facilities are available.
—Children are usually shy around other children only for a few minutes. Once they get started, they get used to each other.
—Keep stamina in mind—yours and theirs! Children generally have a short attention span and a lot of energy. Keep things under control.
—Be a friend and a listener. Distribute plenty of praise, smiles, and hugs. Give everyone a chance to be the center of attention.
—Be aware of any special needs (speech or hearing problems, fear of groups, physical limitations, etc.)
—Remember children look to you for an example. They’ll love you quickly and look to you thereafter. And no matter how much fun they have, your reward will be greater!
Ryan Myers, 15, of Huntington, Indiana, put together a flyer on tornado safety and distributed it door-to-door as part of his project to earn his Eagle Award. His efforts were noted in the local newspaper.
In addition to Scouting, Ryan enjoys sports. He played freshman basketball and ran cross-country in track. He attends early-morning seminary and serves as president of his teachers quorum in the Huntington Ward, Ft. Wayne Indiana Stake.
Reach Out and Help Someone
When you see a handicapped person on the street, what do you do?
Do you look away to avoid embarrassing them?
Do you smile and say hello?
These were some of the questions presented to the youth of the Silver Spring Maryland Stake, and a whole youth conference was devoted to answering them.
The theme of the conference was “Reach Out and Help Someone,” and it focused on sensitivity and awareness of others’ needs. It was divided into two parts.
To start things out, the youth organized a party at the stake center for 31 residents of three nearby nursing homes. The youth planned carnival games, displayed and shared their hobbies, put on a talent show, and had a sing-along complete with kazoos. A roving photographer was on hand with an instant camera, providing immediate mementos for the guests.
Next on the youth conference agenda were handicapped awareness workshops. By imagining they had some of the handicaps themselves, the youth found out what it’s like to move around the stake center in a wheelchair, and how difficult it is to count money, pour milk, and eat, without the use of their eyes.
And there were workshops based on working with people who have less obvious handicaps, such as low self-esteem, depression, or suicidal tendencies.
The final awareness activity of the conference was a bit of a shock to most of the youth. As they were seated for a beautiful, all-you-can-eat brunch, blindfolds and ropes were distributed. The teens were divided into partners to help each other: one was blindfolded, the other had his “good” arm tied to his side. They were then invited to go to the buffet and help themselves.
This experience and the discussion on blindness helped Laura Lemke of the White Oak Ward a few days later when she encountered a blind man who appeared lost at the subway station. Without hesitation, she went up to him and offered assistance. Rather than grab him, she offered her elbow to him, and led him to the fare card machine.
Cary Shelton of the College Park Ward summed up, “This youth conference showed me not only that each of us has handicaps, but that we each have strengths too.”
Whether you’re in priesthood meeting, Young Women, Sunday School, seminary, or other learning situations, here are some ways to be of service in a church classroom:
—Come prepared. Have reading assignments done in advance.
—Volunteer to do outside assignments, to prepare special reports, to make presentations, to prepare visual aids and posters. Ask the teacher what you can do to help.
—Be reverent and help others to be reverent. Set a good example.
—Arrive for class on time. You could even get there early and make sure chairs are set up and offer to get any last-minute materials from the meetinghouse library.
—During the week, review what you learned. Talk about it with your family and friends. Pray about it.
—Express admiration for your teachers, both publicly and privately. Teachers (just like the rest of us) love to be complimented.
—Write thank-you letters to teachers who have made a difference in your life.
—When class is over, offer to help return materials to the library, erase the chalkboard, and tidy the room.
—Your greatest discovery may be how much service you’ll give yourself. By paying attention and contributing to the class, by making learning a pleasant experience, you’ll reward yourself for years to come.
Nifty Ways to Serve Your Brother
1. Write letters to all the missionaries, including older couples, serving from your ward.
2. Offer to go contacting with the full-time missionaries serving in your area.
3. Send a thank-you note to your adult leaders after special activities.
4. As a class, offer to clean up after the next Young Men/Young Women activity.
5. As a class, under the direction of the nursery coordinator, offer to assist in the nursery during Relief Society homemaking night or ward temple night.
6. When 12-year-olds come to Mutual for the first time, sit by them or stay with them for their first activity so they’ll feel welcome.
7. Offer rides to meetings and activities to youth who can’t drive.
8. Have the older youth in Mutual select secret brothers and sisters among the younger youth. Send notes and treats with encouraging thoughts.
9. Play catch with some kid who doesn’t have a dad to play catch with.
10. Go out of your way to be nice to the other LDS youth in school, especially the younger ones who may need a little more attention.
11. Get up a little bit early and make the sack lunches instead of having your mother do it.
12. Write a letter to your grandparents or great-aunts and uncles.
13. Be in charge of getting the family together for a family portrait. Take it yourself if you have a camera with a timer, or have a neighbor or friend push the shutter.
14. Clean out your closet. Pack good clothes you’ve grown out of away for younger brothers or sisters, or donate them to Deseret Industries or a thrift store charity.
15. Offer to be in charge of family home evening.
16. Make goodies to give to your home teachers next time they visit.
17. Go on an “Arctic exploration.” Clean and defrost the freezer.
18. Write someone in your family a secret “thank you” or “I love you” note.
19. Let others watch programs they prefer on television—for a whole week.
20. Give a kite to some youngster and go fly it with him. (Make sure you have parents’ permission.)
21. If a friend tells you he is contemplating suicide but swears you to secrecy, tell his parents! This is one of the few times when you must not keep a secret.
22. Tell your parents you love them and how much you appreciate them and how hard you’re trying to live as they have taught you. This will astound them and make them happier than anything else you could do for them.
23. Play some music your parents like on the radio or stereo.
24. Polish your mother and dad’s shoes to get ready for Sunday.
25. Offer to baby-sit while your parents go to the temple or to a ward activity.
26. Make your brother’s bed as a surprise.
27. Record oral histories of older members of the ward.
28. Read to children in the hospital, but write a story yourself starring the person or people you’re going to read to.
29. Do yard work for nonmember widows.
30. Tutor non-English-speaking immigrants in English.
31. Offer to accompany someone who needs your help to the grocery store, park, or ward activities.
32. Organize an earthquake or flood preparedness seminar for your neighborhood.
33. Provide ward members with addressed, stamped envelopes to missionaries from the ward to encourage them to write.
34. Provide cheerleaders for ward sports teams.
35. Organize a blood drive for the ward. Publicize the drive and provide refreshments for those who participate.
36. Offer your services to help people clean out basements for the Deseret Industries drive.
37. Offer free baby-sitting to families unable to pay for it or who are homebound caring for an ill member of the family.
38. Mow the bishop’s lawn occasionally so he can spend that time with his family.
39. Offer to tutor kids in the ward who are having a hard time in school.
40. Offer to deliver meals to sick families for the Relief Society.
41. Offer to trade yard work in exchange for a widow or widower’s favorite recipe or a collection of his or her favorite reminiscences (so they feel like they are giving, not just getting).
42. Organize a sub-for-the-Easter bunny or sub-for-the-great-pumpkin or sub-for the-Pilgrims. Christmas isn’t the only holiday when families incur expenses.
43. Organize a snow brigade and help push cars when they get stuck in problem intersections or on hills during snowy weather.
44. Organize an expedition to the park or an activity for neighborhood kids so mothers can have a couple of hours off.
45. Organize a “lifesaver committee” to which ward mothers can turn for baby-sitting, housework, etc. in time of real emergency.
46. Tend kids so both husband and wife can sing in the choir or go to choir practice.
47. Take only healthy treats to diabetics or others with dietary restrictions.
48. Record the ward newsletter for any blind people in the ward.
49. Do a joint cleanup project with a youth group from a congregation of some other religion.
50. Volunteer to help welcome newcomers to the ward by accompanying them to classes.
51. Share old New Eras with families that don’t subscribe.
52. Volunteer to write up reports on the youth activities for the ward paper.
53. Ask missionaries from the ward if they would like you to write to any of their investigators and tell your feelings about the gospel.
54. Paint house numbers on the curbs for free.
55. At harvest time, volunteer to help over-worked mothers in the ward with their canning.
56. Organize an adopt-a-zucchini program. Pick up unwanted zucchinis and make zucchini bread which you can return to the zucchini donors and spare them feelings of guilt about wasting zucchinis.
57. Volunteer to take garden products from people who have more than they know what to do with and distribute to other people in the ward who were unable to have a garden.
58. Offer to help set up chairs when any organization in the ward needs help.
59. Offer to help older members of the ward type up their personal histories.
60. Learn to do your family history and genealogy.
61. Compose a special song for someone who needs it. It doesn’t have to be great. It’s the thought that counts.
62. Defend someone you hear being made fun of.
63. Apologize when you know you have offended someone no matter who is right or wrong.
64. When someone apologizes to you, accept the apology graciously and forgive them.
65. If you can see that someone doesn’t have a very high opinion of himself, send him a little anonymous note listing some qualities you admire in him.
66. Keep your room clean. This is a great service to your parents.
67. Get along with your brothers and sisters. This is another great service to your parents.
68. Get along with your parents. This is a great service to both them and yourself.
69. Trust your parents enough to tell them about problems you are having. This is a service to both of you.
70. Like yourself. This is a great service both to yourself and everyone around you.
71. Offer to teach kids how to play marbles or jacks or to jump rope double dutch.
72. Offer your art skills to make posters or banners for the ward activity committee to help publicize upcoming events.
73. Offer to walk dogs of people who are too ill to do it themselves.
74. Pay fast offerings. You’ll be helping people who really need it.
75. Clean up a vacant lot in your neighborhood.
76. When you paint the inside of a widow’s house, have someone take her to the park or to lunch so she doesn’t have to smell the fumes.
77. Work on someone’s yard when they’re out of town so they’ll never know who did it. Be sure to select someone who won’t take it as an insult.
78. Tell ward home teachers you’re available to help any of their families who need it.
79. Get involved in the political campaign of a local candidate.
80. Find out if your city has a volunteer service program and what areas need volunteers.
81. Offer to help your local library with storytelling time in the children’s section.
82. Offer to check up on latch-key kids.
83. Run errands to the library or the grocery store for shut-ins.
84. Record church services or lessons for shut-ins.
85. When a mother has a new baby, offer to baby-sit the other kids so the husband can visit his wife in the hospital.
86. Offer to entertain the other children so a mother can have time with her new baby. Or tend the baby so she can have time with the other children.
87. Prepare a family home evening that would be appropriate for presentation at a rest home.
88. Take old folks to visit their old friends they have missed seeing.
89. Anonymously give a financially distressed family a gift certificate to go out for ice cream as a treat.
90. Till and plant a garden for someone who can’t do it for himself.
91. Make a nice thank-you card for your home teachers.
92. Take photos of older members and provide prints free for them to send to their grandchildren.
93. Help widows put up or take down storm windows.
94. Let those who are handicapped or unable to write letters for themselves dictate them to you.
95. Help a young mother keep her children’s clothes in good repair by patching, darning, or sewing on buttons.
96. Don’t forget that most service you could render to others could also be done for your own family, and they need service too.
97. If a teacher in school or church has made a real difference in your life, tell them. Chances are he thinks he’s not getting through to you.
98. Think up some fun ideas on service and send them to the New Era.