Worth Waking Up For

by Janet Thomas

Associate Editor

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    Well, it’s eight o’clock on Saturday morning. Time to go slap a coat of paint on the ol’ T-rex.

    What’s the hardest part of giving service?

    It’s not the time. It’s not the expense. It’s not finding the energy. Struggling to get out of bed in the morning is the hands-down winner.

    But those who can overcome the pull of the mattress and plunge in find out that service has some expected and a few unexpected rewards.

    More and more LDS teens in stakes and wards are looking to their communities to find ways of giving of their time, energy, and talent. The idea of planting new trees, eradicating graffiti, chopping down overgrown areas to prevent fires, or painting houses (or dinosaurs) sounds pretty good while in the planning stages, but the single hardest part of the whole project is just getting everyone out of bed and at the site working. Everyone knows that once the paintbrush or Weedeater is in hand, then all the stereotypes come true about how good service makes you feel and how much fun it is working together. It’s hard to feel selfish or bad about yourself when you’re working to make something better through service.

    Painting Dinosaurs

    About those dinosaurs that need painting. The Ogden Weber Heights Stake wanted service to the community to be part of their youth conference. The city had been building a parkway along the river. One of the attractions was a dinosaur park with full-size replicas of several species of dinosaurs as they must have looked when they roamed the area. The trouble is, replicas have to stay out in the sun and snow, weather that can destroy paint jobs. So paint colors like brontosaurus brown and pterodactyl tan were soon speckling the clothes, faces, and hands of some willing painters. It’s hard to feel down when you’re hanging around the neck of a dinosaur with a paintbrush.

    Then the whole stake planned a day to plant trees along the parkway. Jeff Walker, 16, from the Skyline Ward, said, “It’s nice to do something to help make our community look better. After the service project, I drove by with one of my friends. He said, ‘Man, that sure has been cleaned up a lot.’ I told him I helped with that.”

    When asked what she would tell other teens in her ward and stake who were wavering about making the decision to participate, Dieuwke Stohel, 17, of the Grandview Ward said, “I would tell them, When you get done, the day cannot go wrong. Once you’re there, you’ll be really glad you went.”

    Heading Downtown

    The Provo Utah Sharon East Stake often goes camping or holds outdoor activities for part of its youth conference. But last year, the youth stayed in town and helped in the revitalization project of one of the pioneer neighborhoods in Provo.

    Mark Stringham, 16, was on the youth planning committee. They were tossing around the idea of doing a service-oriented project. One of their leaders is involved in city government. He said there was a neighborhood that needed some help. Mark said, “The minute he said it, everybody’s mind just went, Boom. That’s what we need to do.”

    The teens worked with an organization already involved in helping the residents improve their land and keep their homes in good repair. To make the project even more enjoyable, the stake invited the teens who live in the neighborhood to come to their youth conference. The young people didn’t know each other because they attended different high schools, so giving service together also became a time to gain new friends.

    Brendan Wright, 17, said, “The theme of our youth conference was by helping others you can raise yourself. When you get here, it just explodes. It’s fun. You get to know people. You take pride in what you’re doing. This is my little section of the house. I’m going to paint it the best I can.”

    The group not only painted houses, they helped cut down the high, dry weeds running along the railroad tracks. One spark from a passing train could start a fire, and the growth was so tall and dry, it could have caused major problems if it spread to nearby homes. Looking a little like they had been rolling in haystacks, because of the bits of dry grass sticking to their clothes and hair, one group had the weedeaters going full blast. Then passing motorists began to stop and tell them it looked good and how much they appreciated them helping out. The word was spreading with the good works.

    The Ripple Effect

    Giving service is like dropping stones in a pond of water. From one small act, the ripples start to spread. One act of service creates ripples of hope and encouragement that spread through neighborhoods, communities, and towns.

    The ripples are not just on the outside. The teens who made themselves get up early and participate found out that being of service did something for them as well. There is satisfaction in working hard, in joining your friends involved in good works, in making something better. Now if it were only a little easier to get out of bed.

    How to Make a Splash

    • Call the mayor’s office or city government. Ask if there is a person who coordinates volunteer efforts, and set up a meeting with them to come up with ideas.

    • Create a planning committee. Include both young people and leaders.

    • Identify everyone that needs to be contacted and what permissions will be required.

    • Select a day and time. Make sure there are no major conflicts with other church or school activities. Make sure everyone receives notification of the event at least two or three weeks in advance.

    • Plan in some fun breaks in the work schedule.

    • Make realistic plans. Make sure you can finish what you start.

    • Enjoy the good feelings that go with being of service.

    When dinosaurs need a new paint job, who are you going to call? Ogden, Utah, teens answer the summons and donate new coats. (Photography by Steve Bunderson and Jed Clark.)

    Up to their elbows in tinder-dry weeds, Provo, Utah, teens soon cut down the fire hazard. Then they move on to help paint a neighborhood beautiful. (Photography by Janet Thomas and Matt Reier.)

    Putting the finishing touches also puts on a smile of satisfaction. It’s amazing how spreading a little paint also spreads good feelings. (Photography by Janet Thomas and Matt Reier.)

    Service seems so simple, but the effects ripple through the community and through the lives of those who participate. When weeds and trash disappear, when old buildings look new again, hope returns to people’s lives. And that’s worth getting up early for any day. (Photography by Janet Thomas, Matt Reier, and Steve Bunderson.)