It was 8:30 A.M. when my serene world of comfort was interrupted by the gentle, but annoyingly persistent, hand of my mother poking me.
“Brett, before you go out to play today, could you mow the lawn please? When you’re finished, bring me your dirty clothes. I’ll need to do another load of laundry.”
My pillows no longer felt as soft. My blanket no longer gave its usual feeling of security. My eyes couldn’t seem to get in a comfortable position under my now forced-shut eyelids. I was awake.
“Noooooo,” I half-groaned, half-moaned, through a mouthful of pillow as my arms involuntarily felt the need to stretch.
After the denial came protest. “But, but …” I stuttered, trying to formulate a reason to stay in bed this early on a Saturday.
Many minutes later, gazing painfully through my brilliantly illuminated window, I was sure temperatures were approaching 200 degrees, and in my weakened condition, I wasn’t sure I could lug our lawn mower up every mountainside of my backyard with what I would call an amiable attitude.
“Why do I have to mow the lawn?” I mumbled in frustration. “If she cares so much about it, why doesn’t she mow it,” I dared to verbalize at a mere whisper.
“Breeettt,” came the singsong voice of my mother from the kitchen, reminding me I was to actually get out of bed.
After 20 minutes I was able to pull myself out of my room and into the kitchen, eyes closed and neck straining to hold my head up.
“Mom, please,” I pleaded, putting on my most pitiful face in an attempt to garner some sympathy. Mom’s predictable response was, “Brett, just go mow the lawn.”
I walked to the garage. The world was out to get me.
While freeing the lawn mower, I stubbed my toe. “Grrrrraaaarrr,” I growled like an animal, feeling a tantrum coming on.
Half an hour later, sitting on the garage floor glaring at the lawn mower, I was no closer to completing the lawn. Grumbling, I pushed the old lawn mower into the heat of day.
Finally, I started the mower and began to push it back and forth, creating long lines of cut grass. Guiltily I began to realize I’d spent more time sitting on the ground of the garage floor than I had spent mowing most of the lawn.
I realized that whether or not I mowed the lawn, it still had to be mowed. And my mom really would mow the lawn herself, but she was too busy doing other chores like my laundry. My mom was like that.
I recalled the time when we had caught her weeding the flowerbeds at a gas station while we were on a family vacation. And the time she was outside in a rainstorm with an umbrella and a hose, guiding the flow of water to make sure all the dirt on the porch was washed away. Our house was always immaculate because of her.
A sudden epiphany hit me: I was so focused on the work I had to do, I never considered the work others had to do. My mother had never asked me to work while she was lazing about. I guiltily considered the countless times I had been idly reading a book in a comfortable chair as my mom asked me to lift my feet so she could vacuum under them. I considered the amount of service I had received and the almost laughable amount of service I had rendered. Oh, sure, I had done service projects and eventually all the chores my parents asked of me, but usually unwillingly.
A light went on in my head. To truly give service I would have to do so willingly.
To read more about serving willingly, see “Getting the Point” by Taylor Woodruff (New Era, Oct. 2003) in the Gospel Library at www.lds.org.