Sunday, September 20, 2015

Small Acts of Service Matter

I don't know about you, but when I think about ways that I can serve others, I usually think big. I want to help pull people out of poverty. I want to send foster kids to college. I want to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, etc. When we thinking of service and volunteering, these acts are held in high esteem and with good reason.

But lately, I've found myself more and more thankful for small acts of kindness. I've found myself grateful for the chance to serve within my family. No, I'm not alleviating poverty, or helping someone in another country, or, I don't know, fighting for social justice, I guess. But is it somehow less than?

The service I give within my family, to my children and to my extended family, is important. It's something I need to stop downplaying and feeling like it somehow pales in comparison to sponsoring a child. When I have the chance to bring in a meal to someone who is sick, I need to stop feeling like that's just "JV" service, or not as good as working at the soup kitchen. In both situations, aren't I feeding the hungry?

I have been the beneficiary of food brought to the grieving, I have walked in after mourning a sudden, devastating loss to find my home clean and yard taken care of. And it was a burden lifted. A clean home gave me space and time to grieve. It was no SMALL act of service to me.

My sister's husband was recently diagnosed with cancer. He was about to start at his first job after finishing school, but instead he will be beginning chemotherapy in the next few weeks. And so, for the next several months, I will not be sending money to the migrant crisis in Syria. I will not be giving to international charities at Christmas. I will be sending all the help I can to my sister and her husband. And that is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter, even though it's within my own family.

Their church family is stepping up to the plate. Finding housing for them during chemo treatments, and will be bringing in meals and helping with childcare. I can tell you right now, that each one of those meals or times helping with the baby, is no small act of service. To me, while I am so far away and can't help as much as I'd like to during this time, they are not just God's hands helping my sister and her family, they are my hands too. And my mother's hands. They stand in place of us when we can't be there and I cry just thinking about it. Just knowing that she will be okay.

When my mom was in DC with my sister and her husband during his surgery, she received the smallest act of service, but it made such an impression on her. She was on the shuttle to the hospital and began to cry. She was the only one there, and the bus driver noticed. She asked what was wrong and when she heard, told my mom, "Don't worry. The NIH works miracles. They work miracles there!" A few sentences that made all the difference to my mother on a very hard day.

Never feel like you aren't doing enough because the service you give doesn't fit the normal, "big" ways we think about giving. Serving means showing up and doing what you can with what you have when you are needed. And "small" acts do not feel small to the receiver.