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Learning From My Parents’ Example of Service

“Serving is a supreme art.” ~ Life is Beautiful

My mom is my best friend. I used to think that that was so lame when I was in high school, but now that I’m older I admit it freely —and enthusiastically! I call her to chat almost every day. Some mornings, when her phone goes to voicemail, I hang up and call my house, thinking she just doesn’t have her phone with her. Even then, more often than not, the house phone is answered by my dad, who works at home. When I ask him where my mom is, the answer is usually “she’s out visiting someone we know from church who needs it.” If that’s the case, I’ll have to wait to talk to her another time.

My parents were never crazy with service projects, per say, while I was growing up; they didn’t ship me off to Africa to build schools or set me to making care packages for soldiers. But for as long as I can remember, both of them were always helping the people around them, whether they were asked to or not, and for as long as I can remember, they always brought me along with them. I watched my mom cook and take dinner to friends of hers that had just had babies. I watched my dad leave to help people shovel the snow off of their driveways. Meanwhile, I grumbled at them both when they made me help clean my sisters’ rooms on occasion. When I was little, around Christmastime we would get the names of one or two families we went to church with who were struggling financially and needed a little extra Christmas cheer. We then made Secret Santa boxes that we would drop off on their doorsteps. Serving others wasn’t something my parents ever had to think about, or something they wanted recognition for—they just did it.

Though I never really received any lectures from either of them on the subject, service became something that I absorbed over the years simply by accompanying them from time to time and watching their examples. I learned that service wasn’t something you planned to do; you just did it for other people when there was a need.

Though I didn’t recognize it at the time, this was probably one of the most valuable lessons I learned as a child. Watching my parents quietly include service in their everyday lives is the driving force behind some of the things I do: cleaning the dishes for all of my roommates, for example, or watching movies with a friend who’s been locked out of her apartment, or leaving food on the doorstep of a friend who needed it. At the time, I never thought of these things specifically as service but rather because I’d watched my parents do things for other people without thinking, they came naturally. Service was simply something that I began to do on occasion when I left home.

The best part of all is that I enjoy it. From my parents’ examples of service and sacrifice for each other, for their friends, and for me and my siblings, I learned that the happiest people are the ones who are engaged in service for others most days of their lives. No matter how woeful your existence may feel, doing good things for other people will always bring you sunshine. Service is something everyone can learn to do—even if they seem too young to start.


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