Monday, April 21, 2008

Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?

I've been thinking a lot about what "Jer" said in her profile about getting outside of herself.

As Church members we are constantly encouraged to get outside ourselves--mostly through service. And, consequently, as Church members we are subjected to a barrage of service opportunities. Sometimes I feel like I'm a bad Mormon if I don't sign up on that third clipboard making its way around the room. It's for that reason that, for me, service can be a double-edged sword.

But, service has its benefits and Church leaders aren't the only ones to notice that. A study done in 2007 by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that people who volunteered had greater longevity, higher functional ability, lower rates of depression, and less incidence of heart disease. Interestingly, the study also found that people who benefited about 100 hours a year (or two hours a week) were those who benefitted the most. There were no increases in benefits for people who volunteered more than this. (That last part might serve as a cautionary note to those of us who try to over-magnify our callings!)

As an active member of the LDS church, and especially as a member of the Relief Society (the errand of angels is given to women! Does that intimidate anyone else?), service is something that I can't avoid. I have a calling (Enrichment Committee) and I'm a visiting teacher. I'm also on the substitute list for Primary and Nursery (because I secretly like it better where I get to play games and sing songs and eat snacks). Also, since I have three little kids I am usually grateful to babysit other people's kids because then mine have someone to play with.

Most often, though, I don't think of those things as service. They are just part of my life. Service, I tell myself, is something big and it probably should be hard or it doesn't really count. President Thomas S. Monson spoke on this subject last fall during the General Relief Society session. He said, "You are a mighty force for good, one of the most powerful in the entire world. Your influence ranges far beyond yourself and your home and touches others all around the globe. You are, of course, surrounded by opportunities for service. No doubt at times you recognize so many such opportunities that you may feel somewhat overwhelmed. Where do you begin? How can you do it all? How do you choose, from all the needs you observe, where and how to serve? Often small acts of service are all that is required to lift and bless another: a question concerning a person’s family, quick words of encouragement, a sincere compliment, a small note of thanks, a brief telephone call. If we are observant and aware, and if we act on the promptings which come to us, we can accomplish much good."

So, tell me, what good have you done in the world today? What ways do you all work in your two hours a week? I need the ideas for the next time I feel the blues setting in!


Charlotte said...

Perfect reminder, Laura!! I think service is more healing than we can even know. I know I always feel like I get more out of it than the person I'm serving.

That said, I don't do nearly as much of it as I should.

Nurse Heidi said...

Hi Laura! I'm glad to have some more family blogs to read! I like the frankness with which you treat the subject of depression. It's something that I think many members of my family have encountered (myself included), and that is the elephant in the room.

Kelly said...

Hey Laura!
Wait until this fall when your daughter is in school. The service opportunities abound. My favorites are reading with Kindergarteners, filing Tuesday folders (starting with first grade), and Junior Great Books. I have also been known on occasion to shovel my neighbor's sidewalks in winter, but don't tell. The secret ones are the most fun.

Heathie said...

I agree with Kelly about secret service being the most fun! Close second is when people don't ask for your help, but you just pitch in and give it (not so good in every situation, though), like helping neighbors move in.
I used to be a lot better at thinking of ways to serve others; maybe I'm out of practice. But here are some things people have done for me that I appreciated:
After Samantha was born, my visiting teachers cleaned my kitchen for me, despite my protests.
Some people from the 40th ward (so long ago!) raked our leaves while my mom was in the hospital. I just looked out my window one day and there they were raking away!
People at church help me get my kids to the car on the Sundays I'm on my own. Little things like that sometimes help the most.

Coffinberry said...

Somewhere around here I have a scouter's patch that reads "only one hour a week..." with a picture of a person rolling on the floor laughing.

I agree that service is an excellent management device for depression (or in my case, dysthymia), but can't imagine only two hours a week. Physical presence in Primary alone eats that up, let alone prep time.

Even with an infant, I've never been able to manage less than 5 or 6 hours a week or more of service of one kind or another (once many years ago when I had tiny ones at home, I had five church callings all at the same time). But WARNING: it is my own personal demons that push me to this kind behavior... it isn't necessarily healthy or wise and I don't recommend it to or expect it of anyone. It just works for me because it kept and keeps me sane.

Which points up the peril of comparing oneself to others; I am sure I've driven others nuts by setting the apparent behavior bar so high with my frenetic participation, when all I was doing was avoiding going nuts myself. Each of us should has to find out through inspiration, trial-and-error, and counseling with wise mentors what the best use of our time and contribution will be, rather than trying to do what someone else is doing in the amount she may (appear) to be doing it.

PS. Don't forget that temple work is service. Just because it blesses you and helps recenter your soul doesn't diminish the service aspect.

Laura said...

You guys are awesome! I love these ideas. (sorry it took me so long to get back on here!) Today has started out pretty bad and it's starting to wear me down, so maybe service is the place to start today. No matter what it's better than scaling the mountain of laundry that is waiting for me ;)