Have you ever wondered what makes people who enthusiastically serve others good at it? And how do they find the time or energy? We feel like the only thing we’ve been serving lately are the pickups and drop offs, and a frozen pizza dinner.
Working with volunteers and leaders in my community (many of them parents) gives me a hope, because I see a lot of people who really get what it means to serve. They love in ways that are selfless and give in ways that are sacrificial. Even while juggling carpools, errands, activity schedules, pets, change, school, homework, work, relationships, leisure, church…I’ve seen parents and kids navigate all these things while still being a great example of what it means to serve.
But how do they do it? How are they showing up with meals, jumping in when help is needed, and saying yes when nobody is saying yes? How did they become the people who I want my own kids to be around more? What makes Jenn, Andy, Daniel, Emily, Kyle, Savannah, Carol, and dozens of others my serving heroes? Are they really supernaturally gifted to serve?
I think the answer is yes.
I’m thinking they are supernaturally gifted but they wouldn’t say they are. Every human is created in the image of God, so they are automatically supernaturally gifted. But it takes a lifestyle that humbly accepts imperfection while also accepting responsibility to love others consistently. It’s a generous way of life that involves the interaction of a few things:
When three of these things collide in a person or in a family, beautiful things happen. Kids and parents become uniquely aware of their abilities to do “immeasurably more” just by being themselves. And these three things don’t always automatically just happen. They can be taught, encouraged, and learned.
It takes humility for people to show deep care for others—to see outside your own story and into another. Being able to set aside one’s self is a gift. When you act humbly, knowing you aren’t perfect and you’re not entitled, you’re able to give all of who you are.
Give kids little tasks that require extra help. Stay close by and help them communicate their needs by reinforcing the positive practice of serving even when it feels like they can’t do it. Start by letting them help with the gardening or cooking, taking a neighbors newspaper to them, or even serving communion at church.
Give older kids stories to tell that aren’t their own. Give a typically me-centered teenager a chance to be a voice for someone who doesn’t have a voice yet. It can help them think of others over themselves and will nurture empathy.
Grit is when you say yes to a story that’s bigger than yourself and then stay with it. It’s serving without apology and inviting others in. Grit is what I see when parents, despite their hectic lives and schedules, find ways to show up for people together as a family.
So, work on your family grit. Encourage each other not to give up even when you feel like quitting before the job is done.
Start thinking long term. Listen to your kids’ ideas about how they would like to serve and help them come up with ways to do it over a longer period of time. Commit to a goal and help them meet it, even if it takes longer than expected.
Generosity is living with an abundant heart of trust instead of living in fear of scarcity. Generosity is displayed when a person begins to believe that all they have was meant to be shared, and they give joyfully.
Help kids learn generosity by providing opportunities to give. When kids experience the joy of giving, they’ll want to be more generous. It could be as simple helping them share a toy with another child.
Help teenagers learn how to be generous by challenging them to change a habit for the sake of others. For instance, generosity happens when a teenager gives up her cell phone and the bill that goes with it to support an orphanage instead.
Humililty. Grit. Generosity.
Pick a quality and camp out in it this month. Explore what it means to be humble together, to fight for something good together, or to give generously together.