As I reflect on the last 8 or so years that I’ve been a parent, I feel I have been inadequate in teaching our kids how to live with a servant heart, always focused on the needs of others. Sure, we talk about it, but have I led by example?
Lately, my husband and I have acknowledged this and we desire to change, especially during this holiday season. We are trying to find more ways to put others first; to intentionally set aside our own wants and address the needs of others – individually and as a family. This feels like an uphill battle in a culture that saturates advertising with the latest toy or gadget, convincing us we must have them – we can’t live without them! Even during regular conversation with friends, family or strangers at the store… the first question posed to our kids is “What do you want for Christmas?!”
Amidst the inherent selfishness of this season, there are also many, many ways to give! We’ve found new food and toy drives and my husband and I volunteered to serve food at a homeless shelter. Just this past week we adopted a family and we have the opportunity to not only purchase the gifts, but to deliver them personally.
We sat at the dining room table one night, discussing the food drives, toy drives and adopted family. The kids were excited. We told our 8-year-old that this heightened focus on the needs of others would mean fewer gifts for him under the tree. He immediately responded, “That is OK. Giving is what Christmas is all about!” (So much love for this kid – sometimes I underestimate his compassion!)
So, step 1 – increase our role in service to others during the holidays. Step 2 – and far more critical – continue that focus on service throughout the year, in big and small ways! As I was starting to draft this post, my 4-year-old was watching an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I adored Mister Rogers as a child, and am beyond happy that his lessons continue for my children in this new animated series.
Ironically, the focus of this particular episode was thinking about what others need. (Because of course it was – God’s at work there!). It reminded me that our service need not always be through big grandiose gestures. There are many small ways we can meet the needs of others all day, every day. (Cue this delightful theme song which was stuck in my head all afternoon: “Whatever you do, think about what other people need too.” You are welcome…)
Thank you Mister Rogers for continuing to teach me lessons about life, even as an adult!
Late this week, I listened to the banter on a secular radio station. One man described the happiness he felt after delivering gifts to an adopted family. A second person replied, “That’s the magic of the Christmas season!” As someone who has experienced deep peace and joy through God’s love, I know it is SO much more than magic, and should definitely not be contained to the Christmas season!
Jesus guided us, both in words and by example, how to love all people. I believe that joy we experience when we help others is a sign it is how God intends us to live. We are here to be in community with one another – to love by acting as servant to all; not just during December but all year long, every day of our existence!
“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:12-14