Pleasant Surprises: Service to Others
On Saturday, my husband and I boarded a plane and flew to sunny Southern California. I grew up in California, so coming home is always very special for me. My mom picked us up from the airport and we drove an hour and a half to my parents’ house in the Inland Empire. I was greeted by my family: my dad, three younger sisters, a younger brother, and two dogs.
I love being at home, no matter the occasion. But some occasions are naturally more special than others. My brother, Cameron, is about to leave for Scotland and Ireland on a two-year service mission for our church. It’s a huge commitment for a boy who just barely reached the tender age of 19. He won’t be able to call home except for two times per year, he can email home only once per week, and he’ll be actively serving others 24/7/365 for two whole years.
Yesterday, my family hosted an open house for all of my brother’s friends, relatives, and acquaintances. This was everyone’s last chance to say goodbye before he left. It was an extremely emotional time for everyone. Many of my brother’s friends didn’t understand why he would give up two years of his life to go to a foreign country and talk to people about God. My pleasant surprise for this week came when I heard his answer.
“Giving up the next two years is a sacrifice,” he said. “I’m going to be sad that I won’t be here to have fun with my friends or see what’s going on in everybody’s lives. I’m going to miss my family a lot. But I get the chance to go and help people in a place where I am needed. I will be talking a lot about God, but I will mostly be helping people who need help. I’m going to do service. Even though giving up these two years is a sacrifice, the amount of good that I’m going to be able to do is worth it.”
I’ve heard similar things from friends of mine who have joined the Peace Corps and other humanitarian organizations. I’ve asked them why they would go to such disease-infested, dangerous places, and they’ve told me that the good they were going to do was worth the risks involved. I never quite understood until I heard my little 19-year-old brother say almost the same words.
It occurred to me that service doesn’t only help and bless the people you serve; it helps and blesses you. Service, kindness, and compassion are no longer as highly valued as they once were. So many people (celebrities, I’m looking at you!) make a show of their humanitarian work in order to get attention, or to make people think that they are better people than perhaps they really are. While any kind of service is good service, our society has gotten so used to people who serve only for themselves that every time we see someone performing real service, we ask ourselves what that person is trying to gain. But helping people just because you know that they need help is good for the soul. You may not get any gains from your service that are noticeable to others, but you gain greater appreciation for what you have, a greater love for the people you serve, and (in my opinion) a better understanding of the love that God feels for every human soul.
It also occurred to me that the service that my brother will do in Scotland and Ireland is something that will help me too. Despite the fact that I am Christian, I still believe the idea of Karma. We’re all part of the same human race, and what helps one of us will ultimately help all of us. Plus, while Scotland and Ireland are not quite the bug-infested, diseased areas where some of my friends in the Peace Corps are serving, there is still work to be done and people to be helped there. How true is that of the areas in which we live everyday? How many people in our own communities are in need?
I was pleasantly surprised yesterday by the faith and understanding of my young little brother. He is an example to me and he has inspired me to try to serve wherever I am, whenever I am needed.