Remember how I talked about finding joy by helping others? Well, not long ago, I had one of “those” days; you know, the ones when you have a million things to do, responsibilities so heavy that you think your shoulders will crack, and nothing but more of the same on the horizon.
It was a dark day.
So I chose to go running. I run every day; this isn’t new, but instead of listening to music or audiobooks, I opted to listen to the women’s session of General Conference (a bi-annual group of meetings for all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and anybody else who wants to be uplifted!).
The first talk—by Bonnie H. Cordon titled “Trust in the Lord and Lean Not“—described a woman, Amy, going through chemo treatments for cancer. She had dark days, too. A lot of them. But what did she do? Well, in her own words:
“My symptoms gradually worsened to where I generally had one or two ‘OK’ days a month [when] I could somewhat function as a living, breathing human being. It was those days when our family would find ways to serve.
“Service saved my life. Where I ultimately found my strength to keep moving forward was the happiness I discovered in trying to relieve the suffering of those around me. I looked forward to our service projects with great joy and anticipation.”
Yeah. She served. She found joy, happiness, and ultimately a way to keep on living by helping others.
So picture this: I’m running around the park and crying. Running is not easy when you cry. This isn’t the first time I ran and cried (the morning after I found out my brother died, I ran and cried as well). After I listened to those amazing words of love and service and happiness, I decided that I couldn’t go home with anger in my heart, and I would serve. Even in little ways. Even if all I (or you) can manage is a kind word and a smile.
However, this whole thing got me thinking about service in general. Sometimes it’s hard to find time for a big service project (or even the resources). Sometimes you’re stuck at home. Or you might be an introvert or shy. So here are some manageable service ideas:
- JustServe.org – If you want to serve your community, this website has a list of all the service projects available in your community. At this very moment, there are 65 opportunities within 5 miles of my address.
- Spare Time service on LDS.org – If you have just a few minutes to serve, go to this site. The LDS church has a ton of projects that you can work on:
- Be My Eyes – Download this app and help blind people do those little, manageable tasks (like read the back of a milk carton) that we take for granted.
- Write a nice note to a family member or colleague.
- Give a compliment to somebody (anybody).
- Smile and say hello to a stranger.
- Hold a door open for someone.
- Post something encouraging or inspiring or uplifting on social media (much better than the drivel usually found there).
- Take a treat to a neighbor – This also gives you an excuse to bake a treat and try it out first.
- Donate items to a thrift store (e.i. Deseret Industries and The Salvation Army).
- “Leave an item near an area it might be useful in – a book in a reading area, lotion in the bathroom at work, an umbrella near a door” – This item is from LDS Living, and I really like the idea of finding a book waiting to be read. Or maybe I just like the idea of finding a book hidden by Emma Watson herself. Either way, it’s a brilliant idea of sharing the joy of reading.
- Donate blood or plasma.
- Babysit the children of a family, friend, or neighbor.
- Reach out to family members and friends for no other reason than that of love – I’m terrible at keeping up communications with those closest to me, so this would be a good one for my personal list.
- Comment positively on someone’s blog or social media post (hint hint) – It’s never a bad idea to spread positivity.
If you’re interested in serving others, here are a few links to get you started:
- LDSLiving.com “52 Ways to Give Bite-Sized Service“
- LDS.org “Volunteer on Church Projects“
- Mormon.org “Light the World“