Some of my best thinking is done in the shower. Well, maybe not my best, but it’s certainly the only time a get a few moments to myself. Even then, I often have a little friend (since I’m still a mother of a preschooler!), anxiously standing on the other side of the shower door, begging attention.
Being that the kid is a Future Hoarder of America, I have my strategies to steal extra moments of isolated shower time. I float a, “Hey where’s your suitcase full of balls?”
His tear-filled eyes perk and his thoughts begin searching the memory bank.
“Go find them…. See if you can find them…”
The distraction works.
He bounds to find the stash like a lab instinctively chasing a ball.
After he leaves, my thoughts start flying as I melt into the warm water washing over my head, transporting me from my mom role, to an interested observer, contemplating our journey. As I consider our month of December, I’m incredibly grateful for our hair-brained empowerment experiment that is barreling in on it’s twelfth month. Hard to believe that we started the MOAT experiment at the end of January 2010. What began with making beds has moved from cleaning bathrooms, to plunging toilets, to gainful employment to… well, to the most significant and meaningful of all our tasks – Service.
Since December 1, we have made a concerted effort to serve in some capacity every day until Dec 25. Our acts of service didn’t have to be grand, but they had to be premeditated and completely other-centered. I wanted the kids to get outside of themselves and actually put others first (something they – until around age 11, seem to do very well). I can’t say this was Teen Take-Outs shining activity, but even as he engaged (okay succumbed) to my others-centered orders the beautiful result of serving rooted right into his own self-consumed-teen heart.
I’m not sure we’ve even processed the ramifications, but here are a few:
- When eyes are focused outward, inward boost occurs
- Forget Monster, Red Bull or whatever energy drink is in vogue. If you’re looking for a lasting buzz, let serving do its big energy shot in the arm.
- Serving is a powerful anti-depressant
- Serving opens one’s capacity to excel
- Serving is completely counter-intuitive. It’s opposite of what society heralds (success, winning, striving, …), but results in what the world’s strategy strives for…. without all the games and in a lasting way.
- so much more!
I’ve watched the kids moan and groan as we’ve bumbled through our serving efforts. (That, too, is a major indicator of the act’s power. You don’t really even need to know what you’re doing… or do it “right”… small, lame attempts to serve bring on its powerful effects.) I’ve then watched transformation as they are washed with the warmth of doing something good for someone else … with no ulterior motive, purely for the act itself.
I could recount example after example, but here’s one practical way the idea of putting other’s first actually played out in a very real way.
At the beginning of December, Speed Police was asked to come play/practice with a very competitive club volleyball team. Now, I’m not sure you’ve gotten the picture, but my Frugal Fred (that would be our Big Boss, Dad, and really great husband, Jon) has less than no interest in our kids playing club sports – or anything that would require excess car time (traveling to and from practices) or excess cash. No money is to be spent on activities that they could be doing for free in our front yard.
When the coach approached us, I was excited for the girl… that she would be picked to do something that she would LOVE and that she never sought. Then I was a bit sad that the answer would inevitably be “no”. Come to find out, though, the coach is a frugal as my guy. He had figured out a way within the system to make it incredibly economic. I couldn’t believe it… our dad said yes (with the caveat that she wouldn’t be able to play all the tournaments – they cost are tend to be far away.)
Speed Police was super excited… until she got to the first practice. All the other girls know each other, having been playing together for years, and attend school together … don’t forget she’s a tween girl – emotions on her sleeve, certain everyone is judging her, convinced no one likes her. It didn’t go so well.
As I drove her to the next practice a day or two later, her stomach started to hurt. The closer we got to the gym, the worse the pain.
“What’s going on?” I ask the wincing body beside me.
“I don’t feel so good.”
“Are you nervous?”
“No.” she eye-roll, indignantly responded.
Choosing to ignore the sass, I try to encourage my kid, who at the core of her heart genuinely desire to serve others. From a tiny age, this child has engaged people everywhere she’s gone – finding some way to make them feel good about themselves. I know it’s not a normal trait for everyone, but at the core of each heart, we desire the same thing. She’s just been amazing at playing it out.
“Listen,” I begin, “you know how great it feels when you’re encouraging others… Why don’t you try it with these girls.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well… instead of worrying about the way you look, how you’re hitting the ball… why don’t you try focusing on the others out there. Make sure to tell them when they hit a good shot. Or pump them up when they try and miss.”
“I don’t know them.” she pauses. “They’ll think I’m weird … or … well something…”
“I don’t think they will. … You know how we’ve talked about the fact that people tend to be thinking about themselves, not about you … They will probably appreciate it. … But more than anything, it will help you take your eyes off yourself and you will be able to do what you love – and that’s play the game. I really think it will help you to stop over-analyzing yourself and free you up to enjoy what your love.”
Not sure, she sat there thinking.
“Just try it.” I gently implore. “Throw out some ‘Great shot’s” and see what happens.”
Which she did. The result? She played much better. She wasn’t so hard on herself. The girls, dis-armed by the genuine accolades, were less distant – some even nice to her. The coach was impressed by her attitude. Dread turned into anticipation. All-in-all – a good thing.
It was eye-opening to me. Compelled by our ridiculous “service month” I just threw it out there as a strategy. I really didn’t anticipate the result to be as impactful as it was… or has been.
Putting others first. Whew … who knew?!
Apparently God when He gently imparted this super life secret. “What is the greatest commandment?” he was asked. “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And to love your neighbor as yourself.” … and that’s a lot of love.
Worth considering as we begin a new year. I guess I’ll need to take a nice long shower tomorrow to do just that.
Thanks for walking the road with me.