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Sunday, December 16, 2012

True Service, Not Just the Appearance of It

I feel vindicated, at long last.

The Church has finally addressed what I've believed, and said, for years in a Church News article entitled, "Service that counts."

The article relates how a service project was conducted but then changed to be more effective the next year. Most were gung ho to do the same thing again. Only the Relief Society President felt that the prior year's Christmas service project was not conducted properly. She gives her reasons here:
. . . "As we were handing out our gifts, I looked at the women and mothers standing around the room. What I saw on their faces was not the excitement I had expected. Instead, it was more like misery. They felt like failures. They were supposed to be in charge of Christmas. It was their cherished role to provide joy for their kids, and they had failed to do that. As a result, their kids had to rely on charitable strangers for presents. So, yes, I would like to do something different."
The Relief Society president then proposed they go to the shelter directors and say, "We'd like to do something that helps the women feel like they are providing Christmas. What can we do? What would make this situation better than last year?"
They came up with a new service project, done in a different way that ultimately served both the individuals and the families better. What it lacked is what usually lacks in true and meaningful service: an immediate psychological benefit for those providing the service.
Although the women's shelter project took more time to plan and carry out — and it lacked the usual emotional high for some contributors — in the end it was a significantly better project.
I have a similar story. When I served in the Stake Singles I proposed we do meaningful service. I called a group home director and asked for guidance on an Easter activity for the kids. She suggested that we compile Easter baskets for each resident in the home. She suggested items for the baskets in addition to candy. She cautioned that we could not deliver the baskets ourselves and she could not tell us anything about the residents.

So, we knew the number of baskets we needed and the gender numbers. That was it. One of our members delivered the baskets to an anonymous location and handed the baskets over to an adult. There was no immediate, psychological gratification for any of us. No emotional high, nothing.

The director assured us it was a significant effort the kids would appreciate. That is all we ever knew.

In the Church's article, it suggests these guidelines in providing meaningful service:
As the Church determines how best to contribute to global humanitarian projects, those representing LDS Charities look to five welfare principles to guide them. They ask themselves several questions, which can easily be adapted to local situations faced every day in wards and stakes.
1. Is the project something the Area Presidency (or stake presidency, bishopric or family) feel is important?
2. Can the beneficiaries be involved in a meaningful way?
3. Is there some way for members of the Church to participate in a helpful way that does not take away ownership from families or beneficiaries?
4. Can we tap into the strengths of local solutions for local projects?
5. Outside intervention eventually goes away, so is there something we can do that will help people to be in a better, stronger position afterward to deal with issues that come up? (Sharon Eubank, LDS Charities director)
Having been a recipient of service over the years (fatherless child, single-parent home, etc.), I would encourage you to follow these guidelines carefully. 

Meaningful service is rarely convenient, easy or gratifying. It is usually hard work, seldom rewarding and horribly inconvenient.

Just Do It!

1 comment:

  1. Solid, secure doctrine of Christ and very insightful. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete