In the times that I am struggling the most with my worth, when I am battling insecurity, and when I feel like I have nothing to offer, can I tell you the thing that breaks all of that: service.
It almost seems ironic that at the moment when I feel like I have nothing to give, it is giving that breaks the worries that grip my heart.
It wasn’t always this way. You see I worry about me; I worry about me a lot. And while it’s an insecurity it keeps me focused on myself. It’s a pride issue but in the reverse of haughtiness. It’s a despair that keeps my mind wrapped up on me. And I would spend my time focused on me, asking friends about what would they do with the problems I had….. Me. Me. ME.
And one day, I had a friend ask me, “What have you done to serve today?” Can I be honest: I wanted to exclaim “What about me? What about what I am going through? Why isn’t someone helping me??”
I didn’t though. Instead I went and I volunteered. I served. Over and over again. Now, after working nonprofit for 10 years and serving where I can in church or in the community and I can tell you that my worries, depression, and fears fade when I SERVE.
I firmly believe the words of Christ in Mark 9:35: And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (ESV).
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.- Isaiah 1:17 NLT
Service is a calling. It is not a suggestion. And it changes not only the lives of those you reach out to, but it changes yours too. It has so impacted me that I want to show my children what it looks like and impress it in their hearts. I want to tell the young women who come behind me to embrace a life of service as well… Because it changes, well, everything.
Can I tell you a story? It’s about two young girls who are now two young ladies. I will probably never see them again. But they are the main reason I continue to serve…
Quite a few years ago, when I was still in college, I worked with some amazing young people from my school in a summer program called Nine-30-One. We worked with youth from North Tulsa, an area that has struggled for decades.
The kids in the program were beautiful! I loved them. We would meet with them for prayer and devos every morning but would also take them out for community service/servanthood-type activities. Of course we would also do fun kid (and frankly grown-up) activities like ice cream and dollar movies. I get tears in my eyes whenever I remember the kids and their vivacious spirits. Two of the young girls, however, I will never forget.
Their names are Natasha and Kelly; outgoing girls with unspoiled hearts. I loved those girls so much! I remember the first time I met them. It was at a Saturday outreach. I was in the gym of the Tulsa Dream Center and a friend introduced me to them. Before the end of the day, Tasha was holding my hand and hugging me. Seeing her sister had no hesitations, Kelly instantly did the same. So much love for me; a stranger. It melted my heart.
I had a fun summer with the girls. Every once in awhile I would keep them after church. We would watch girl movies and grab lunch. They loved to laugh. They loved to use my phone to call the other team leaders and they would beam. Honestly, their faces would glow. The drive back to their home always resulted in serious talks. Home life for Tasha and Kelly wasn’t easy. Their mom and step-dad weren’t working; their step-dad was sick with cancer. I would walk the kids inside their home and shudder. It was always filthy with bugs running everywhere. Very rarely was there food in the fridge. The girls, while more quiet, never seemed angry or ungrateful. This was just their lives. They were used to it. Rather, they would just grab their kitten and play with her while I chit-chatted with their parents.
That fall, the family was kicked out of their home for not paying rent. They had no where to go. With the help of some people, they were able to hole up in a hotel room that wasn’t much better then their home. Four people in a small room all day. They never knew if they’d have enough money to stay another night. The girls weren’t in school, but Tasha always talked about the Little House books she was reading. I tried to stop by at least once a week to take the girls out for a little bit. They would call me every once in a while and I loved to hear their voices.
One day, the calls stopped. I heard the family left on a bus to Texas. Once, I got a voicemail from Tasha saying she loved me and hoped to talk to me soon. I never heard from her or Kelly again. That was so many years ago and I still worry about them. I hope they are okay. I know someone saw them once in Tulsa, but we don’t know if they left again. Tasha would be around 23 now, and I think Kelly is around 20; young women. I can only pray they are well and that God is protecting their lives. It seems not enough. I wish I could do more. How many times did I wish I could find them and keep them and protect them…. But I know I will probably never see them again.
I will always be grateful for the day my friend asked me, “What have you done to serve today?” If it wasn’t for that question, if it wasn’t for me reacting to that, I never would have met Natasha or Kelly. I’m not sure if the girls remember me; but it doesn’t matter. I remember them. They will forever be a little piece of silver in my life.
And so now, it’s your turn, my friend, to have it asked of you:
“What have you done to serve?”