This article by Katherine Myers shows, through personal stories and experiences, how to give service with a cheerful heart. Also see her previous article, "Service: More Than a Casserole."
"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments." (1 John 5:2)
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we call one another "brother" and "sister" because we believe that God looks on all of us as his children. The teachings of Jesus Christ often focused on how we should care for others. We are also taught that our Heavenly Father is "no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34). In other words, he loves us all and wants us to treat one another with kindness and charity—even if it's not always easy.
I have a non-LDS friend who is a great example of Christian forgiveness and service. One day, just prior to Christmas, I visited her and happened to admire the beautiful quilt she was finishing. It was an impressive compilation of colored pieces, and I marveled at my friend’s talent for piecing materials in such a harmony of colors and patterns. However, even more impressive was the story that came with it.
Knowing that there had been a recent family rift between herself and her brother and sister-in-law, and that my friend had been very hurt by their cruel words, I was surprised when she explained the quilt was for them. How, I asked, could she make something so time-consuming, expensive, and beautiful to give to the same people who had been purposely mean to her?
"It hasn't been easy," she replied, "but I feel that if I'm going to forgive them, then this is the right way to do it. Each piece of fabric I put together, and each stitch I sew, brings me closer to forgiveness."
When I later asked about her family Christmas party, and how her brother and sister-in-law reacted when they saw the quilt, she said they didn’t even know what to say. Her act of kindness had gone a long ways to softening their hardened hearts.
Even though this incident happened years ago, I have never forgotten the lessen it brought. The quilt my friend made was a gift of service, but the greater gift was the one she gave—willingly—of forgiveness.
In 2 Corinthians 9:7 we read: "Every man according as he (thinketh) in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
As this scripture shows, it's not enough for us to give service. It must be accompanied by a cheerful desire to serve others. Many years ago, my visiting teaching companion and I were called at the last minute to help clean the low-income subsidized apartment of a sister moving from our area. While some brethren from the ward finished moving out furniture and boxes, my friend and I spent a long morning vacuuming, mopping, and scrubbing the bathroom in that very unsanitary environment. Inside I felt disgruntled and irritated; I disliked sacrificing the time I felt was needed elsewhere, not to mention working in such a grimy place.
The next day was Fast Sunday, and one of those same brethren stood and bore a touching testimony about the service he saw being given by two sisters in the ward as they cleaned in a difficult circumstance. Inside, I cringed. My service hadn’t been given with a cheerful heart; instead, it had been grudging.
Several months later, another sister I visit taught was in the process of moving. Everything had been packed up and was gone while she stayed behind to clean. She had three young children and was by herself, hesitant to ask for help. I had a feeling that I needed to stop by and see how she was doing, and when I got there her face was flushed with frustration and exhaustion. She was holding back tears. With a smile I pitched in and helped her clean. We finished several hours later, just as it was getting dark. Realizing the heat was turned off, and the empty apartment was getting cold, I invited her and her children to stay at my place for the night. After a simple supper, they camped out with sleeping bags in my front room. We enjoyed breakfast together before she packed up her car and headed out. Despite the distance, we kept in contact for some time, and even to this day I have fond feelings for that sister. What a different experience this was because I had a cheerful attitude instead of a begrudging one!
We often hear that—as Church members—others are watching us and we can help share the gospel through our example. I came to learn the validity of this when a man I work with, who is a nonmember friend, shared a personal story with me. His property backs against that of an LDS woman whose husband had died a few months prior. On a Saturday morning a number of cars drove up, and a large group of men began to gather in her huge back yard. Curious, he watched them, wondering what was going on. "I thought it was an invasion!" he joked.
Then he saw the men begin pulling out yard tools. They started raking, hoeing, and getting rid of many large weeds. "I was impressed that they’d give up their free time to do that," he said. "But what surprised me most was how happy they seemed. They weren't complaining at all about the work. Instead, they were smiling, talking, and even clasping each other on the shoulder. They were so friendly and having a great time. I thought, 'Hey, those Mormons are all right.'"
Each week, during Sunday services, Church members partake of the Sacrament. During that process we promise to take upon us the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ and keep his commandments. With that mantle comes a responsibility to follow his teachings, follow his example, and treat one another with kindness, compassion, and cheerful service. The miracle that comes with this is that we, as children of our Heavenly Father, are then blessed with greater personal growth and a sense of worth. It is a full circle as we give and then are blessed.
"Do good and give to them that need; cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days." (Ecclesasiastes 11:1)