This article, by Katherine Myers, teaches how we can use our talents to serve others.
"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." (1 Corinthians 13:13)
This scripture outlines an important principle for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe in following the Savior’s example of charity, and this is manifest by our church’s worldwide Humanitarian effort. Along with this, most of us also feel that giving personal service—outside of financial contributions and church callings—is necessary for spiritual growth. The life of Jesus Christ was an exemplary one of constant compassion and charity, the best illustration for anyone striving to be a true Christian. Yet how, we sometimes wonder, can we try to follow Christ and give service in our own small corner of the world?
For me, this was a particular challenge, surrounded as I was by church members with giving dispositions who were skilled at cooking, baking, sewing and childcare. None of those activities came naturally for me, in part because I grew up in a solitary home with a mother who didn’t like to cook. Although I had taught myself some basic cooking skills, when asked to bring food to a family in need, I often felt a stab of anxiety. In spite of my hesitancy to cook for others, I still believed in giving service and had a desire to do so. Fortunately, my view of charitable service was broadened in an unexpected way.
A few years ago, a family in our ward went through the heartbreak of losing an adult son to cancer. Like many ward members, I wanted to do something that would show my love and concern; however, they had already been inundated with more casseroles and desserts than they had room for in their fridge and freezer. Additionally, they’d received many flower arrangements, while others in our ward were already taking care of their yard. What could someone like me, with mediocre cooking skills and few ideas, offer them?
Then I thought of Matthew 5:14-15: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house."
Having always related this scripture with using our talents and skills to reach out to others, I began to examine my own abilities, and a new idea came to me. One of the pastimes I really enjoyed was card-making, and I owned a variety of decorated papers, stamps and embellishments. Thinking about how many thank-you cards the mother of this family might need to eventually send, plus recognizing how expensive purchased cards for any occasion had become, I eagerly got out my supplies and set to work. For an entire afternoon I created a variety of lovely cards, putting in extra effort and details—all the while I focused on that special sister, her family, and what they had been through. Then I put the finished cards and envelopes inside a decorated package and mailed it.
This new form of service gave me a wonderful feeling, and her touched response later that week filled me with a transformed enthusiasm for reaching out to others. Previously, I’d only thought of service as casseroles or cookies, but now I could use an enjoyable talent to bring a little bit of light into a grieving person’s life. I have since repeated this same act in several similar circumstances, and it’s always given me a sense of fulfillment.
I was even able to use my card-making skills to bring some pleasure into the stressed life of a friend going through chemotherapy. Since Betty loved to do paper crafts with me when she was in town for a visit, I created a card kit for her. I cut decorative cardstock, designed the cards for her to assemble, and added a variety of precut words and shapes for her to choose from. Then I included ribbons, brads, a specialty pen, some small stamp pads, adhesives, and matching envelopes. When my friend received her kit in the mail, she called me to say how thrilled she was with this fun distraction. In fact, she mailed me the first thank-you card she created.
These experiences opened my understanding of using our talents to serve. I started examining the other skills in my life from which I might offer service, including a growing interest in photography and desktop publishing. When a family’s severely disabled foster child passed away, and I visited the mother that night, she asked if I could use my computer skills to make the program for the funeral. This would cut an added expense and also allow the program to be personalized. She showed me what she wanted, gave me some photos to scan, and I set to work. It was a wonderful experience to focus on this child who had brought so much to his family, regardless of his severe disability. And when the programs were distributed at the funeral, the family was touched by this unique remembrance.
As I began to look around, I noticed the many unique ways others frequently used their talents to give service. I noticed the several sisters in our ward who accompanied vocalists; often their hours of practice and support went unnoticed as they made it possible for others to perform, and for our ward to benefit from the beautiful music. I saw a young mother spend days creating a PowerPoint presentation set to music that spotlighted the graduating Laurels in our ward. Another sister, who was a skilled gardener, gave cuttings and bulbs from her beautiful yard to her neighbors. And my friend Betty, who was recovering from cancer, showed me one of her projects. A special needs baby in her ward had a problem that required the little girl to wear bibs so that her clothing wouldn’t get damp. Wanting the child to have a variety of pretty bibs to wear over her dresses, my friend was using her time to sew and decorate bibs with embroidery, crocheted stitching, and lace.
Seeing the service of others has inspired me. And my newfound enthusiasm for using my own talents to help others has given me a broadened perception of service. Instead of feeling insecure about how my cookies turn out, I now see that having charity for others is a great opportunity to learn, to improve my abilities, and to have joy in reaching out to others.