Remember this little fella? One of my garden helpers. Honeybees provide a great service to gardeners–carrying pollen from plant to plant. Of course, they also gather nectar and pollen for themselves. Both the plant and the bees benefit.
I strongly believe that when we serve or are served by others we mutually benefit. There are three fundamentally different ways to live life. The first way finds us trying to make our own way, look out for “me and mine”, and generally act as if we are islands in a mostly hostile sea; we do not seek to make the way easier for those around us, and we tend to rebuff the attempts of others to smooth our own path. The second is to adopt an attitude of either entitlement or of self-pity; the world owes us everything, and we demand to receive it–or we feel sorry for ourselves because we haven’t been given our due. The third way of living in the world is to see our lives and the lives of others interwoven as in a tapestry, each thread supporting and depending on the others. When we see the world this way, we are eager to reach out to lift and support those around us, understanding that our own lives are richer and happier when the lives of those around us are rich and happy. We are equally willing to accept help when someone else reaches out a hand towards us, and even to ask for help when we find ourselves floundering.
Children love to serve–to move beyond the world of play and make a difference in the real world around them. Even toddlers take great pride in “helping” mother mop the floor or unload the dishwasher. Older children can be involved in service beyond the family sphere. Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a meal to a family from church who are dealing with some serious medical challenges right now. I took Jumping spider with me to help carry the food. He was happy to know he was helping, cheerful even though it was cold and raining outside. There is something about doing something for others that expands our hearts and souls; we should seek out such opportunities for our families–they are not hard to find.