I really wish I was better. I watch certain people who serve others joyfully–always volunteering to help somebody move, or feed the homeless, or open their home to the unloved.
I’m not one of those. I want to be. I try to be. Perhaps it’s my native introversion, but I’d just rather stay at home with the family.
Yet as I try, I can’t help but think about Jim…
A story of service
It was shortly after Corban (my oldest) was born. He was probably about three months old and Sunday rolls around. You gotta understand how Sunday is for Mormon-folk…
We’ve got three hours of church, if you’re lucky, and if you’re not lucky you also have home-teaching, firesides, and leadership meetings.
At that time, I was one of said leaders–the assistant to the fellow who’s in charge of all the men in the church. (For those familiar with Mormon nomenclature, I was the first counselor in the Elder’s Quorum Presidency).
But one Sunday was fantastic. Or I though it’d be. My boss (the guy responsible for the welfare of the men in the church) was on vacation. You know what that meant?
I was giddy. I’d finally have a Sunday where all that was required of me was to show up to church, sing my hymns, listen to some prayers, and go home.
Church was at noon and I planned the whole morning with the fam. We’d start by going for a long walk around the neighborhood, smelling the spring air and gazing upon the Rocky Mountains. We might take some pictures and play on a playground. We’d come home and I’d spend several dozen minutes whipping up a masterpiece lunch, complete with tortillas, refried beans, freshly grated cheese, and hot-off-the-pan flank steak.
I was salivating.
We packed up the diaper bag, donned our light jackets and smiles, and I reached for the door handle.
My phone buzzes.
I thought about removing it and chucking it out the window. But that flip phone cost me a pretty penny. Instead, I answered it.
Big mistake. (Or was it?)
“Oh hi, Dustin. It’s Jim.”
Oh no. This man was the assistant to the Bishop himself (translation, he was the right-hand man of the Mormon equivalent of a Pastor). Ooooooooh boy.
I steadied my breath, certain I’d explode if I didn’t. “Yes?”
“Listen, with Chris out of town today, we’re a man short for Bishop’s council.”
No no no no no no NO!
“Is that so…” I said, my voice steady.
“So we’re wondering if you might step in.”
My grip tightened on my phone.
No! No I won’t come. This is my day–MY day! I had a walk planned and a lunch planned and a quiet morning with just the fam.
“What time?” I said.
“Ten minutes ago.”
“So what do you think, Dustin? Can you make it?”
My head dropped as did every inch of my withering soul. My morning? Gone forever. All hope? Extinguished.
“I’d love to,” I said, none too happily.
“Fantastic. Thanks, Dustin. I really appreciate it. See you soon!”
I didn’t even say goodbye.
Grumble grumble grumble. Whine whine whine. It was my day.
I was lucky there were no cats crossing the street since I surely would have hit one.
Or, for that matter, no people.
I trudged into the church, kicking aside rocks like they were the hopes that had already skittered off into the dirt.
Grumble, grumble, grumble.
I entered the Bishop’s office and saw Jim. He stopped what he was doing and beamed at me. Resting his hand on my shoulder, he said something that changed everything.
“Dustin. Have I ever told you how much I appreciate you? You won’t believe how many times I’ve called someone like that and hear them grumble about it. It’s what I love about you, Fife–you’re always willing to help out.
My jaw dropped to the earth’s core.
And then the warm fuzzies began. You know the ones, right? Where your chest starts a-warming and your body starts a-floating. That comment changed my mood in an instant.
Suddenly, I was happy to help out.
I’ve thought about that experience a lot in the years since. Every opportunity to help someone move, or to visit a grieving widow, or to watch a single mom’s kids so she can have a four hour vacation. Often times, I don’t want to help out. But then I think of Jim. More importantly, I think of how Jim saw me–not as I was, but as who I could be.
I want to be the Dustin that Jim saw. And because he saw that, I can see it too.
And I wonder…what if I saw others, not as they are, but as they could be, just like Jim did. If I assumed the best in my kids, my friends, my acquaintances…how would that change them? Would they start to believe too?
Something to think about, eh?
What about you? Who has helped you see yourself in a new light? Have you changed someone else by believing in them?
Tell me about it.
Mmm I know what you mean here. I always have to think hard to make myself do nice things for other people – you know, sending cards, remembering something is going on in their life, thinking of something nice they’d like – and one time I made an effort to do something nice and that person was really pleased and for ever since has thought I am a really nice person.
But I feel like I’m me just PRETENDING to be a nice person – instead of actually being that nice person. I feel like a fake nice person. Or a person with the potential to be a real nice person.
I figure that if I keep on, then one day I might actually be a nice person naturally 😀
That’s a good point. I too feel like I’m faking it. Like, a lot. But I think it’s your intentions that matter. If you’re pretending to be nice because you’re trying to swindle them, that’s a whole different story than someone “faking” empathy because they want to be a good friend.
(As an aside, I think sometimes emotions are overrated. I dearly love my kids, but I don’t always feel it. Love is shown more than felt, methinks.)