Sometimes it is good for us to look back and remember the times we have been served by others.  I got that opportunity during Sunday School today as the instructor asked the class to share experiences of when our lives had been touched by others.  Many great stories were shared.

I immediately thought back to the time when my first marriage ended.  I was terrified, sad, and lonely.  I suddenly found myself a single mom to four kids who needed me to be strong.  My extended family, of course, was a huge support to me and provided much help.  But, the people who came to my mind during Sunday School today, are the neighbors who stepped up and served me during that difficult time–those who were not related to me, but chose to serve me anyway. 

There was the neighbor who stopped by with a fresh can of paint and said, “I noticed your front door trim needs to be painted.”  After he’d finished painting, he proceeded to fix my broken door bell as well.

Neighbors shoveled my walks when it snowed and cleared away broken tree branches after a particularly bad storm.  Twice during the Christmas season piles of anonymous gifts were left at our doorstep.  I received anonymous cashier’s checks in the mail with cheery notes telling me I was admired.  Once, a total stranger knocked on my door, handed me some cash, and said she’d been sent to give it to me.

One neighbor shared tomato and pepper plants with me so I could plant them in my own garden.  Another neighbor dropped by with fresh flowers and a written poem about hope and moving forward.  Some just dropped by to visit and offer encouragement.  When I started to work as a substitute teacher many wonderful neighbors offered their babysitting services so I wouldn’t have to pay for daycare for my son.  My girls were given free piano lessons for life by another neighbor.

When my disposal stopped working I called a neighbor to see if he knew how to fix it.  After he’d looked at it for a few minutes he said he’d be right back and left.  I thought he was going to get his tools.  Instead, he showed up with a brand new disposal and installed it for me.  He refused payment of any kind.  In fact, all of the people serving me did so without expecting compensation.  They served from the goodness of their hearts. 

We didn’t live in an area where people had a lot of worldly goods.  People in our area couldn’t boast of fancy houses, boats, or exotic trips.  Many of us struggled to make ends meet, yet when someone was in need there was no hesitation to help.  Those who served me in my need set a great example for me.  I want to be the type of person who doesn’t hesitate to serve, the type of person who sees a need and just takes care of it.  And I want my children to develop the same caring and compassionate traits as my former neighbors.

When a neighbor in our current neighborhood developed terminal cancer, the entire neighborhood rallied around the family.  Much help was given.  One family in the neighborhood came up with the idea of each family foregoing “neighbor gifts” at Christmas and donating what would have been spent on the gifts to the family in need.  We met at an “open house” to pool our offerings, eat some goodies, and then go caroling to the home of the sick man and present our donations as a neighborhood group.  I encouraged my kids to give some of their hard earned money to the cause and was gratified to see that all four did donate.  And they didn’t hold back, they gave more than I had thought they would.  I was glad for the opportunity we all had to serve someone else.      

I am grateful for the nudge to look back today at the times I have been served.  Being served by others has become some of the building blocks for my desire to give back.  It has increased my gratitude and faith in the general goodness of others and has renewed my desire to teach my children to serve, thus providing them building blocks to becoming compassionate and empathetic individuals.