This Texas ranch house is shaking with the thunder that seems almost continuous from the massive storms. Water is pouring down in buckets as I sit dry and well-protected on the long wooden porch. Finally I can take a deep breath without inhaling pollen spores, since they’ve been dampened down by the rain. My heart is filled with joy, not only because of this day, but because I try to find joy even on the most difficult days.
This morning my mind took me back to 5311 Indiana Avenue, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. A little brown house my parents bought for $50,000 (today its value is $233,000). It was a model home for a new neighborhood called Woodhurst.
We would color eggs in the little kitchen the night before with my mom and dad. My brothers and I would wake up on Easter morning and have to find our hidden Easter baskets, and then we would become energy bunnies after eating most of the chocolate in one sitting. Then I would put on my little bow tie and my red sport coat, and I’d strap on my hidden James Bond 007 gun holster under my jacket and head to church. The problem, of course, is that it’s hard when you’re young to sit still and listen any time. But after a basket of chocolate, it’s doubly hard.
After church, we would usually go to my grandparents’ little house at 317 West Wildwood, the house my mom lived in when she was in high school. (There should be a plaque, because my grandparents and my mom were saints!) At all holiday meals, there were always “orphans” invited, usually family friends who were alone, widowed, or visiting town. Raymond MacPeek was always there. He served in the Merchant Marines with my dad and was always single. And Dellia, an old lady who was our other grandma; we’d known her since we were born. She used to live across the street from my Grandmother Rhoads, but when her husband and kids were killed, she was left with nothing, so my grandparents gave her a room and supported her for the rest of her life. I wonder if I would be so generous.
I feel like I was raised well by good people. They were not wealthy, but they were rich. They had hearts of servants. Their radar was always searching for people in need, people they could help. They were not selfish people; they always seemed to put themselves last.
What does it mean to serve?
I’m trying to learn this, trying to lose my sense of self and put myself last instead of first. I want to serve my kids, I want to serve my wife, I want to serve my friends, my community, and the people who support me in so many different ways.
My recent realization is that most conflict in my life comes from my selfishness, needing to be right, making things about me or my needs. How would we change if we put others first, before ourselves?
Look for Opportunities
Someone told me something recently that I had never considered… “Be on the lookout for opportunities to give.” At first it did not resonate with me, but then they said, “When listening to others, ask yourself how you can help them. What do they need?”
Too much of my life was focused on “How can I get them to give me something?” It used to be that way for me in business … how can I get someone to buy, how can I get someone to do what I need done? But an amazing thing happens when you flip your script away from your needs and totally focus on their needs.
It does not have to be about giving money. It can be about giving time, advice, experience.
My therapist friend tells me, “The best thing for depressed people is to volunteer to help others. Suddenly they forget about their problems and come to life by serving.”
Two weeks ago, I put serving more on my radar. Every time I talk to people I am looking for clues to how I can help them. Just last week a friend told me he had a family member involved in starting a new church. I could not stop thinking about it, so I asked him to introduce me to his family member and I called, asking how I could help. It turned out she was having a specific problem that she did not know how to solve, and though I could not solve it, I knew who could, and made an introduction. I had no idea what the need would be, but I just assumed they might need something.
Try it for just one week.
Starting today, listen for where you can help. Then offer to help. Offer to serve. See what happens. I was amazed at how much joy I felt when I looked at everything with the intent of helping others.
PS: I hope you have an awesome Easter today!!
I mentioned that I had a 007 holster I would wear. When I grew up I wanted to be a spy like James Bond. I had a toy secret briefcase with spy tools, and I had toy listening devices. It all seemed very glamorous. It does not appeal to me today; I wouldn’t make a good spy because I’d blurt out everything the first time I got caught.
I can remember my first James Bond movie, but I never imagined I’d ever meet a “Bond Girl”! I just learned that Jane Seymour was one of the early Bond Girls, so I’ll meet my first Bond Girl ever when she comes to Denver to attend the Plein Air Convention & Expo next month and help us celebrate our 10th birthday. I hope to see you there to work on your painting skills and to celebrate with us.