Charting Anew

My husband succeeds in life without all the organizational trappings that our culture has come to believe we need. You know—those planners, lists, charts, motivational posters? I admire his ability to keep moving forward without an obvious display of that process. I, on the other hand, grew up with job charts and stickers to show my progress and graduated to complicated self-analysis followed by rigid goals.

Now that I’m a little more flexible, I periodically ponder where I’ve been and where I want to go. My goals and plans are not as prescriptive as a list but a general idea of who I want to become that leads to specific changes. Sometimes I target spiritual growth or creative development, but most often my focus in one area reaches all aspects of my life.

My daughter, KH, prompted my New Year’s pondering with a lesson she gave for family night last week. She used the talk,  “What Have I Done For Someone Today?” from the president of our church, Thomas S. Monson, who said:

We are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness—be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.

At the end of her message, she gave us each a calender and challenged us to do a good turn every day for the next five weeks and mark it on our chart. I needed this basic reminder, like we all sometimes do, to see that I am serving more than I think and that I can reach out and serve in new ways. It has become my only obvious resolution.

Soon after we committed to do this, I took the kids to Target to spend their gift cards. EH spotted a pair of children’s eyeglasses in the roadway outside the building. Since two of my kids wear glasses, I know how expensive they are. If we had not walked by when we did, they would have been crushed by the next car. We immediately turned them in to the lost and found. We served, but we didn’t even go out of our way to do something for someone else.

Service to others, even sacrifice for them, was second nature early in my adult life. Over time, though, experience replaced my zeal. I saw the good, but I also felt the reality.

When we open ourselves to serve, we bump up against other people’s quirks, weaknesses and problems and we see more of our own. We misunderstand. We underestimate. We overestimate. We expect a return for what we give. We try to solve another person’s problem even when he or she doesn’t want to solve it. People even take advantage.

That hurt holds us back. It held me back without even knowing why. In my own lonely withdrawal, I feared reaching out until my daughter spoke the words of a prophet and invited me to act, to try again.

So I look. I reach. I observe. I act. I record. And new understanding comes—I can make a difference without sacrificing my own happiness in the process.

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1 Comment

  1. David
    Jan 7, 2010

    Good post. I agree.

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