Monday, September 29, 2008

Family Service Challenge

It’s Monday.

I’d like to tell you about a family who made a difference in the world.

The Richardson family from Idaho held a family meeting and discussed the blessings they had received. They knew they had been given much, and therefore, felt a strong need to give back.

While most of us are concerned with our own little worlds, the Richardson’s did an extraordinary thing – they planned and took what they called a “Service Vacation”.

Leaving their home, they headed northwest, and found ways to serve along the way. They spent time helping a lot of people. They stopped to help stranded motorists, they cleaned beaches, and they handed out what they called coupons. These were little slips of paper that read:

“Sometimes it’s just nice to know somebody cares. Have a great day! From” and then the person giving it out signed it.

There is a touching story about this in the book, The Message.

One of the teens handed out a coupon to a deli worker in a grocery store. The clerk broke down into tears, she was so overwhelmed with emotion, knowing that a complete stranger would be so sensitive to her needs.

When the family was cleaning up garbage at a beach in Eureka, California, the locals were rather surprised.

A short quote from the book:

“Hi… What are you guys doing?”

“Oh, we’re picking up garbage here on the beach.”

“Oh.” They would pause a second and then say, “How come?”

“We just thought it would be nice to do, and it looked like it needed it.”

“Uh huh. Where are you from?”

“We’re from Idaho.”

“Idaho?!” they would respond with a startled tone. “You’re from Idaho and you’re here cleaning up our beach? Why?”

“We just wanted to help out.” (From “The Message – © 2001 American Family Institute)

Can you imagine the surprise? How would you react to strangers coming to your town and helping out? Would it anger you? Would it inspire you? I suppose the range of emotions would be all over the map.

The interesting thing about the Richardson family’s encounter is that most people welcomed them, once they knew what they were doing and why. At the beach in Eureka, people started following their example and walked right along with the family, picking up the trash.

Can you imagine what sort of an impact you and your family can have on your community? You don’t have to travel to find a great and worthwhile service project. There are, I am positive, people within a few blocks or miles of you who can benefit from an idea such as the Service Vacation.

Consider the coupon Lance and his family created. Can you do the same thing? I’ve tried it – and believe me, the results are amazing.

Sometimes, I’ll sign it “A Friend Who Cares” and leave it on someone’s keyboard after they leave for the day. The next day, it’s always a blast watching their reaction. There’s a little bit of a buzz going on as they try and figure it out. And, in the meantime, the smile on their face – the joy they feel knowing that someone cares – well, it’s just so worth it.

Could you do something like this? Could you get your family to help you?

I challenge you to take some time today, Monday, to have a sort of family night. I challenge you to talk about service to others and how such selfless service can bring real peace and happiness both to you and your family, and to the beneficiaries of your service.

Remember, your acts of service don’t have to be huge and complex. They can be small and simple and still very, very effective.

So, how about it? Do you accept the challenge?

Please feel free to comment, and as always… pass it on.



Mandi said...

Wow - what an amazing thing to do - and to teach your kids to do!! I love that!! Hey, have you checked out ? She runs her blog somewhat on the same lines as yours. both of your blogs are so inspirational and I love getting ideas! I am working on implementing these ideas with my kids - they're only 2 and 4 but it's NEVER too early to teach them how to show people love!

James H said...

Thanks for your comment - and the link, Mandi. I would love to be able to do the Service Vacation with my family. If anyone wants to know where to get the book, "The Message", let me know.

The link to Operation Nice has been added to my blog.


T. J. said...

I am part of a RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) group. We are just a group of guys who decided to try to give back to the community in non-conventional ways. So, twice a month we get together and decide to do something that day. We have done free car washes, we have gone down busy streets in SF and put quarters in the parking meters. (We got a ticket for doing that.) We have gone out and purchased several cases of bottled water and handed them out on street corners on really hot days. A couple of times we have gone and helped a Habitat group that working in the area, and we have cleaned up dog poop from some of the local parks.

We agreed in the beginning that everything would be anonymous. We don't give anyone our names (except cops writing tickets) and we don't accept any kind of donations, gifts, etc.

James H said...

t.j. -

I love this idea! Do you have a blog or anything that tells what you do? I'd love to link it.