Monday, June 22, 2009

An Important Message

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

Yesterday, my wife and I were driving around. We like to take Sunday drives. We find it quite relaxing to just be with each other and talk.

But yesterday, we saw something new in our neighborhood.

On a little street, behind the Home Depot and Kentucky Fried Chicken, there was an old ragged homeless man, sit-sleeping on an old Coleman cooler. I didn’t notice him or the sign he had propped up, but my wife did.

She made a u-turn in the Home Depot parking lot and asked me for some money. She pulled up to him so that he was on my side, and as we got close, he woke up and stumbled to the car. It was apparent to me that he was dead tired. It was warm out, and as it had been raining, it was also humid. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it must have been there with only a young tree to shield him from the elements.

I rolled down my window and handed him a little something. He smiled big, and said “God bless you.”

I said, “And happy Father’s Day to you, sir”.

His eyes opened a little wider and his smile faded. “It’s Father’s Day? I didn’t know that.”

We assured him that it was and he shuffled back to his makeshift seat on the sidewalk. We drove away and my wife and I talked about how sad it was that the poor gentleman didn’t even know what day it was.

And then, as we drove toward the KFC, my wife surprised me. She made a bee-line for the drive through. She bought him a small lunch and as I looked at her, she appeared to be crying. She told me that it’s been a long time since seeing such a sight had affected her in such a way.

She said she had the strongest impression that she needed to tell the man something. I learned long ago to not deny my wife when she has such impressions, so I stayed quiet as we drove back to find him.

He was asleep again, and this time she approached so that he was on her side of the car. I’m not sure if he recognized us or not, but he again stood and came to the window. I handed the meal to my wife and she passed it out to him.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

He smiled again, showing where two front teeth were missing. “Gary.”

My wife was a little choked up. “Gary, we brought you some lunch and something to drink. I hope you like it.”

Gary seemed very humbled and most appreciative of her gesture. He took the food and was about to turn back when my wife again spoke.

“Gary, I have something to tell you. It’s something I feel very strongly impressed to say.”

Gary stopped and came back to the car. He was listening.

“Gary, God hasn’t forgotten you. He knows you and He’s aware of you, even though it might seem like you’re alone. You’re not.”

That was the message. We again wished him a happy Father’s Day, and we drove away.

With that, I’ll get to today’s challenge:

Someone needs to hear something you have to say today.

It could be a coworker.

It could be a friend.

It could be a family member.

Or, like in my wife’s case, it could be a stranger.

Deliver the message. Today.

That’s all there is to it.

Thank you for reading and accepting today’s challenge.

Thank you also for being willing to spread my message to others. Thank you for retweeting, forwarding and linking back to this post. Someone needs it, and you help them hear it.

And, as always, thank you for remembering that Service is The Action Form of Love.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Slow it Down

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

Something I realized this week as I was in a hurry to get inside the store. There was an elderly couple outside struggling to move their empty cart to the empty cart corral in the lot. I was in so much of a hurry, it didn’t hit me until I was well inside that had I slowed down a little bit, I would have realized their need while there was still time to do something about it.

I failed.

So, here’s today’s challenge, for both of us:

Slow down.

Take time to notice your surroundings.

Take time to proactively look for someone in the least bit of trouble.

And then help them.

That’s all there is to it. I’m going to try it!

Thank you for reading and accepting today’s service challenge – I appreciate that you take time out of your busy day to read my words.

Thank you also for being willing to share my words with others.

Together, we can show that truly, Service is The Action Form of Love.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It Isn't Easy Being Green

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

I’ve been so caught up in work and in watching the incredibly sad drama in Iran lately, I completely forgot to write a blog post.

This issue has really moved me. I find myself staying up way past normal bedtime to check my twitter updates. I realize that I, an American citizen thousands of miles away, can’t do a whole lot to help. But, I feel the need to do what I can.

There was one twitter update that really choked me up. It was posted in the afternoon, USA time and read:

“My death is irrelevant. What is important is that you do not forget my words. We want freedom. I will die for that.”

Though I feel I can’t do much, I also feel that I have been caught up in a history-making event. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, the news media – it all brings it so close. This isn’t the American Revolution. That’s in the history books. As one clever tweeter put it today, this revolution won’t be televised, it will be downloaded.

I’ve downloaded it into my heart – a heart that aches for the people of Iran who want freedom, who are willing to die for freedom.

This week, my heart is green.

I hope you’re caught up in what’s happening to a people who desperately want the basic freedoms that you want.

I hope your heart is green.

And that brings me to today’s challenge:

Today, do something to support our friends in Iran. Turn your Twitter or other social media site avatar green. Retweet a message from someone fighting for freedom. Watch the news. Get involved.

Pray for them.

That’s all there is to today’s challenge.

Thank you for reading today’s blog post. I appreciate you.

Service is The Action Form of Love


Monday, June 15, 2009

The Good News Is...

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

The more I read the news or watch it on the Internet or on television, there’s one thing that keeps coming to my mind.

Where’s the good news?

In the past week alone, we’ve heard about probable election fraud in Iran and subsequent oppression of thousands of people, murders, rapes, fires set by arsonists, kidnappings and so much more.

Where is the good news?

It’s a sad but true fact that most news carriers would go broke if they only reported good news items. Consider the following lead in to your favorite news show:

“Absolutely nothing bad happened today in Capital City, today – film at eleven.”


Wouldn’t happen.


Because there’s just too much bad news to report.

So, here’s your challenge for today:

Pay close attention to your surroundings. Listen for something positive that happened. It could have happened in your workplace, in your neighborhood or even in your state or country.

Then, when you have the positive tidbit, pass it on.

That’s right – be a carrier of positive news today.

Maybe it’s true that bad news spreads faster than good news. Maybe it’s not. Let’s find out by using today’s challenge as an experiment. See if the good news you passed on comes back to you.

Thank you for taking today’s challenge. Thank you for being willing to pass on the good news as well as my words. I appreciate you.

And, thank you always for remembering that Service is The Action Form of Love.


Friday, June 12, 2009

The Importance of Touch

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

I’ve blogged a lot recently about my dearly departed mama. I’m sorry if I’m boring you, but there have been some great lessons of love and service I’ve been able to glean from her life – and from her death.

I ask your forgiveness for yet another post about her.

My siblings and I were recently talking about mama and what we miss most about her. There seemed to be one overarching theme for us all. We miss her touch. We miss her kisses, her hugs and just laying our heads in her lap while she stroked the hair out of our eyes. While we know she is with us in spirit – and that’s such a comforting knowledge – it’s the tangible things we miss. The things we can’t currently have with her.

So, here’s today’s challenge:

Touch someone.

If you have a mom or dad, a brother or sister, children or a child, take time today to embrace them. Hold their hand. Stroke the hair out of their eyes. Words may not be necessary, although you certainly may tell them you love them. But at least touch them in a way that they’ll remember when they can’t feel you anymore.

That’s all there is to it.

Thank you for reading today’s post. I appreciate you. Thank you also for being willing to share my words, whether by retweeting, forwarding or linking to my blog.

And, as always, thank you for remembering that Service is The Action Form of Love


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Family Bonds

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

There doesn’t seem to be much that is positive about a loved one passing away. It’s really difficult to find the silver lining around that particular cloud.

Mama, the gentlewoman who carried, bore, raised and loved me for 45 years passed away just under 5 months ago.

During the week the family crowded into (and more or less took over) the ICU waiting room, I don’t think any of us were seeing anything but the dark clouds. As I look back on that time, however, I can finally see a glimmer of something positive. I had a full week with all my brothers and sisters and father – and a full week to reassure mama that I loved her and I knew she loved me, too.

Somehow, the death of a loved one can bring families and friends together like no other occasion. It’s strange how easily hatchets can be buried, arguments forgotten, debts forgiven. The bonding (or re-bonding as the case may be) is one that is powerful and seems so strong that it will never again break.

So it is with our family.

We had a trial run at survivorship when mama’s middle child, Mark passed away in December, 2005. As another brother reminded us, we were in uncharted territory. Other than grandparents, this was the first death to strike so close to our homes and hearts. We were taken unawares and uprepared.

There were parallels in the final days of Mark and mama. Both spent time in the ICU, though at different hospitals. Both had the whole family at the hospital for their final farewells.

Both brought the rest of us a resolve to stay connected through phone calls, email and personal visits. Both slipped peacefully away as easily and simply as stepping out of their bodies and walking through the veil.

Both knew they were loved.

After Mark passed, we siblings determined to maintain our new focus on the family. We were determined to not let life and work creep back in again and interfere with what meant most to us. We resolved to stay in touch, no matter what.

I can’t say we failed, but I think we can all admit we didn’t stay as connected as we would have liked.

In the early days of 2006, we called each other once a week, if not once a day. We constantly sent text messages of love and support, asking how the others were feeling and handling things. We’ve always loved each other, but it seemed we were much more willing to show our love in more concrete ways.

But, as it has a way of doing, life did indeed creep back in. The messages of support became more rare, and we relied on family get-together’s like Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to bring us together.

And then, mama got sick.

I had become immersed in my job and career and was at work one afternoon when I noticed my phone was vibrating a lot more than usual. I finally took a break and saw that my siblings had been trying to reach me for a few hours. I contacted one of them and learned that mama had gone into the hospital, thinking she’d had a heart attack.

By the next night, she was in the ICU, but her heart was fine. She had managed to aspirate something and was failing swallow tests. Her condition from then on would bounce from good to bad to worse to teetering on the edge between going home and going Home.

I admit, I was selfish.

When I learned mama was in the hospital with the heart attack symptoms, I told my siblings I would come up “if they needed me to”. Mama had been in the hospital countless times in her later years, and I guess I presumed this was another case where they’d treat her and send her home.

I was truly humbled the next morning when I arrived at the ICU and saw my family holding vigil in the waiting room.

Less than a week later, mama indicated to us that she was ready to go. We had brought in a miniature white board and marker, set it on her lap, and let her hands tell us what she couldn’t tell us with the respirator on. The messages she wrote in her beautiful shaky handwriting told us that her story was nearing an end.

She wrote things like:

“I’ve been miserable for so long.”

“Make sure he (dad) isn’t sad.”

“I’m tired.”

“I’m dead.”

The day before she died, we siblings were all downstairs in the hospital cafeteria, eating lunch. A niece of mine came down with a message from mama. “Finish your lunch, then come up, have a family prayer, then shut the door and let me die.”

We accommodated mama’s wishes. When we got that message, we couldn’t finish our lunch anyway.

Surrounding her bed, we watched in agony as mama struggled to breathe even with the help of a BiPap machine. Her eyes were open, glistening and aware as we sang “I Am a Child of God.” We then said our final goodbyes, and left the room.

The next day, life support was removed, and she was gone far quicker than any of us expected her to go. We know she lives on, even today, because of our faith, but also because of what we’ve seen and sensed in the intervening months.

So, why am I rambling about the loss of my mama? Well, I’m not, really.

This is about the loss of family connection. The feeling of a loss of bonds that were forged in the face of losing Mark and mama.

I foolishly presumed mama would come out of the hospital, just as she always had, sitting in the passenger seat of dad’s old station wagon. I foolishly thought she would be around forever.

So, here’s today’s challenge:

Don’t be foolish.

Pick up the phone and call your mom, your dad, a favorite aunt or uncle. Call a sibling your child your grandparent, a friend.

Call just to see how they’re doing.

Call just to tell them the words we all long to hear.

Call just to say “I love you.”

Thank you for reading today’s challenge. Thank you for being willing to accept and perform small and simple acts of service for others. You are making a difference in the lives of others.

Thank you for remembering that Service is The Action Form of Love.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Leave a Good Impression

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

Today’s challenge is so simple (though maybe not easy) it won’t take you very long at all to read it.

Here’s your challenge:

Make someone feel better about having met you today. Leave an impression. A good one.

It could be a stranger, a family member, a coworker, even. Just make them feel better for having interacted with you. Leave them feeling better about themselves.

That’s it!

Can you do it?

Of course you can!

Thanks for taking today’s challenge! Thanks for being willing to share it with others. And thank you for being mindful that Service is The Action Form of Love.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Bridge the Distance

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

Most of us have experienced the nausa that comes with knowing we’ve burned a bridge with someone in our family or circle of friends and acquantances. We think of them often, but we can’t seem to get up the courage to do anything about it.

We let the distance between us grow and grow until it seems we’re so far apart, reconciliation seems impossible.

I once heard it said that refusing to forgive someone and holding onto a grudge is like administering poison by degrees – to ourself.

So, here’s today’s challenge:

Today, do something to bridge the distance between you. Be willing to make the first move, regardless of what or who initiated the estrangement.

If you can, forgive and forget.

If you cannot do that, at least try your best to forgive.

Try bridging the distance between you, even if it means swallowing some pride, eating some crow and admitting you were wrong.

You can do it.

You need to do it.

You want to do it.

And they are waiting for you to do it.

Thank you for reading today’s post. Thank you for being willing to share my message and challenge with others.

And thank you especially for remembering that Service is The Action Form of Love


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ease A Burden

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

We all have burdens.

Some of us have burdens of work, others of raising and keeping a family fed. Many of us have both.

Today’s challenge is short, sweet and simple:

Help someone with their burden.

Some burdens can’t be easily lifted off the shoulders of the bearer. Some are deeply emotional and psychological. Others are physical burdens like too much work, too little time. Most of us are facing economical burdens because of the economy, fear of losing our jobs or just the stress of watching others lose theirs.

What can you do to help?

Remember, the idea here is to find small and simple ways to serve others. Find one or two little things you can do to help someone who is overburdened.

Maybe you can just let them vent and listen without interrupting.

Maybe you can offer to run an errand for them.

Maybe you can watch their children so they can have a night to themselves.

Small and simple.

That’s what it’s all about.

Thank you for taking today’s challenge – I appreciate you!

Thank you also for being willing to pass this on to others. You, my friend, make a difference.

You “get it”.

You know that Service is The Action Form of Love.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Employment Alertness

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

Many of us are enduring some pretty rough financial seas. Earlier this week, I told you about Dan and Barbara, a couple who relocated to Utah for Dan’s job only to be laid off shortly after arriving. Now they’re packing back up to move again, this time at their own expense. $2500 or more down the drain.

In one way or another, we’re all experiencing some fallout from the current economic crisis.

So, what can we do to help?

How can we help in small and simple ways?

Today’s challenge is this:

Be alert.

Know of a job opening at your company or nearby? How about posting it on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media site you belong to?

Do you know someone who could fill that job? Why not cut to the chase and email it directly to him or her?


Small and simple. Just like always.

Be alert for openings; pass them on to others who might be in the market for that job.

Thank you for reading and accepting today’s challenge. I really appreciate the fact that you understand the concept that by small and simple things, great things can happen (a paraphrase of one of my favorite scriptures).

Thank you also for being willing to pass this challenge to others. I know you pass it on by forwarding, by retweeting, by posting on message boards and by Stumbling. I’m truly humbled by your willingness to help others – because that’s what it’s all about.

Thank you especially for remembering that Service is The Action Form of Love


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Learning by Example

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses.

Some days, our weaknesses seem to outdo our strengths. On other days, the reverse is true.

One of my strengths is to be able to treat others with respect in many situations. Now, please don’t think I’m bragging here. It’s a learned strength. One learned from years of watching my mother and father deal with people in varied circumstances.

I learned how to be kind by watching and emulating their example.

For years before I really “got it”, though, one of my greatest weaknesses was that I could not seem to treat anyone with any measure of respect or kindness. For much of my adult life, I was a nasty, judgmental and downright rude person.

People would come to visit, and if I bothered to answer the door, I’d leave them sitting in the living room and go back to my bedroom until the awkwardness of the situation would be too much and they would finally leave.

I have many more stories like that, but I’d really prefer not to dwell on them (and I’d especially prefer you not remembering me like that!)

The point is, a weakness was turned into a strength by the patient teaching of my honorable parents. They acted, I learned.

We all have things we need to work on. We all have patient teachers around us who are willing to share what they know; who they are.

So, here’s today’s challenge:

Think of someone in your circle of influence who has a strength you admire.

It could be a coworker.

It could be a family member.

It could be someone you attend school with or who rides in your carpool.

When you’ve thought of them, determine that beginning today, you will try to learn from their example.

Watch them as they do what it is you’d like to learn how to do.

Listen to them as they talk the talk and walk the walk.

It’s okay to take notes, and it’s certainly okay to approach them and tell them what you’re doing. Ask for their help. Ask them to teach you just one thing about how they do what they do.

Then, as you continue to watch them day by day, try doing the same things. You don’t have to be a carbon copy of the person. You can mold and fit and adjust so that it feels natural to you.

But do it.

Starting today.

Find someone who has a strength you want, and then begin to acquire that strength yourself.

Thank you so much for reading today’s challenge.

Thank you for being willing to learn something about serving others as well as yourself.

Thank you for sharing this post with others. Thank you for posting it on message boards, for forwarding it in emails, for retweeting and for Stumbling it.

I truly appreciate you for understanding that…

Service is The Action Form of Love


Monday, June 1, 2009

Caring Coupons

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

Most of us know someone who has been negatively affected by the recent downturn in the economy.

My neighbors, Dan and Barbara accepted his company’s offer to relocate him to Utah – several hundred miles away from where they call home. Once they got here, signed a yearlong lease and unpacked, his company laid him off. Now he’s stuck.

There are other stories. You know them. Your friends and family or even you may be living one of them.

What can we do to help?

The aim of this blog has always been to focus on small and simple acts of service. I don’t have the money to help Dan and Barbara move back to Alabama. But there are little things you and I can do to help folks survive and make their days go by just a little more smoothly.

As a child, my parents were always teaching us about serving others. One of the best examples I experienced was around Christmastime as a young boy. I am one of 8 siblings, so sometimes Christmas could get pretty pricey unless you got really creative.

At a Family Home Evening, our parents suggested we all make coupon books to give to one another. The booklets, designed by us, were meant to give little acts of service to each other rather than material gifts. The idea was to make Christmas last longer than a few cold December days.

One coupon in a book for my older brother might say that I would wash his car on any Saturday he chose. Another would tell mama that I would wash the dinner dishes without arguing whenever she wanted to redeem the coupon.

You get the idea.

Would this work to help someone you know who has fallen on hard times?


So, here’s your challenge for today:

Decide on someone you know who is having a rough time. Design a simple coupon book specifically for things you know they need. Once you’ve made the book, take it to them with a freshly baked loaf of bread or maybe some cookies. Tell them how the book works. Let them know that they can call on you to help them.

Could you give them a coupon book to use when they really need help? Maybe it would help them reach out and ask for help when they would otherwise try to “get by” in silent pride.

Maybe you could offer to wash their car.

Maybe you could offer to mow their lawn?

How about a coupon to drive their kids somewhere? Or to drop off and pick up their dry cleaning? What about a coupon for a picnic lunch on a weekend they choose?

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Small and simple is the way to go.

You can be creative. You know your friends and family and neighbors and what their needs are.

Can you do this?

I believe you can.

I’m grateful for your generosity in wanting to help others. You, my friend, make a difference.

If you’ve read this far, I’m offering you a coupon, too. Here’s how it works. Simply go to the comments section of my blog and enter a comment. Tell me your first name and city and state or country, and tell me about your favorite service deed or act, whether you were the server or the served.

Make sure I have a way to contact you. I’d like to get in touch with you and ask you some questions. Then, with your permission, I’d like to blog about your experience.

Thanks for reading and taking today’s challenge! Thanks for being willing to help others. You matter by making others matter, too.

Truly, Service is the Action form of Love