Last month after writing about how we can light the world by serving those around us, many people told me of how others have offered kindness to them through service, friendship and example. We tend to focus on service and kindness most during the Christmas season, and serving others is something we can carry into the new year.
A couple of years ago, Linda Burton spoke of a wonderful woman who focused on serving others in need. In the 1990s, she organized a project to collect quilts for people who needed them in Kosovo. She drove a truck full of these quilts from London to Kosovo, and on the way home, she had a divine thought: “What you have done is a very good thing. Now go home, walk across the street, and serve your neighbor!”
Linda Burton then suggested that as we try to know how to best help others, we can ask, “What if their story were my story?” As we ask that question, we start to understand how and when to help others.
We have so many kind and generous people here in Wyoming, and I have been the recipient of so much kindness since moving to Casper. I know my experience isn’t isolated. One woman recently told me how a friend here in our area has helped her through various experiences. After surgery, this friend helped her by bringing her meals and helping her with other daily activities. She also called her regularly to check in on her and offered many ways to ease her pain after the surgery.
This same friend reached out even while caring for her own family and helping other individuals and groups she knows.
I experienced similar kindnesses from a friend this summer when I went through a difficult experience. She brought me delicious homemade meals, sent me various text messages with uplifting words, and came to visit me to offer friendship.
In both of these examples, these women were able to ask, “What if their story were my story?” and acted on the answer. What they did may not seem like much, but these simple, quiet services they offered meant everything to the recipients. They were able to think outside of their own duties and selves and offered kindness in a way they would like to receive it.
In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus said to those who would inherit the kingdom of God, “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.”
These words give us insight into how our service to others can be most effective. We can, as Linda Burton suggested, ask “What if their story were my story?” As we ask that simple question, we see outside of our own desires and needs, and we can see what others desire and need. Once we know what the need is, such as hunger or thirst, as Jesus described, we can determine the best course of action. In the case of Jesus’s example, the answer is meat and drink.
Knowing how to help is not always so apparent, but I have a feeling a kind act offered in sincerity will usually be received in sincerity as well. So as we go about our duties this month, perhaps we could ask, “What if their story were my story?” and we can lift our neighbors as we act on the answer to that question.