Finding Joy in Service

Confession time: I was all excited to participate in Finding Joy in Service Day (read about Finding Joy in Service Day here) but my kids have been sick, our bathroom is being demo’d and reno’d this week, and I just started a new (temporary) part-time job. Yesterday my kids and I weren’t up to anything big, and I let it go.Two toddler boys playing by a creek with text overlay: Finding Joy in Service Day - How I Learned a Lesson

A kind and helpful afternoon

Today, after lunch, I read a special book and had a little chat with my boy about kindness, serving others, and being like Jesus. After all of that, I asked him if he had any ideas for something kind we could do to serve someone, and he piped right up with, “We can make cookies for ME!”

From there the situation devolved rapidly and I was left with a whiny toddler demanding that I make cookies that he wouldn’t have to share with anyone. It wasn’t the kind and helpful afternoon that I had imagined.

Needless to say, there were no cookies today. I told him I was sad that he didn’t feel like being kind to others and he looked at me with his beautiful eyes and told me that he DID like being kind, but “just wanted cookies, too!”

Take a breath, mama.

Looking back at him, I realized I needed to give the poor kid a break. I mean, he’s 2. He IS kind, and he WOULD have shared his cookies, and I knew that.

I took a step back, thought about it, and changed gears.

I reran the day in my mind and remembered the kind and helpful things my toddler actually did.

  • He told me my hair looked nice (it didn’t), and he meant it.
  • He put all the groceries away in the fridge when we got home from the store. (Like, literally ALL…until I figured it out I when I saw some cans of tomato sauce headed for the crisper.)
  • He spontaneously kissed his brother’s head about 14 times (that I saw) today.

There’s more, but the details aren’t as important as the lesson I learned.

The lesson

I have to meet my son where he is, and he’s just not developmentally in a place to set selfish desires aside without help and practice. He’s a sweet, kind, smart boy with (usually) helpful intentions. He does his share of naughty things, but he’s also pretty great most of the time, even when he doesn’t think anyone is watching.

My boy found joy in service today, loading the onions into the refrigerator door.

He found joy in service praying for his dad’s migraine to feel better, and singing to comfort his tired baby brother.

They were just small acts, but I’m okay with that. When we talked about serving others later this evening, I pointed out the ways he’d done it today and he got it, because I was speaking his language. It seems really obvious that I should have started with this new perspective, but it’s easy (for me at least) to get caught up in my own expectations and lose sight of how things look from a toddler’s egocentric point of view.

Jesus, during His time here on earth, tried to lead everyone He met toward God. But he started with where they were, spiritually, rather than where he wanted them to be. In order to effectively disciple my son, I need to do the same. I’m thankful that I had that reminder today. And although Finding Joy in Service Day is officially over, caring for one another isn’t seasonal. So, if you missed the opportunity to be intentional about emphasizing cheerful service to others today, it’ll be just fine if you start tomorrow instead.

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Two toddler boys playing by a creek with text overlay: Finding Joy in Service Day - How I Learned a Lesson