Reaching out and serving others is a very individual matter – and some people have to give and reach out for the very first time while some of us are drawing boundaries to keep the serving and giving in balance ;).
As many people know – one of the highest forms of living involves giving and thinking of others. Instead of just accumulating and thinking of self, thinking of others is not only Biblical (Philippians 2:3), but it also adds much meaning and richness to our own lives. However, it takes time to develop compassion, empathy, or to even notice someone’s need. It takes time to learn how to hold possessions with an open fist.
Many times the best way to develop compassion is to experience our own hardship, to receive grace and to feel the blessing (and relief) that comes from compassion during trials. However, and thankfully, we do not have to experience everything in order to grow and learn; instead, we can intentionally find the resources and materials we need to cultivate compassion! Whether dealing with children or adults, we can discuss the benefits of investing in others, we can examine what the Bible says about practicing hospitality, and we can expound on phrases like “pay it forward” and “cast your bread upon the water and it will come back buttered.” We can also share rich literature, like this short excerpt from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros:
Bums in the Attic
I want a house on a hill like the ones with the gardens where Papa works. We go on Sundays, Pap’s day of. I used to go. I don’t anymore. You don’t like to go out with us, Papa says. Getting too old? Getting too stuck-up, says Nenny. I don’t tell them I’m ashamed—all of us staring out the window like we’re hungry. I am tired of looking at what we can’t have. When we win the lottery… Mama begins, and then I stop listening.
People who live on hills sleep so close to the stars they forget those of us who live too much on earth. They don’t look down at all except to be content to live on hills. They have nothing to do with last week’s garbage or fear of rats. Night comes. Nothing wakes them but the wind.
One day I’ll own my own house, but I won’t forget who I am or where I cam from. Passing bums will ask, Can I come in? I’ll offer them the attic, ask them to stay, because I know how it is to be without a house.
Some days after dinner, guests and I will sit in front of a fire. Floorboards will squeak upstairs. The attic grumble.
Rats? they’ll ask.
Bums, I’ll say, and I’ll be happy.
When we invest in others it also gives US something significant – it allows us to experience meaning in the very essence of our being, especially if we choose to be a blessing because we have been blessed.
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