Relief Society Lesson 14 President Hinckley: Losing Ourselves in the Service of Others
Section 1: Our Lives are to be Used in the Service of Others
President Hinckley gives several really nice quotes in this section. Here are a couple of my favorites:
There is … much of poverty and stark want across the world, so much of rebellion and meanness, so much of sleaze and filth, so many broken homes and destroyed families, so many lonely people living colorless lives without hope, so much of distress everywhere. And so I make a plea to you. I plead with you that with all your getting you will also give to make the world a little better.
This principle of love is the basic essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we would claim to worship and follow the Master, must we not strive to emulate his life of service?
Use that second quote to lead into your first discussion:
Question: What are your favorite examples of service from the life of Jesus? Why do you find them moving or inspiring?
Begin to generate a list of the types of service Jesus performed – from the “small” (making sure there was enough to drink at the wedding and feeding bread to the hungry) to the astonishing (healing the leper, raising people from the dead). Look, too, at private acts of service – paying attention to Martha’s concerns, spending time with the woman at the well.
As ideas are being generated, feel free to include your own favorite story of Jesus reaching out in kindness to help and serve. My personal story would be the story of the bent over woman in Luke 13: 10-17. I’d recount the story and talk about why I find it so moving – the fact that Jesus really sees someone who was probably constantly overlooked by others, and he cares enough to call out to her and heal her. This wasn’t even someone who was asking him for a miracle – he just freely extended it when he saw her need. The end of the story, where Jesus chastises the synagogue leader (who objected because Jesus healed on the Sabbath) is perfect. The woman has now been risen up (physically and emotionally), and the narrow-minded synagogue leader has been lowered and humbled. This story, on so many levels, shows the primacy of helping others – helping others, he teaches, is actually an essential part of honoring and worshiping God.
Question: Based on this discussion/list, what can we learn about service?
One thought: Jesus was concerned with healing on every level – physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs – at any given time in our lives, we experience at least one of these needs.
At some point, during this discussion, you may want to work these Pres. Hinckley quotes into the discussion:
My message to you today … is that you resolve to dedicate a part of your time, as you map out your life’s work, to those in distress and need, with no consideration of recompense. Your skills are needed, whatever they may be. Your helping hands will lift someone out of the mire of distress. Your steady voice will give encouragement to some who might otherwise simply give up. Your skills can change the lives, in a remarkable and wonderful way, of those who walk in need. If not now, when? If not you, who?
God would have us do His work—and do it with energy and cheerfulness. That work, as He has defined it, is to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:5.)It is to minister to those in need. It is to comfort the bereaved. It is to visit the widow and the fatherless in their affliction. It is to feed the needy, to clothe the naked, to shelter those who have not a roof over their heads. It is to do as the Master did, who “went about doing good.”
Section 2: Service is the best medicine for self-pity, selfishness, despair, and loneliness.
I believe that for most of us the best medicine for loneliness is work and service in behalf of others. I do not minimize your problems, but I do not hesitate to say that there are many others whose problems are more serious than yours. Reach out to serve them, to help them, to encourage them. There are so many boys and girls who fail in school for want of a little personal attention and encouragement. There are so many elderly people who live in misery and loneliness and fear for whom a simple conversation would bring a measure of hope and brightness. …
There are so many who have been injured and who need a good Samaritan to bind up their wounds and help them on their way. A small kindness can bring a great blessing to someone in distress and a sweet feeling to the one who befriends him.
The above quotes, and Pres. Hinckley’s question in section one “If not you, who?” made me think of ordinary people who step into the unknown to render extraordinarily loving service. I was very inspired a year or two ago when I read about a man in Los Angeles named Mohammed Bzeek, a Muslim immigrant. I saw a little video about him and what he does. I was so moved by this man’s huge heart and the way he’s dedicated his life to serving “the least of these” as a foster dad to kids with terminal illnesses.
I think Bzeek is a great example of the point that Pres. Hinckley makes: that sometimes when we become embroiled in our own issues and problems and obsess over them, we shrink into ourselves – we become smaller than who we we know we can be. But when we lean into loving others, helping others, love can come into our lives, connections can come into our lives, and we grow to be the type of humans we’re meant to be. Bzeek, to me, is the epitome of Christ-like service.
Question: What stories of charity, compassion, or service have really moved you and why? Could be from newspapers or more intimate personal stories of someone offering you service or charity in a way that was particularly meaningful to you. Spend 15 minutes or so talking about this.
Question: Do stories of extraordinary, expansive charity or service move you and inspire you? Or do they immobilize you and make you feel a little bit bad because maybe you’re not engaged in doing these huge acts service? And how can we overcome feelings of immobilization or guilt?
Personally, I feel really inspired because they are reminders to me of how beautiful and generous humans can be. They remind me of our vast potential and the goodness of people’s hearts. So I love these stories, but I’ve talked to people who feel a little paralyzed by these stories and just kind of feel bad about themselves when they hear them.
Perhaps suggest to the class that some ways to think that might lessen feelings of guilt or paralysis when they think of the things they could be doing charity-wise, but aren’t. I think these perspectives from various women are helpful:
If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one. ~Mother Theresa
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~Anne Frank
Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference. ~Jane Goodall
The main point I get from quotes like this is that starting small in terms of service and charity is how change happens in individual lives and even the world. And one-on-one individual acts might not change the world. But it can change a life or inspire a person or be meaningful in ways that we will never know.
Section 3: When we reach out to help others, we find our true selves.
Years ago I read the story of a young woman who went into a rural area as a schoolteacher. Among those in her class was a girl who had failed before and who was failing again. The student could not read. She came from a family without means to take her to a larger city for examination to determine whether she had a problem that could be remedied. Sensing that the difficulty might lie with the girl’s eyes, the young teacher arranged to take the student, at the teacher’s own expense, to have her eyes tested. A deficiency was discovered that could be corrected with glasses. Soon an entire new world opened to the student. For the first time in her life, she saw clearly the words before her. The salary of that country schoolteacher was meager, but out of the little she had, she made an investment that completely changed the life of a failing student, and in doing so she found a new dimension in her own life.
As you so serve, a new dimension will be added to your life. You will find new and stimulating associations. You will find friendship and sociality. You will grow in knowledge and understanding and wisdom, and in your capacity to do.
This anecdote from the manual reminded me of the story of Patricia Polocco – children’s book author and artist. For a long time, she had a really hard time reading and was the victim of a lot of bullying. But then one day a teacher really saw her and cared – he didn’t just sweep her along to the next teacher, but he saw her struggles, observed her closely, and realized that something else was going on here – she was dyslexic. This moment when this teacher went out of his way to help her changed her life. She tells her story in the book, Thank You, Mr. Falker.
I find books like Patricia Polocco’s to be great tools for talking to my kids about kindness and compassion.
Question: Do any of you have ideas of ways to teach charity or compassion to young people? What have you seen to be effective or think might be effective in terms of inspiring young people to open their hearts to people and reach out in kindness to others?
Other discussion questions to consider including at some point in the lesson:
- How do you balance out the undeniable goodness and rightness of helping others/being kind to others with our need for self-care, pursuing our own passions, etc.?
- The title of this lesson is “Losing Ourselves in the Service of Others.” Do you feel like you lose yourself when you serve? What other words might work just as well as “lose?” Become yourself? Grow into yourself? Find yourself (President Hinckley uses this one in section 3)? Do any of these work just as well for you?
End with the words and thoughts of the wonderful Chieko Okazaki who ties together all the themes we talked about today: Jesus as an exemplar, the importance of paying attention to small scale, individual needs, moving beyond paralysis, and feeling empowered to make a difference in other people’s lives. I loved her reflections on charitable service in a talk called “Spit, Mud, and Kigatsu.” It’s long so you may want to summarize or pare this excerpt down in some way, but I just love how she pulls such useful and practical lessons from the scriptures.
You are powerful! Where does that power come from to “do many things of [our] own free will”? It comes from the Savior himself. Feel that desire to serve in your own heart. Sense within yourself that strength to choose!
Remember Jesus healing the blind beggar. He spat on the ground, rubbed the mud on the man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash [your face] in the pool of Siloam.” (See John 9:1–7.)
My sisters, this story has a lesson about service in it for us. First, remember that Jesus and the man didn’t have an appointment. They encountered each other almost by accident. So look for little opportunities in your daily life.
Second, Jesus saw the need of an individual. Sometimes I think we see programs instead of individuals.
Third, Jesus performed the service immediately with just the resources he had—spit and mud and a desire to help. He didn’t transport the man to an exotic medical facility, organize a cornea transplant team, or didn’t make it into a media event. Sometimes we think we can’t serve because we’re not rich enough, not educated enough, not old enough, or not young enough. Remember, if we have the desire to serve, then our bare hands, a little spit, and a little dirt are enough to make a miracle.
And fourth, Jesus didn’t just dump that service on the man and walk away. He gave that man a way to exercise faith and strengthen the faith he had by asking him to participate in his own healing. It was a simple thing—washing in the pool of Siloam. But what if the man had refused? Jesus took that risk and let the man participate in his own miracle.
Please contribute any ideas you may have in the comments!