• Birthday

  • Children’s books

  • Homeless

  • Chemo

How Serving Others Has Helped Our Family

About 3 weeks ago:
“You are going to do what?” asked my husband.

Every single day, for the past week, we performed an act of service, which we call a “Penny of Time” Adventure.

“Well, I am going to continue doing this every day.”  I understood the tone of disbelief.  These daily service opportunities have resulted with a bit more clutter in the house.   We, like everyone we know, have a busy schedule, and we already “do service” in other roles of our lives.

“Aren’t you going to get tired?” he pushed a bit further.

“Probably, but if we didn’t try to do one every day, what else would we be doing that will mean more?  If I don’t teach the boys to serve even when it is hard, am I missing out on teaching them something?” I was set on this and determined to do it.

“Okay,” he said.  “Then let’s do it.”

A month has passed.  As I reflected on the things that we did this past month through the “Penny of Time” Adventures, my thoughts fell into two categories:  the things we thought would happen and the surprising results of our month of serving.
  • As anyone of us would have predicted:  we drew closer as a family.  Serving together has definitely strengthened our family bonds.  When in a fight, my boys initiate the resolution and come to peace more often without me than with my help.  The Spirit is more obvious in our home.
  • I predicted that my 5 year old would increase his already mature desire to help.  That happened.   He is now pointing out to me others that he has noticed need service.  He came home from school one day and said, “We need to get a donation going for tennis shoes?”  When I asked him why, he responded with, “There are kids in PE that have to run around in their socks.”
  • I predicted that I would be busier.  That is true.  I have to be more deliberate with my time and plan things more in advance.  If I do this, then I can still have the time to be spontaneous along with completing the daily needs of life.
  • We experienced tender-hearted exchanges with friends and strangers.  An offered hand of help or friendship touches both parties in deep and meaningful ways.
  • My husband said last night, “All of you just seem so much happier now.”  That makes sense, and, seems, to me, to be a very natural outcome of this kind of project.
And, then there were the surprises along the way:
  • My youngest, the 3 year old of perpetual motion, comes to me and asks, “How can I help?” before he runs off to do something else like dismantle his dresser.  He is more kind, more likely to look out for younger kids rather than “get his way,” and he daily asks me what we are doing for our “Penny of Time.”  When we do something nice for some outside of our daily adventure, he asks, “Is this a penny, too?”  He is learning to recognize acts of service when he sees them.
  • Part of my kitchen counter has become the “Penny of Time” counter.  Materials, boxes to mail, notes to be delivered, maps to new places, and the snack bag that we take on our adventures are just a few of the items that seem to clutter the space
  • Previous to this month, my oldest son, the 5 year old, loved the rush of the buy.  But, it always faded quickly for him.  Almost immediately after he bought a toy, he wanted to return it to look for something different.  After this month of daily service opportunities, when given the opportunity to buy a toy, he has started to look past the packaging.  He has even started withholding making a purchase until he knows it is the toy he wants.  In fact, this month he decided to take all the money he saved and donated it to help children who are homeless.  What an unexpected change!
  • I catch myself, periodically, analyzing the budget trying to determine how much of our financial resources we can use for our daily service while also being reasonable in taking care of the family and the inevitable needs that come up in daily life.  Because of this, I find that I am faster to recognize resources other than money that can help with some of our needs to off-set financial expenses in serving.
  • The boys are learning to be empowered.  They are learning that they can have a positive impact on the world around them.  Both of them verbalize when they see injustice or things around them that seem wrong or need help.  Sometimes, their ideas are very big in scope and I do my best to shape a small experience around it rather than say, “Well, maybe when you get bigger we can do that.”
  • My children are learning about true sacrifice.  It can be hard to see them experience a sense of loss when they give away a prized toy.  They are learning how to serve, and see the benefits of that service, even when it may be hard to do.
  • For me, after this month, I don’t worry about the chronic pain in my arm.  I don’t worry about where we are going to get the money to fix the ongoing problems in the house.  Those stressors are still there; I just don’t stress about them as much, if at all, anymore.
  • The boys (and I) truly remember Penny. Without fail these days, one of them always mentions that we are remembering Penny when doing our “Penny of Time.” This comes from them. Not me. I’m not exactly sure what they mean when they say this. But it is a reminder to me of the precious nature of life and to be grateful for the inspiration to do this project, which has brought so much good into our lives.  Thank you, Penny!
The month is over, and we continue to go on our serving adventures.  The boys expect a “Penny of Time” Adventure every day.  Recently, I didn’t plan one using the excuse that we needed to focus on cleaning the house instead of an adventure.  They wouldn’t have it.  We completed a “Penny of Time” Adventure AND the chores, all within the time we had, because they felt like it was important to do.