Recently we participated in something called The Weekend of Service. We picked a project and dedicated our day to working for a continuation school and a retirement home with a group of other people to show love, no strings attached. Just love, in the form of work.
This is our third Weekend of Service, each time we participate, it is one of the best days of our year, in strange ways. I believe we are created to connect and to use our strength and talents to practically help others, and when doing so, we feel right, we feel a sense of peace and deep good in our being. I believe any person, of any belief, feels this when they participating in helping others, it’s how we’re made, to connect and help.
Our church says on these weekends, The Church has left the Building. Because it’s the people who are the embodiment of Jesus, and his heart to to help people. Loving other is loving God.
It’s what I want my children not just to know, or agree with but to experience, hoping the actions of their hands will reach up inside to their hearts. And maybe it will be because their parents are asking them to at first, but I want it to make an imprint, like an etching on a clay bowl, a part of who they are. That others matter, so much so, that we’d make them know it with our bodies, our time, our sweat. In a world filled with addiction, I want their hearts and pursuits, their sense of well being to not be on consumption; the best and most of everything, the ultimate more of gathered items, whatever it is we unassumingly ingrain into our kids, the ultimate sport, travel, food, money, toys, games. But, maybe instead, or even in addition to, to learn that sometimes being empty handed, with palms willing to give, instead of wait for someone to fill it for them.
But–we can only lead by example, and hope they can learn the small, so quiet it hurts truths in life for themselves.
Our first project we showed up to was an old folks home. Andrew and Maria were given wheelbarrows to join 15 others creating a garden area. The boys and I joined a group of other adults and children, and on the way, we walked by an open door, 9 or 10 residents sat there in the sun sitting in their wheel chairs, most of them asleep. As Elijah and I kept walking, Finley lingered, watching them. “Mama….” he called to me. I thought, maybe hoped he would say something sweet, a kind thought about the people we were serving, but he just had a questions, “Mama…are they all…
“This way, buddy…”
Maria and Finley worked so hard, I was amazed. Elijah helped sometimes, on and off. He’d get into it, then would want to brush his hands off. “Even lifting dirt clods is serving the Lord, guys, and those people.”
“We know, mama.”
After lunch, we headed to a continuation school for kids who had a hard time in regular high school or became parents, there was a preschool attached. Our whole growth group that we meet with weekly was here, so it was so fun. SO FUN! Some of us worked on the garden which was adjacent to the fenced in preschool, so the boys could play while in our sight.
Meanwhile, the guys built a huge green house, re-did tile, painted, landscaped, and about 100 other projects making the school unrecognizable.
Even though the project was during nap time, the boys were such champs. They worked, they played. Finley did actual hard labor. While Andrew, Maria and I worked late into the afternoon, the boys found old, loose wheelbarrow wheels and raced them down dirt hills, laughing, and cheering when they made it to the bottom, over, and over again. 45 minutes, unstructured, self created wheeling. I joked with friends that they were happy little third world kids. They found a plastic trash can and took turns rolling each other in it, echoing out of the plastic with their laughter, and their crowing glory, as all the happy, dusty workers piled the remnants of the days work into the container sized dumpster, taller than two of me, the boys climbed up with us. Dirt under their necks orange evening light flaming the edges of the hair of their silhouettes. Things have changed from having babies to boys, a few people told Finley, “You’re a stud, we see you working so hard,” and he’s shy smile into the dirt while keeping the wheels of his wheelbarrow rolling. Life can be so paradox, like how dirt and hard work for people you don’t know can bring the most peace and joy.
At the end, just before the sun set, we felt that thing. That uncreatable joy, that freedom, as we sat looking around the school, calm in the air, pulling off dirt stained gloves, everyone tired, but alive.
We headed to pizza with friends, leaving what looks like a brand new school behind. And Elijah making eyes with his crush, Treasure. It was an amazing day, the best day. Life is so funny, sometimes. So often, we chase what we can never attain and only find the peace we long for in hidden places.
It wasn’t just the school or old folks home, but 12,000 volunteers, 600 sites, one weekend, millions of dollars in free labor, no strings attached.