What I Learned about Service

“What I Learned about Service,” Ensign, Oct. 1983, 17

What I Learned about Service

A few years ago I considered Mosiah’s charge to serve God by serving my fellow beings (Mosiah 2:17) as one for those less busy than myself. When asked to participate in welfare projects, I always discovered a reason for not accepting. Then I found myself needing the kind of help I had carelessly failed to give to others.

It was Friday, 10 October 1980. I felt good about what I had accomplished at work, and since it was Friday, I decided to leave early and return home to my wife and four children. I drove into the driveway and noticed a rather large pile of unsplit firewood. Ambition still high, I began to split the wood before dinner. At age 26, life was good. I could never have imagined what the following days would bring.

The evening hours passed quickly, and we were ready to retire for the night. On my back in bed, I turned my head up. Suddenly, an excruciating pain hit my right forehead. Within minutes I requested a blessing, after which I was carried by ambulance to a hospital in Boise. Somehow the simple motion had caused an aneurysm in a blood vessel in my brain to burst—a cerebral hemorrhage, the doctor called it.

Semiconscious for two days after reaching Boise, I didn’t realize that several ward members were busily performing numerous acts of service on my behalf.

Within minutes after the ambulance arrived, a young mother with a family of her own came to stay with my children so my wife could be with me at the hospital. This mother came willingly, not knowing if she would be needed the entire night.

Another friend drove my wife seventy-five miles to Boise, not returning home again until dawn. On Sunday, still another friend, upon hearing of my illness, left priesthood meeting in tears and knelt in prayer on my behalf.

In the days and months ahead, help came from various directions: a bishop who kept constant surveillance of my family’s needs; home teachers who gave me a blessing that brought me courage and strength; a Relief Society president who coordinated with visiting teachers in organizing meals, child care, and transportation to and from Boise; an elders quorum presidency who brought us some of their food storage; a ward member who gave a big barrel of split kindling for our wood stove; an elder in my quorum who came to help winterize our home. Later, my mother, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law traveled five hundred miles to take turns staying with my family, and loving relatives gave of their means to help us with the winter expenses. As Christmas approached, unknown people gave two Christmas boxes to our mailman, knowing that four tiny children were expecting Santa.

Our family received more help and loving support than I can accurately describe. I wondered at the time, “Why so many? Why was so much help given to us, a family of no social importance?” Then one day I read what Christ told us in Matthew 25:40: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” [Matt. 25:40] That was my answer.

Several months have come and gone, and I often reflect on the many days I shed tears in thankfulness, trying to think of appropriate ways to thank those good people. I’ve finally determined that the best way is to pass on the love they shared with me. When called to administer to the sick or serve on a welfare assignment, I will go. If my wife needs my support in her compassionate service, she has it. If anyone needs a ride, or firewood, or food—I will find a way to meet the need.

I’ve learned, from those who’ve known all along, that the smallest act of service means more to those in need than words can begin to explain. To those who so unselfishly gave of their love I can only say thank you and then dedicate a portion of my life to following their example.

Illustrated by Gregory Thomas