“Elf Nights,” Ensign, July 1986, 63
I have always received great joy from service, whether it was doing housework as a young girl for my mother or watching a friend’s children to give her a chance to relax. Now, with a family of my own, I have found a great way to teach my children about service.
Since the consolidated meeting schedule went into effect, our family holds a gospel-centered lesson on Sunday evening. On Monday nights, we hold family activities. Every other Monday night, we hold a “fun” activity—anything from a picnic in the park to popping popcorn and turning the lights out for a movie on television. On the alternate Monday nights, we play “elves” and do something for someone else—ward members or not, single, elderly, large families or small.
Our projects range from baking cookies to picking flowers from the garden to leave on someone’s doorstep. We use our imagination, sometimes making gifts that take the whole evening. These we deliver the next night. We have only two rules: (1) Each family member should have something to do (even the little ones can frost cupcakes), and (2) the service must be anonymous.
Keeping it a secret is often hard, but it can also be fun. It takes a lot of ingenuity to find a way to drop off a loaf of hot bread and make sure it is found before it cools—all without being caught. We come away with a warm feeling, often giggling as we imagine the surprised faces of the recipients.
Recognizing the spirit that accompanies service is reward enough. But an added bonus sometimes comes when one of our children overhears, “I found a gorgeous basket of vegetables on my porch yesterday. I don’t have the slightest idea who they’re from, but it sure feels good to know someone is thinking about me.”
We need to teach our children that time and friendship are important, too—stopping to visit or calling to say hello—but that is a separate lesson. Our Monday “elf nights” teach that those who serve need not be recognized to feel the joy of serving.
Our family is young, but we all look forward to choosing whom we will serve next. I hope as our children grow, these activities will help to instill in them the joy of serving others.—Name withheld upon request