“Three to Get Ready,” New Era, Feb. 1998, 12
Before long, a shiny new chapel will be completed in Paterson, New Jersey. It’s currently under construction, and all the Church members in the Garden State’s third largest city are pretty excited.
But for now, members of the Paterson Second Branch still attend church in the annex of the Paterson City Hall, a building the branch rents for its meetings.
And though some members may not notice, the annex is cleaner than any other building on the street.
Fourteen-year-old Hector “Tito” Hernandez knows why.
In downtown Paterson, and especially on Market Street, where the annex is located, pigeons gather everywhere and leave—ahem—their marks on the buildings. Although clean on the inside, the outside leaves something to be desired.
When Tito joined the Church three years ago, he first attended the Caldwell Ward. When he moved into the Paterson Second Branch, he noticed how messy the annex’s exterior was. That started him to thinking. After discussions with his branch president, Tito decided what needed to be done.
So each Friday, Tito shows up at the building to make sure it is clean for Sunday services.
A little hot water, some soap, and a lot of effort on the granite building always do the trick. Even the mailbox, which sits right outside the front door, gets the treatment. At first, due to years of neglect, Tito had his work cut out for him. “The first couple of times were hard. But every week that went by, it got easier and easier,” he says.
“We want people to join our church,” Tito adds. “It makes me feel pretty good because I know [nonmembers] look at our church. I want the building to look nice for them.”
The routine is set. Tito gets out of school then either walks, rides his bike, or gets a ride downtown from his home on 10th Avenue. It might be 95 degrees outside or the wind could be howling while snow falls. It doesn’t matter. Tito is going to be there cleaning the place.
And Tito isn’t working solo any more. What started out as a project by himself has evolved. Now he’s enlisted the help of fellow ward members Jose Jimenez and Jose’s younger brother, Edwin. The trio arrive at the building, and the caretaker lets them in. They grab the familiar red bucket, fill it with soap and water, and head out the door for a few minutes of cleaning. The boys, huge sports fans, then fill their cleaning time with discussions about which basketball player has the best jump shot or who is baseball’s best shortstop.
Funny how fast the time goes when you’re doing something worthwhile.
Funny how good they all feel when they’ve finished the job.
“We do it for free,” says Jose, 13. “We want to because we do it for God.”
Tito and Jose also understand the importance of example as Aaronic Priesthood holders, especially for Edwin, who turns 12 later this year.
“Tito and Jose are teaching me how to become a deacon,” Edwin says. “They show me how the priesthood works. I want to be an honest, respectable young man.”
And sometimes being honorable and respectable means you have to be up to your armpits in suds.
The Savior taught “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matt. 20:27). Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve further teaches, “Service is an imperative for those who worship Jesus Christ. … I know that God expects us to work to purify our hearts and our thoughts so that we may serve one another for the highest and best reason, the pure love of Christ” (New Era, Mar. 1988, 5, 7).
Here are a few ideas of things you can do around your meetinghouse that will take little time but make a meaningful difference in the lives of your ward or branch members. Look around and see if you can do some of these.
Replace all hymnbooks into their slots before and after sacrament meeting.
Gather and throw away programs and handouts left behind on the benches.
Help older people to and from their cars.
If you live in a cold-weather area, go to the building early Sunday morning and make sure the walks are clear of snow and ice.
Offer to take a crying baby into the foyer or cry area so the parents can stay with their other children in the chapel.
Invite somebody sitting alone to join you and your family in sacrament meeting.
Stick around after an activity and help take down and put away tables and chairs.
Volunteer to coordinate the weeding of the garden on your building’s grounds, and then offer to plant flowers.
Be conscious of your surroundings. If you see litter on the floor or in the parking lot, pick it up and throw it away.