The importance of serving others can never be over emphasized. What are we here on earth for if not to serve our friends and loved ones? The golden rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
King Benjamin said, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17)
That’s a powerful statement and I love it. How many of us think of others who need help but we feel that we are too busy? In the middle of the day, when we are trying to get something done, have we ever answered the call for help when someone asked? If we happen to know that someone is feeling down or depressed and needs our support, do we stop what we’re doing and give a call to see how he or she is doing?
What if you were looking forward to an Olympic race and you had the opportunity to be one of the contestants? This would be “a once in a lifetime” experience. The idea of winning a trophy at such an event would be exciting. Would you drop everything you had worked so hard for and help someone in need rather than wining the race? Or would you finish the race first and then help the person in need? What if you had to choose between the two? I would like to relate a story of compassion.
The Seattle Special Olympics only had nine contestants that were ready to run a 100-yard dash. All of them were children that were physically or mentally handicapped. When the gun sounded, they took off, each one hoping to win the race. Joy filled their hearts as they thought about the reward at the finish line and how proud their parents would be if they were the one to win. Every parent and relative cheered them on, calling out their names and encouraging them. One of them would be able to display their son or daughter’s trophy in their living room for everyone to see.
As they ran, nearing the finish line, a boy stumbled and fell to the ground. Upon hearing the boy weep, the eight contestants slowed down and looked back. Their hearts went out to him and each one of them turned around and went back to help the young boy to his feet. All thoughts of winning had left their minds because a comrade was hurt.
A young girl with Down’s Syndrome kissed him on the cheek and said, “This will make it better.”
All nine contestants linked arms and walked together to the finish line. There was not a dry eye in the congregation when they saw this one act of compassion and love for another. Everyone in the Stadium stood, cheering and clapping with tears in their eyes.
What really matters in our lives is helping others. It is not where we serve, but how we serve, and we must serve with love. This poem touched my heart when I was in my youth and I would like to share it with you.
WHERE SHALL I SERVE TODAY
“Where shall I serve today?” I said,
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then He pointed me out a little spot and said,
“There, tend that for me.”
I said, “Oh no, not that,
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done.
Not that little spot for me.”
And the words He spoke, they were not stern.
He answered me tenderly,
“Little one, search that heart of thine
Art thou serving them or me?
Nazareth was just a little spot
And so was Galilee.”
–Meade McGuire (The Call of Duty, Ensign, May 1986, 37)
We have our rewards when we serve, rewards that bring us great joy. Sometimes service to others can change our lives tremendously, probably more than we ever imagined. Elder Jacob de Jager explained the importance of serving others and how it has its own rewards. He told a story about one of his ancestors who lived in a small village named Scheveningen near the seashore in Holland.
Many times fishing boats would have difficulties with storms and many lost their lives at sea. One evening when a fishing boat was in great distress during a storm, a rowboat was sent out to rescue the sailors. The winds were fierce and the waves were high. It took all their strength to row towards the fishing boat as the rain pounded upon the rescue team. The trip was successful but the rowboat was too small to rescue everyone. They would have to make a second trip back to the wrecked fishing boat.
When they arrived on shore, the rescue team was exhausted from fighting the strong winds and waves. They had no energy to make a second trip back to the boat. The captain of the coastguard then asked for volunteers. He needed strong men who could row the boat, men of perseverance.
Hans, a young nineteen-year-old, stepped forward and volunteered. He knew he had the strength to endure the trip.
His mother gasped in fear and said pleadingly, “Hans, please don’t go. Your father died at sea when you were four years old, and your older brother Pete has been reported missing at sea for more than three months now. You are the only son left to me!”
Hans understood his mother’s fears but he was one of very few men who were strong enough to make the trip. He knew the lives of the last few men were in his hands.
He looked into his mother’s eyes and said, “Mother, I feel I have to do this. It is my duty.”
Can you imagine how this mother felt? The fear… the anguish of possibly losing another son? Realizing the men in the fishing boat would drown, she allowed her son to take part in the rescue mission.
The storm was powerful and it took a long time to arrive at the boat. When an hour passed, Han’s mother became concerned about her son’s safety. Why was it taking so long? As the rowboat finally came into sight, she breathed a sigh of relief. The people on shore cheered as Hans made his way to shore. As they got closer, the coastguard asked if he had gotten everyone.
In answer, Hans called back, “Yes! And tell mother I have my brother Pete!” (Jacob de Jager, “You Never Know Who You May Save”, Ensign Magazine, Nov. 1976, 56)
Helping someone can be a simple decision or a tough one, depending on the situation, like Jacob de Jager’s ancestor. Sometimes the decision can be difficult, but Hans was willing to put his life at risk to save another. This act of selfless service turned out as a great reward.
Spencer W. Kimball said, “The measure of our love for our fellowman, and in a large sense, the measure of our love for the Lord, is what we do for one another and for the poor and distressed.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “And the Lord Called His People Zion”, Ensign, Dec. 1984)
The Savior said, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (John13:14 – 15)