We’re all busy, and life is really only going to get busier. So while we all recognize that service is very important and very good for both us and those we serve, it can’t be helped. We just don’t have time. Only, we do, actually. Are our lives ever so busy that we are justified in turning away someone in need?
In the beliefs of Mormonism, or of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, service doesn’t have to mean a three-week trip to Alabama to care for orphans (although it could very well be that). Service doesn’t have to be elaborate and massive, nor does it need to be planned for weeks in advance. Although those kinds of service are terrific, we shouldn’t restrict ourselves to them. Look for ways you can help out, even just around the house. Mom can always use someone willing to do the dishes or wipe off the counters. Take the dog on a walk even if you’re not asked to. Help your siblings with homework. Sure, these are little things, but you can take some pressure off of your family with everything you do to help out.
Look around for ways you can help out anywhere. Is there a volunteer opportunity? Take it! Is someone trying to organize a singing group and ends up with a gap you can fill? Fill it! Service is first and foremost about finding ways you can look outside yourself and look out for others instead.
Mormons believe that when we serve other people, we are in God’s service. We’re supposed to love everyone as much as we love ourselves—and love needs to be an active thing. It’s easy to stand up now and again and say you love everyone, but without kind acts to back it up, it can end up being pretty empty.
The Mormon Church has many opportunities for service within it. Most members have callings, which are assignments within the Church. These can cover everything from watching children in the nursery, to acting as a clerk, to presiding over the ward. When teenagers get callings, they tend to be pretty specific ones, such as being president over groups of teenagers their age. These are pretty important callings on their own, though, and offer good experience for later. The youth, also, usually have a service project running. Common ones are cleaning up the highway, raking yards, or collecting food for a local food bank.
Serving the poor and needy is especially important. Sometimes society tries to tell us that the poor are unimportant or that the poor deserve to be poor. Although we’re supposed to well beyond this intellectually, some people still think that being rich or poor depends on some kind of inherent quality. Service is another area where empathy really helps. You wouldn’t want people snubbing you as a loser if you fell into hard times. In Mormon beliefs, we are all spiritual brothers and sisters. We are all loved of God, no matter what our situation is.
Additionally, God told us that it’s not enough just to love those who love us. Loving those that hate us is something we should be striving for. Turning the other cheek and not retaliating is only part of this. If we can find out ways to do service to even our enemies, we should. They may thank us, they may not, but the fault won’t be on our side.