Sunday, September 28, 2008

Service With a Smile

First off, I want to mention that the removed comment was simply a duplicate comment. I won't ever delete any one's valuable insight! Thank you all so much for your comments. I must confess that I was feeling a little discouraged earlier in the week and you each said something that was very useful and/or encouraging to me. Thank you so much. I feel so blessed to be in my shoes.
I want to share the circumstances behind today's topic.

As I previously mentioned, I felt like was directed to begin this blog. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While I have no intention of pushing my beliefs onto anyone of you, I will refer to its teachings and principles frequently. It is ingrained in every fiber of who I am and the life I live, so I cannot impart my experiences and musings without including pieces of my faith. But I pray that no one will be offended and that you will take away whatever good you find in it. Okay. So, a huge part of what I believe is "personal revelation", or that God will direct our lives in as much as we let Him. He does it through promptings and by placing thoughts in our minds to inspire us. That is how this blog came to be. I am a fairly open person, but all of this puts even me outside of my comfort zone.

Well, I was feeling frustrated last week because the blog wasn't going exactly as I expected and I was feeling a little lost and discouraged. As I prayed for direction, I kept feeling like I just needed to wait until Saturday night. Twice a year we are blessed to hear from the leaders of our church. They speak in Salt Lake City, Utah and it is broadcast all over the world. There is one meeting that is specifically for the women. That was last night. We listened to the three women who are leaders of the Relief Society--a huge organization of women, designed to bring relief to the poor and bring people to Christ. They each gave wonderful talks, but I'm not going to share them here. I want to discuss the *talk given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. When he began, I felt as though he were speaking just for me. I knew this was what God had been telling me to wait for. He spoke exactly about the purpose of this blog! He recognized that women too frequently doubt their abilities and achievements, leading to frustration and disappointment. He said that we were "created to experience the fullness of joy". "The fullness of joy"--that's what we're all here in search of! He taught that there are two principles to find the path to peace, happiness, and joy: 1. Create something beautiful, and 2. Be compassionate.

While I think both principles are equally worthwhile, today I want to focus on being compassionate, or serving. One of the main things I've learned about depression is that it feeds off of self-centeredness. I know that because I've been there. It's easy to get really down when you focus only on yourself. And the best antidote for that is to serve. Service forces you to focus on others. President Uchtdorf said, "when we reach out to bless the lives of others, our own lives are blessed as well. As we lift others, we rise a little ourselves." That is so true.

When my depression first began (and I was still in denial), I was working as a waitress. I was almost always in a horrible mood when I arrived, but I knew that grumpiness didn't earn good tips, so I forced a smile. I chatted with my customers about how they were doing and did all I could to ensure that their meal was as enjoyable as possible. This may not seem like true "service", because I was getting paid to do it, but I really did put all my effort into it. As a result, I did get higher tips, but I also was happy again before more than a couple hours passed. Then I would go home at the end of my shift and quickly sink back into my dark hole. Unfortunately, I didn't realize what the difference was until long after that job was over. My poor HH.

Another thing I've learned about depression is that when I'm really down, serving someone else seems nearly impossible. This is because of the lethargy that we've mentioned, and the negative self-talk (i.e. I have so little to offer, who would want it anyway?). But I know that it is more than worthwhile. I can't think of a single time that I've offered service and not been lifted from it.

What have you learned about the effects of service on your level of happiness? How do you get yourself past the feelings of tiredness and doubt and serve anyway? What are some of your favorite simple acts of service?

*I know this talk will be posted in its entirety within the next few weeks on I highly recommend reading it.


Jen said...

Cheryl - I heard that talk last night and though immediately of this blog. You are inspired!
I try to do simple acts of service -- I try to do my visiting teaching every month by visiting the sisters in their homes and leaving them a message; I talk to people and try to be friendly; and I try to think of other ways that I can help them and their needs and then, try to do them. Sometimes, I'm better at that than other times. . . . And, I try to serve in my Church calling and magnify it. Very simple.

Amy said...

Funny...I thought that talk was just for me. Just goes to show that there are too many women feeling sad.:)
I, too, felt that I needed to concenrate more on compassion and service. Keeping it simple is what I'm trying to do, like doing my visiting teaching and just stopping to talk to people I see. I am going to try to say positive and uplifting things to others. I hope that helps me to open my eyes to others instead of just myself. I love you, and thanks for this blog.

Nik said...

To me service translates to love and that can be expressed in so many different ways. That is especially important when I am with my family. For example I really don't like cooking because I have dyslexia and reading the ingredients list is so frustrating (thank goodness my husband enjoys cooking). So consequently, cooking can be very hard for me. When I cook I have to think of it as a service to my husband. Something that helps is to take time to pray and thank God that I have such a wonderful husband to cook for, and that ALWAYS takes away my frustration. It replaces my selfishness with thankfulness. I must say that I don't always do this, but when I do it completly kick me out of my badditude.

Cheryl, I have been a waitress a few times and I totally wish I had thought of it as a service (I am sure some of my customers would have appreciated that too!). As always thanks for sharing!

Kristen and Shawn said...

The talk was great. I too felt like it was directed somewhat at me. There have been 3 specific times in my life that I can remember that I was not so enthusiastic about the service that I was going to be involved in, but as each came and went I was a happier person after and learned something in the process. As we serve others we forget about ourselves and focus more on others. Service doesn't have to be something big. My husband is the ultimate example to me of service. It sometimes is the little things that really matter. Like giving someone a compliment or helping someone across the street. I know that we will be blessed for helping others. Soon as we look for ways to serve it won't really be service it will be a part of us. As women most of us a naturally comppasionate to others. Sometimes it just take a little work to bring it out in us.

Anna Cosby said...

So funny. I was sitting at the broadcast and had had a pretty tiring week due to some...lots of service opportunities I had accepted. I think at least 4 days that week I had fed someone or watched someone, etc. And I was having a bit of a pity party because of it. Then I listened to his talk and thought, okay, I can do more...maybe not physically, but I can do more by changing my attitude. Anyway, I loved it.