Monday, January 25, 2016

Serving the Unlovely

Did you make a New Year's resolution? How's it going for you? Did I just hear you groan?

Some folks (like me) decided to focus on a particular word instead of a resolution this year. I'm not big on resolutions--they set you up for failure--so I like this concept. I chose the word service for 2016, thinking that it meant the actual physical action of serving people. I have had an opportunity to physically do that, but dwelling on this word has taken me to a deeper dimension of service that I had never considered.
I'm a word geek, so I looked up the word, service to discover that it is an intangible commodity. Well, of course, I had to look those words up too. One of the definitions of intangible is something that cannot be grasped or touched.

A commodity is a useful or valuable thing, such as water or time.

Based on these definitions, I came to the conclusion that just because I don't physically serve doesn't mean I'm not serving. There is a precious commodity called time and what we do with it cannot be grasped (kind of like chasing the wind-see my last post).

Even though my days are full, God has given me opportunities to simply listen. To care. 
I'm a person who likes to do for people and who likes to get things done--so I assumed that "serving" meant to "do" for someone. But there are ways to "do" without actually doing anything physical.

Two opportunities presented themselves this week at work. The first involved a customer who is the epitome of a grumpy old man. 

He keeps meticulous records and disputes almost every bill. I generally have to patiently explain the bill, and he's fine. But this time it involved a prior partially paid bill. He was going to physically come to my office to set me straight. I dreaded it, but remained calm--even when he didn't.

Once we worked out the details, he commented on how much he was shaking, due to "high anxiety." I assumed that it was due to this episode. He told me that he was worried about his health, and shared those concerns with me.

They were legitimate--and somewhat serious--concerns. We sat down at the table, and I listened. I didn't ask him if I could pray for him (I'm not that bold--yet), but I took the time to listen and genuinely care. I asked questions and made him feel like he mattered. He felt that doctors treat senior citizens differently, and I agreed. He was surprised. 

I said, "You know, very often, senior citizens are treated as if they're stupid." 

His face registered surprise and he said, "Yes! And you know, I thought, 'Oh, I hope she's not like that!'" (meaning me)

"Oh, no! I have a great deal of respect for senior citizens. After all, I'm not too far away!"

Senior citizens in Prague-learning to edit Wikipedia
I think he left a little lighter than when he came in. Still worried about his health, but perhaps a little more assured of his value.

Service + Time = something valuable that cannot be grasped.

I had another opportunity to diffuse a tense moment later that week. This person seemed defensive, and I thought, "Boy, he has an attitude." Later that day, he came in again and began sharing some past history of a business gone bad--a business he had partnered with family in. He lost money and lost relationships. His "attitude of defensiveness" came with good reason. He had felt attacked by something I'd said. My listening (this time) without judging made him feel less anxious that he'd done something wrong.

Service can come in many forms--just like opportunities. The key to serving God is to look for those opportunities in whatever form they may take, because they're intangible--something you cannot see or touch. And time is the valuable commodity that opportunity needs.

The next time you want to run away from someone who is angry, defensive, or has an otherwise foul attitude for no apparent reason, step back and ask yourself if you are willing to invest a few moments to listen. 

You may discover that there is a reason. Betrayal. Deep hurt. High anxiety. Feeling undervalued, unloved or misunderstood. Jesus understood all of those things, and He sympathizes with compassion. We are to do the same.

We may be the only Jesus some people ever encounter. Are we going to turn our backs on them?

Blessings Along the Path,

Sharing this blog with some of these lovelies

Be sure to check out the January issue of Ruby for Women  e-zine (click on the link, or on the Ruby cover on the right side bar of this blog), where you'll find encouraging articles, inspiring stories, reflective poems, crafts, recipes, artwork, puzzles and more! My article, "What's in Your Perhaps?" is exclusive to Ruby and can be found on page 9.


  1. Yes, you have once again made me pause and ponder. And I like your idea that service isn't always an *act* we do, but can be the giving of time or listening or comfort. You handled these two situations with such grace. And you're right, you got the chance to be a little bit of *Jesus* to these two people.

    He never turned His back, and He calls us to the same attitude. To expand our borders to include those we might be (in our human nature) inclined to walk away from.


  2. many bitter people have something hurting inside, what great insight that your word "service" opened your eyes and heart to the hurting around you ..those you may have shunned or overlooked! What a great word..Jesus of course was the greatest servant, and we follow His footsteps..sounds like you have a real adventure ahead this year! Great post! Visiting today from nextdoor at #TestimonyTuesday

  3. What a beautiful gift you gave him, Mary. I love this story. At this stage of life and with young children, kind words and time are definitely my biggest acts of service toward family and friends. I hope your week is wonderful. May God bless your amazing work in 2016.

  4. This is a good lesson for us all. We never know the whole story. Your story of how you helped the older man will stay with me. Thank you for sharing.

  5. It's very informative and helpful. I love stories that can make me look at things in a different perspective.