When I was in my first year at BYU, I was asked to be the SWAT team leader for my dorm floor. Sounds like a made-up, freshman-dorm community-building assignment doesn’t it? It was actually one of the coolest things I got to do at BYU. The SWAT team was the Service Without A Trace team. There were three of us. Our job was to do little things for people through that first year to make them feel welcome and important, to make that transition to adulthood a little smoother for all of us.
Since I decided that I wanted to involve my kids in service so that they learn to notice the needs of others and to find meaningful little ways to serve them, I’ve decided to look for activities that allow me and my kids to serve both in and out of our home. These aren’t always “without a trace” in that we’re not trying to hide our service, but they are activities we’re doing to serve others without any expectation that the service will be returned or even that we get a pat on the back for our efforts. If you have an idea of something you have done to scatter sunshine or otherwise participate in a random act of kindness, I’d love to hear it! Please share it with me in the comments. Here are the suggestions for this week:
1. Buy a big box of thank-you notes. Send them all this week.
With it being Thanksgiving in the USA this week, I suppose expressing gratitude is very much on my mind. I bought a box of thank-you cards — 2 dozen of them! — at the store this week, and I’m working on sending them all. Some of them are for recent events, people to whom I needed to send thank-yous anyway. But the rest are for people who have made a difference in my life, even years ago, and I want to say thank you. Pausing to think about how many people have blessed my life has so much enhanced my feeling of gratitude as we celebrate this holiday. Moreover, I think it has so much meaning to people who receive them as well. My mom taught elementary school for 37 years, and she retired 9 years ago. She still occasionally receives thank-you notes from former students, and they truly make her day. We all need to be appreciated, so here’s a small service to help spread that joy.
2. Keep a promise.
This is one of the greatest ways we can make the world a better place. Sometimes I have promised my kids that we’ll play a game or bake cookies or some other fun activity “later.” And they, unfortunately, knew that means maybe, but probably not, simply because I haven’t always followed through as I should have. I’ve been making a concerted effort to follow through on those promises instead of forgetting them, and what a difference it’s made for all of s. And those are relatively little promises in the scheme of life. Think back to the promises you made to your spouse on your wedding day, or promises you made to an employer or a friend or a parent. How are you doing with REALLY following through on the promises you made — all of the promise, from the big parts to the smallest details? Make an effort this week to really fulfill your promises, and particularly to fulfill one that has been forgotten or simply set aside. The change in how you feel is profound.