Saying “Can I Help?” (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, January 19, 2018

Among several other spiritual gifts, I have the spiritual “gift of helps” in abundance. That was one reason why I decided to do this project—A Year of Being Kind—in the year 2014. I really do enjoy helping people. When I think that the blog post below is right at the very beginning of the year, I get excited all over again. There is absolutely no reason why I cannot continue being kind to others right now, on a daily basis? Helping, being of service, being kind. We don’t have enough kindness in this country. Spread some kindness, if you can.

Saying “Can I Help?”

Posted on January 20, 2014 by chaplaineliza

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, January 19, 2014

helping tree

Saying “Can I Help?”

The Chicago area had a snowfall last night. Feathery, light dusting of snow. Several inches worth of the white stuff. Enough to make older people think twice before venturing out to church. Me, I enjoyed getting outside! The church I attend has a number of senior members, so there were not as many in attendance this morning. Our church has a traditional, liturgical service, with typical elements such as vestments, hymns, and organ. Today, we celebrated the second Sunday after Epiphany. (I sang with the choir, as usual.) The sermon revolved around the followers of John becoming curious about Jesus. “Come and see!” Just as the curious followers of Jesus were invited to come and see, we are, too.

After church, pretty much every week, a couple or several people from the congregation volunteer to host coffee hour. With attendance down today, I happened by the church kitchen immediately after service. I saw the woman hosting coffee hour today just beginning to set out everything on the tables. (Most weeks, all the serving dishes and drinks are set out by that time.) Her husband was not there at the moment, to assist. I smiled at her and heard the words coming from my mouth: “Can I help?”

She was so appreciative, and enthusiastically said “Yes, thank you!” I stripped off my choir robe, shoved it onto a hanger, and hurried to the kitchen. I grabbed the water, and the plates of coffee cake and bowls of grapes, and trotted them out to the table. I saw to the eating-end of the table, and she poured coffee, tea, and water at the other. I had fun, and made myself generally helpful. I re-filled coffee carafes, fetched serving utensils, did whatever else needed doing. I helped her clear off the tables, wash the dishes and carafes, and clean the kitchen. The church grew quiet as it emptied out. She and I had a wonderful time getting to know each other better as we tidied up.

I’ve read in theological books (like chapter 9 in the modern classic by Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline) that serving others is a good choice if someone wants to increase in spiritual disciplines. When I intentionally set out to make this year my year of serving, of finding ways to be kind, I knew that this would entail a good deal of fetching, carrying, listening, and helping. Even if I hadn’t prayed for God to send me specific service opportunities, I would still be helpful. Some Christian elders and people of discernment have told me that I indeed have the spiritual gift of helps. I’ve noticed for years this is something that I enjoy. I knew this propensity would aid me in the practice of being kind.

As I drove home, I realized that those words “Can I help?” came from my mouth without thinking. Just automatic. I was of service, before I even knew it.  God, thank You for putting me in the right place at the right time. Would that service could always be so fulfilling and joy-filled!


Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a meditation journey through Epiphany and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

(also published at .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons   from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)


Taxi Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, January 16, 2014

autumn road

autumn road

Taxi Service

The act of service I focused on today involved driving someone somewhere. More of an errand, and it wasn’t as if the person I drove couldn’t have taken public transportation. Nevertheless, I drove my youngest daughter to and from the community college, where she’ll start spring semester next week.

Have I mentioned that I used to drive commercially for a living? (At least, part-time. That wasn’t enough to live on, but it certainly helped cash flow in the family.) Thinking about the title of this blog post, that’s where the “taxi” part of my act of serving comes from. And “service?” A bit of a pun, but I wanted to write and think more in depth about serving. About taking the opportunity to be available for people.

To begin, I went to Richard Foster’s tremendous guide on the spiritual disciplines and Christian spirituality, Celebration of Discipline. His brief chapter on service is full of pithy quotes and penetrating insights into the place of service, and differing ways to serve in the world.

Sure, I could have gotten all ‘intellectual,’ and become fascinated by the words of various saints and their different takes on service, and the way Richard Foster incorporated them into the chapter. But that’s not the point. My point is to find out what Foster says about serving through transportation. He did talk about it, and gave this example that caused me to think hard about my whole activity of service, 365 days of service.

He spoke of the time he was in the “frantic final throes” of writing his doctoral dissertation. A friend called. The friend’s wife had taken their car, but the man needed to run several errands. He asked Foster whether he might have a ride to do the errands. Foster begrudgingly took the man around. Before leaving, he grabbed Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, just in case he might have a little time between errands. I’ll let Foster continue. “Through each errand I inwardly fretted and fumed at the loss of precious time. Finally, at a supermarket, the final stop, I waved my friend on, saying I would wait in the car. I picked up my book, opened it to the marker, and read these words: ‘The second service that one should perform for another in a Christian community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest service.’”

Through the power of narrative and example, Richard Foster gave us a marvelous definition and description of taxi service. Bonhoeffer’s words can also be construed to mean general acts of service as well, not just those of transportation. (Though taxi service was what Foster had been doing, at this specific time.) God, I am convicted both by Foster’s example as well as by Bonhoeffer’s words of advice and admonishment. I give thanks for the acts of service I find each day. Please, God, help me, show me some service to do tomorrow.