Often, when teenagers join the church, they start to become more aware of what is going on in the world around them. As they participate in service projects through church and learn about the impact of service in their lessons, and as their love for the Savior grows, their hearts are filled with a desire to do even more. Class and quorum service projects don’t seem to be quite enough when your heart is burning with a desire to change the world.
Happily, service doesn’t require a calling or an assignment. You can change the world in big or small ways all on your own. Service can be big projects—taking care of a very sick child—or small projects, such as smiling at someone who seems sad. It can be done as a group, or alone. It can be planned or spontaneous.
Do you wonder if the small things you can do will matter? When there are millions of hungry children in the world today, will the three cans of soup you used your allowance to buy really make a difference if you donate it to a food bank? Gordon B. Hinckley, the prophet and president of the church, said, “I believe in the principle that I can make a difference in this world. It may be ever so small. But it will count for the greater good. The goodness of the world in which we live is the accumulated goodness of many small and seemingly inconsequential acts.” Gordon B. Hinckley, “I Believe,” Ensign, Aug 1992, 2
This means that while your three cans of soup won’t feed all the hungry people of the world, they will ease the hunger of a few people. If each person who could afford to feed others fed three people today, all the hungry people of the world would be fed. When Jesus lived on the earth, he helped all those he could. He couldn’t heal every sick person, or physically bless each child in the world, but he healed and blessed those he came across each day, and made an impact on those lives. We must never hold back our help simply because it might not be enough. There are those who need us, and our little bit of help will count for the greater good.
Service doesn’t have to be big and important. Can you invite someone to join your lunch table tomorrow who normally sits alone? That may not seem like a big contribution to a world with great need, but to that lonely person, it will be a service long remembered. When I was a young teenager, teams in gym class were chosen in a rather unkind way. Everyone lined up and the two best athletes were chosen as team captains. They called out names, one by one, of who they wanted on their teams. Those of us who were bad at sports dreaded that moment of standing there, pretending we didn’t care that we were being chosen last and that everyone would groan when we were chosen. One day, however, a popular team captain stood quietly for a moment, and then chose the worst player in the school as her first choice. Everyone stared in shock. However, when it was her turn to choose again, she once again chose the worst player remaining. She made all her choices in reverse—the worst were chosen first. To this day, the unexpected pleasure of being chosen first is remembered by the worst player in the school—me. It was a little thing that didn’t seem to change the world or matter very much, but it mattered to me and to the others chosen that day. I think it also mattered to those who watched in surprise as this young girl chose kindness over championship. We didn’t win the game, since the other team got all the best players, but that girl won something more important than the game.
She won the chance to make a difference.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.