This is not an existential search for self…this is a plea for mothers and others to chose wisely between serving others and making others happy.
Making other people happy sounds lovely and very Christmas-y. We like to see other people smile. Making other people happy is a trap if that is our endgame. It relies on people, fickle people. It may entice us to change ourselves, change what we do and change what we want to do…on another’s whim. It is reactive. It is a constant reference to another’s wish list. Making other people happy is people based. It is trying to hit an ever moving target.
Serving other people is principle based. We are on God’s errand doing the right thing for another person. They may or may not appreciate it at the moment. They may or may not notice. It may be what they need and not what they want. Serving expands our hearts. It draws from us things only God could see there and more…what He places there, as we serve.
It’s easy to fall back into making other people happy even as we serve. it feels wonderful to have what you do, gratefully received. We love that. Jesus appreciated the 1 leper who came back gratefully, but He never changed what He did to draw out praise and gratitude. His mission is to save other people, not to be praised. He went about offering joy and love, not making people happy.
Every day I spend a large amount of time doing things for other people. I change diapers, dress and feed little darling people. How would my day look if I tried to make other people happy all day long?
The little darling wakes up and, remembering her birthday the day before, wants cupcakes for breakfast. She wants to watch a show even though it’s Sunday. After breakfast she wants to play playdough. She would like to play on the floor, on a puzzle with a book. She’s like to play with her sisters play doh and mix all of her sister’s play doh into a lovely gray.
For lunch she’d like to have cupcakes again. She has no need for a nap even though she’s been coughing all morning. She gets in a fight with her sister and wants whatever her sister is playing with. At dinner time she doesn’t want what everyone else is having. She is not at all interested in family prayer or bedtime, she is still trying to get over someone else sitting in her seat at dinner.
How would my role change if I thought my job was to make this little one happy? How does it change when I remember I’m trying to serve her?
Are the older people we try to please that much better?
Can we attend every event we are invited to? Can we help with everything we are asked to help with? Can we get people everything they ask for? When we do chose to help, do we help our way…or theirs?
Serving at Christmas instead of making other people happy will not necessarily mean fewer smiles around us. Serving other people at Christmas will involve saying no. It will also take us out of our way and out of our comfort zone, but not for the sole purpose of keeping another person in theirs. Instead we will be meeting someone in their frustrating, sad, hard moments and serving them there. They may not smile or say thanks.
Serving at Christmas instead of making others happy means that at the end of the day, if we have a chance to sit quietly by the tree with all the lights dim, we will be amazed at what we have been a part of and grateful for the love we have felt and shared. We will not be counting smiles we have been granted but instead we will be feeling peace.
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.