How “100 Acts of Service” changed my Christmas

Christmas-2This Christmas was going to be different. I wasn’t going to allow the commercialism to get the best of me. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to the gift giving on Christmas morning just like the next mom. But I also know that I have often been caught up with the hustle and bustle of Christmas that so easily makes me forget others. I didn’t want that! I needed a plan… a plan our whole family could carry out.

I started pondering what to do right after Halloween. And a thought came so easily to my heart that I knew it was what our family was supposed to do this year. It was going to be our gift to the Christ Child. The more I thought about it the more excited I became. With anticipation I rounded my four children up for our weekly family night and presented the idea.

“How would you feel about setting a family goal to complete 100 acts of service by Christmas?” I said. They half excitedly half hesitantly agreed with me. 100 acts was a lot! I reassured them that I knew it was, but that with all of us working on this together we could do it! We all traced our hands on a poster, signed our names inside, wrote “100 Acts of Service” on the top and slapped it on our pantry door right in the middle of the kitchen! We were ready! But I don’t think any of us anticipated what would transpire in the next two months.

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We started to look for small daily acts of service. And believe it or not, they were there, everywhere. One day we decided to make a poster for our friend who was running a marathon. Another day my daughter bought a friend in her class ice cream and my kids brought the office at school a plate of cookies. When my third oldest gave all her money to my husband and I to spend at Christmas, we were touched. The joy of serving was becoming contagious. We were beginning to see the needs of others all around us. It was making this Christmas season well, sweeter.

Then Christmas Eve finally came. We sat around the living room and read the story of Christ’s Birth in Luke. After a few Christmas Carols I retrieved the poster from the door. I sat around with the kids and began to read the small simple acts of service one by one. As I did so, the kids would yell whose service it was. It was exciting.

“Gave a hitchhiker a ride, put up a friend’s chair at school, organized my teacher’s desk, helped a first grader carry his lunch tray, gave a friend a ride to the doctor, babysat for a friend when she had her baby, comforted a coworker, made mommy’s bed….” The list went on and on. It would be near impossible to list every act. But they were each special to us.

I finally read the final thing and we all looked at my husband for the tally. “Is that it?” he said. “Yes, how’d we do?” He smiled “118!” We did it! We met our goal and it was our gift to Jesus. It was the best thing we could have done to honor the life of Christ. He who spent his life serving. I realized that sometimes he served the multitudes, but most often he served one on one: healing the sick, comforting the weary, serving his friends. The thought “Serving others as He would have done” entered my mind. This year we spent less time worrying about Christmas “things” and more time on the true meaning of Christmas! We had felt the Christmas spirit.

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But our story doesn’t end here. It was a beautiful Christmas Eve, but I wondered if our service that we had done really made a difference. That answer came, and our family was shown that the small and simple acts do matter!

It started one morning when my daughter Macie was helping me make some muffins. I had this brief thought that I should save some and take a plate to church to give to someone. Macie was excited as this would be another act of service. When we arrived at church I put the muffins under the bench unsure of who to give them to. After the service, my husband and I looked around. We both came to notice a friend in the back. She was alone with her son as her husband had been in Florida a long time. I know she had been trying to find a job (which can be discouraging). My husband and I both looked at each other and nodded. We knew she was it! I asked Macie to give the muffins to her and that was that. In fact I didn’t think nothing of it from there on out.

Fast forward to another Sunday. We had some time for people to share their testimonies of Jesus Christ during the service. My friend came forward. When she stood at the microphone, she talked about how hard life had been and that she had been feeling down and discouraged. On one particular Sunday it was a rough morning. Her son was not cooperating and therefore she came to church without either of them having breakfast. She felt frustrated, lonely, and discouraged. But after the service, little Macie Stoddard came with a plate of muffins. We didn’t know that she didn’t have breakfast or that her son was hungry. But here were the muffins. She testified that God knows each of us and our circumstances. He was aware of her and her needs and she was reminded of that by a plate of muffins.

We all were crying! One simple act of service made a big difference in the lives of not only the Receiver but the Giver. In fact, it might have done more for the Giver. I don’t know if we will ever forget our experience or the spirit we felt that day.

The “100 acts of Service” was exactly the medicine our family needed this year. Our hearts changed as we looked to others and found ways to show love and kindness. You know, the whole time I thought it was the perfect Christmas gift to give to the Savior. But I don’t think it was that way at all. He actually gave it to us that early November day right after Halloween. He knew it was exactly the perfect gift for our family!

As the New Year approaches, may each of you find ways to give small and simple acts of service. I promise it will be the best gift you could give yourselves. Happy New Year!


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