The first time I was aware of Relief Society compassionate service was when my little sister Shannon was born. I was ten years old, and while mom was recouping in the hospital, we remaining six kids were subjected to other moms’ cooking. We ate like kings that week: dessert every night! It was brilliant, and I knew the Church had to be true based solely on Sister Carol Holmes’ Swedish meatballs.
Since then I have taken my place in the ranks and have tried my hand at the usual services:
Missionaries for dinner: as long as salad in a bag and frozen lasagna counts, then yes, this has happened . . . once in the last ten years. I even let the sister missionaries take home the ranch dressing, because they had run out. (Extra points?)
Folding laundry for a sickly sister: folding other people’s laundry isn’t so bad—especially when you take the fun approach and find new, confusing ways of folding t-shirts and creating swans out of the kid’s underwear and socks in what can only be described as chaotic origami.
Dinner for family of six: and this is where I stop. Hard break, not gonna happen. It’s not that I don’t have the recipes to feed twenty on a $5 budget or that I don’t keep a stockpile of creams of chicken, mushroom, celery, eyes of newt or what have you. It’s just that it drains my soul to even think about it. I don’t even cook for myself let alone a whole swarm of monkeys. (No offense your kids are adorable.) You also don’t want me babysitting your kids; I get bored way too easily and lose interest in other people’s offspring. I’ve tried to be that person—it just isn’t in me.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the Compassionate Service directive and have benefited immensely from the services of dear sisters who positively radiate from preparing and cooking large vats of meals for those needing some extra support.
Whenever my sister-in-laws have a new kid, I’m sure to conveniently drop by after work to ‘see the baby’ and reluctantly help them with the leftovers. I’ve never gone so far as to ask who is bringing the meals beforehand, but if it’s Sister Mills, you better believe I’m baggin’ those Rice Krispie treats!
“There is something all can give.” Heeding these words, I’ve since embraced what I don’t do and instead came up with my own revamped form of compassionate service. Mainly because I don’t think people would appreciate Taco Bell when they’ve had pot roast and homemade buns brought to them the night before by the extraordinary Sister Bousha.
So, if cooking, baking, cleaning and child watching are out of the question, how can I serve? What talents can I offer?
The talent of distraction (I’m making this a real thing):
- I can make you laugh. If you just need me to come by and whisk you away for a quick walk, I will fill your head with trivial social nuances and celebrity anecdotes that just plain don’t matter. Because when you are overly stressed with the important things, sometimes it’s refreshing to laugh at the ridiculous. (I’m convinced this is why reality TV exists.)
- I’ll tell you how it really is. It’s a simple tactic really: when I lay on the crudiness of your situation nice and thick, sans sugar and sprinkles, you’ll be more apt to believe me when I tell you that your inner Rambo will come out and triumph — even if it stems from the pile of manure that you feel has been dumped on your doorstep.
- I’ll let you shout out expletives, and if you don’t know how I’ll teach you.
- I’ll take you to a gym to let out your pent up angst. I’m not talking about yoga or the latest dance craze. I’m talking about taping up your fists and pounding on the body bags. There I will introduce you to your alter ego (if you haven’t already met) and help you give her a credible name.
- Late night movie theater. Finding this season’s dumb comedy, packing on the snacks and taking over an empty theater does wonders for the soul. If the movie is a wash, you still get to eat licorice in the dark for two hours with no kids.
- I’ll let you ugly cry, AND I’ll pile on the mascara and eyeliner so that when I cry with you, I’ll look even uglier.
- I can’t knit you a scarf or pretend to want to babysit your kids — we have a full ward of wonderful and more responsible sisters for that — but I’m pretty open about all the muck I’ve been through, so you can always feel safe knowing I won’t judge.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you serve, only that you take the time to be there for someone who may really need your brand of [unconventional] thoughtfulness.