Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bursting the Bubble

One of my favorite parts of married life is having a soulmate with whom I can share my dreams. When the morning light pours in, I love to groggily recount the crazy adventures that filled my sleep. In general, these conversations are fairly one-sided. Jason rarely remembers his dreams, or if perchance he does, he's certainly not telling. Recently, however, I've discovered a fellow dream-sharer. As of late, Talia can usually be found hogging my pillow instead of her own early in the morning. While I don't love having her sneak into bed with us (she's a thrasher), I do love how she'll suddenly start rambling as she starts to wake. Watching Talia mumble with her eyes half-shut, one might think that she's simply talking in her sleep. Listen carefully, and you'll realize that she's actually sharing her dreams.

While I find dreams fun and interesting, I generally don't take them particularly seriously. In contrast, last night's dream was troubling. I was traveling with a companion, walking a small distance behind, when this acquaintance was suddenly attacked by a large dog. Instead of intervening to help, I ran away and yelled for someone else to come and save her. In the critical moments when she most needed my rescue, I called 911 instead of becoming personally involved. Doubting my ability to help and fearful of being drawn into the battle, I stood back and watched from a safe distance. Even as I dreamed, I remember feeling ashamed of my cowardice.

When I woke up, I knew it was time to change. Regardless of whether this dream was a direct message or merely the byproduct of subconscious worry, I hope I will use it as a divine wake-up call.

It's time to burst the bubble.

In general, life in the Wheeler household is quite sheltered from the outside world. We don't pay for television, so we never watch the news. Only recently have we subscribed to a newspaper, and that only comes on the weekends. Major world events can and occasionally do happen while we remain completely unaware. While life in this protective bubble of ignorance can be quite idyllic, it is admittedly self-centered. The truth is, when we take the time to look beyond ourselves, we see people being attacked from all directions. Earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdown, war, famine, disease, unemployment, foreclosures, pornography, drugs, divorce--disasters strike both near and far. So the question is, what are we, what am I, going to do about it?

My heart is simply breaking for the people of Japan. I've literally shed tears thinking about the children whose parents didn't survive to pick them up from school. Yet what have I done besides yell for someone else to go and help?

It's time to burst the bubble.

In church yesterday we watched a video about the parable of the Good Samaritan. As the Levite stopped and gazed upon the wounded man, his eyes were filled with pity. Not wanting to walk by without doing anything at all, he tossed a coin in the man's direction. I'm tired of being the Levite. Instead of offering periodic tokens of sympathy, I want to be moved with compassion--moved to action.

I call myself Christian, but am I really following the injunction of my Savior to serve? "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. " (Matthew 25:35-36)

Surely I can do more. This is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly about. When the Savior comes again, I not only want to recognize His hands, but I want Him to recognize mine among those that cared. For He has promised, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (vs. 40)

Parenting has been particularly challenging lately. The children are really struggling to combat some damaging behaviors. Every time the girls resume fighting, it feels like we're losing the battle. During this past General Conference, I had two strong impressions: selfishness is the cause, and service is the answer.

But the kids aren't the only ones struggling: I likewise am guilty of self-defeating behavior. Every time I look around this chaotic house and covet those with a simpler life, I feel like I'm losing the battle. Yet the diagnosis is the same: selfishness is the disease, and service the antidote.

How can I complain that my kids are too loud while bombshells break the silence in Libya elsewhere? How dare I whine about my messy house when so many have lost their homes in Japan? After living in Zimbabwe, how could I ever feel that my life here is hard?

How quick we are to forget our blessings! Service will help us remember.

And so, now I am appealing for ideas. How can we answer the cries of those who need help? What meaningful service opportunities have you found? How have you helped your young children engage in service? And what do you hope to do next?

Please help me burst the bubble.


Ashlee said...

I have been thinking about this with my children as well. I want them to grow up in a house where they were actively involved in service so it feels natural and good to them as they leave the nest and venture out into the world. My parents were great examples of service, but we never all served TOGETHER, and that's something we'd really like for them. We actually decided last night to dedicate one FHE a month to service. Ours will not be as far reaching as Japan, but will rather tackle some of the problems here in our own backyard. We plan to visit the widows/other lonely people in the ward for starters... and we'll see where it goes from there. I hope it's a tradition that starts small but has an impact-- and I hope that it will grow. I hope you will post some of the things that you do! I would love to steal your ideas :)

Julie L said...

We had a similar discussion in Relief Society yesterday. One person recommended taking children with to visit shut-ins. Another sister piped up with a very strong, "NO!" Some older people get very nervous about small children around their very unchildproof belongings. I think the bottomline is to be aware of the needs of the children at the same time being aware of the needs of the person you're offering service to. Outdoor work in a flower garden may be a blessing for the aged, but it may be a curse if all the "weeds" were actually flowers not yet bloomed that were pulled up.

Saturday night we passed a woman on a street corner with a young child and a sign saying the shelters were full and she needed help. We drove past her and I felt bad I didn't even have a $5 in my pocket I could give her. Then yesterday during the lesson, I was asked to read the scriptures from Mosiah about not turning away a beggar because, after all, aren't we all beggars. Suddenly I found it difficult to read, because I felt so bad about not helping that woman.

I think there are many things you'll be able to think of to help - there are so many different ways we can serve. The important thing is to reach out and DO. I am the one who would run to call 911, myself. Your comments on top of yesterday's lessons were aimed directly at me. Thank you.

Brian and Tonya said...

Wow, great food for thought. As I'm just starting my family I'm so worried about how to raise my children to be good people and your right, service is the answer.

One of my sister in laws does meals on wheels every week and takes one of her daughters with her. I know a lot of stores are sending origami cranes to japan and donating money for every crane made (carters is one of them I think), primary childrens hospital is always accepting fleece blankets for their little patients, maybe your community has park clean up days where you can go pull weeds. And sometimes, just a friendly smile is all a person needs. One time brian and I were out to eat and a ragged older man came into the restaurant to use their restrooms and left. I still feel horrible for not following the prompting to invite him to sit and eat with us. I'm sure he could have used the food, but I think he could have used the companionship more.

Susie said...

I have a friend who, just yesterday, mentions she takes her children periodically to the nursing home to sing, play instruments, etc. to the older people there. She mentions that they initially complain about going but are always expressing gratitude after that they went. Don't ever discount the work you do as a mother and wife as not counting as service. It truly is a great act of service even if at times it doesn't feel that way.

The Favorite said...

One thing I always do is involve my children when we take people dinner or give people rides. They also go with me to a nursing home once a month to talk to all of "our grandmas and grandpas." We look for small acts of service as well as big ones like writing notes, giving flowers/cookies, shoveling snow, and more :) I think educating them about the world and how blessed they are is important.
Kara- you are so wonderful! thank you for your thoughts-I'm right there with you!