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Joy in serving

On a recent Sunday it was announced in church that the Young Men and Young Women's activity that week would be a service project. In priesthood quorums and Relief Society the call went out to join in helping clean up the yard of a widow who was incapacitated and couldn't do the work herself. We were told to wear work clothes and bring gloves and tools.My husband and I and our 15-year-old arrived at 7 p.m. to find the cleanup already in high gear. At least 15 people were there, and by night's end at least 50 came armed with rakes, hoes, chain saws, pickup trucks, brooms and every other piece of equipment necessary to the task. The yard was in need, and everyone jumped in to help. Bushes were trimmed, weeds pulled, lawns mowed and edged, walks swept, dead tree branches removed and clutter thrown into a pickup to be carted to the dump.Several sisters went into the house to see what they could do there. In about an hour and a half, the yard was immaculate and the home's interior clean. The saying "many hands makes light work" translated into 50 people x 1.5 hours = 75 hours of yard and housework. At evening's end, the widow's neighbor came to retrieve a ladder and mentioned seeing tears of frustration over the passing years as a once independent, capable woman was less and less able to do for herself.Imagine: Individually giving just over one hour of time helped a sister whose needs were great. She was appreciative and grateful. Those that helped were equally appreciative and grateful. All were drawn closer together in the bonds of love.I often revel in the blessings of the gospel. But, practically speaking, nothing surpasses the reality that, in times of need, in well-functioning Mormon wards, there is an intricate network of individuals watching out for each other. They are eager and willing to help in just about every situation. How brilliantly Christ's church is organized. It is structured — and multilayered at that — to meet the needs of the individual members of each ward community. If members in a ward do their part, there are a plethora of human resources available: Visiting teachers (if a woman is in need), home teachers, a compassionate service leader, elders or high priest quorum leaders, three members of the Relief Society presidency, three members of the bishopric and a myriad of other ward members to assist.As best I can, I remember a story once told in a department meeting at BYU. The chairman described her graduate-school days in New York City. Each day when she finished school she faced a long walk home. Occasionally she took the bus when she went another way to purchase groceries. After shopping, over time, as she waited at the bus stop, she noticed a woman who invariably was sitting and peering out the window in the rundown apartment building across the street. After several weeks, one day, in typical Utah fashion, being ever friendly and eager to reach out to others, she waved to the woman. When the woman noticed the "friendly" gesture she immediately pulled the drapes. My friend never saw the drapes open or the woman at the window again although she frequented the bus stop for many months afterward.Why?That "friendly" wave told a solitary, older woman that she had been noticed — a terrifying prospect for a vulnerable, isolated person in a large impersonal city in an area rife with crime. She had no one to look out for her or care for her, let alone assist her in times of need. For her it was a terrifying and threatening thing to be noticed.I cannot ever remember feeling that way because I am a member of the Lord's church — a church that has been carefully organized to minister to the one. When I move to a new location I know I instantly have not only a spiritual home, but a place to go to meet people who will befriend and assist me. The few times I felt isolated or alone were usually times when I was too prideful to let others know of my needs. I missed out on sorely needed help and others lost out on the joy and blessings that come from serving.We are blessed in so many ways as members of Christ's church. As others reach out to us let us, in turn, reach out and serve others — in and out of the church — and perpetuate Christlike service in a world much in need of charity.