To Serve or Be Served

If you have accomplished all that you have planned for yourself, you have not planned enough.

You know who said that? Me. Not too bad, huh?

At 49 years old, I have to admit I’m already into the second half of my life, right?  I mean I’m not exactly elderly, but I’m no spring chicken either. As I grow older, I have begun to think about how I want my later years to play out. I do enjoy pouring life into younger people. I think that they can benefit from my experiences… and I think hanging out with young people helps us stay young! I also believe the time comes as we grow older that we need to pass certain batons on to the next generation and watch as they take up the race. But, I’m not sure that means we just decide to look around for a good seat, plop down, and allow life to become a spectator sport…

As long as we have breath and even some physical ability left in our bodies, there is something we can do to serve others.

Recently, I participated in an annual event at my church called Serve Day. Once a year, we all come together on the same day to serve the people of our communities and be the hands and feet of Jesus. This year, more than 22,000 of us showed up. (We also had more than 300 other churches around the country and around the world join in with us! Super cool.) I helped out with a project that benefited a well-known organization called Operation Christmas Child.

If you have been in a cave since the 1990s, OCC is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse that takes shoe boxes filled with gifts to children in third world countries at Christmas time. The boxes are the foot in the door. The real aim is to share the gospel with those kids and their families.

As we got ready to put boxes together, I noticed an elderly man folding boxes, stuffing boxes, and preparing boxes for shipment. All from his scooter. This man could have easily said, “I’m old and can’t get around well. Let them serve me today.” I mean there were plenty of us who were serving folks just like him that day. But he didn’t. He did what he could do, and he had a blast doing it.

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At another site, volunteers were working to make some needed repairs to an elderly woman’s home. This woman is what we call a “shut-in”. She has severe respiratory disease, is on oxygen, and her prognosis is not so great. She has become a part of our online campus, and watches services on her computer from home.

Since becoming a part of our church in that way, she has decided that she wants to reach out to other shut-ins in our church and encourage and support them! The picture below shows one of our pastors baptizing this precious woman at her home on Serve Day… oxygen and all! The folks from our church were blessed to get to serve her on that day, but she’s not ready to stop serving others.

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The actions of these two senior saints reminds me of a quote from Edward Everett Hale:

“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.”

I once heard former pastor, author, and leadership guru, Dr. John Maxwell, say that he wants to be a lifelong learner. John is in his seventies. I happen to think he’s pretty wise already, so to hear him say he wants to keep learning made an impression. I think the tendency as we get older is to get to the point that we think we don’t need to learn from others anymore… especially from the younger generation. We want to share from our wealth of knowledge, but do we want to learn?

Getting older doesn’t have to mean that we just sit and hold court for anyone who is willing to listen. It doesn’t have to mean that we stop serving other people. Maybe we can’t do all we used to do, but we can do something.

Rocking chairs are for losers.

So what do you think?

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