I remember, very vividly, a conversation I had with my parents when I was a little girl. We were in the kitchen putting our dinner plates away after a big Sunday dinner. My mom said, “If you see someone working on something, such as putting dishes away, you help them. In doing so, you are seeing a need and filling it. Help them and don’t sit down until everyone can sit down.”
It was not the first time I heard them use that phrase; it was somewhat of a family theme. On Sunday evenings, we would have a family council and we would share times during the week when we had seen a need and filled it. There was a sense of accountability I felt as a child, knowing my parents wanted us to look for service opportunities and report back on them every week. During those councils, we would share our experiences and my parents would award one of us with a metal statue we called the happy warrior. They would award the statue to someone whom they had observed seeing a need and filling it. As a child, this concept resonated with me. I really enjoyed the ability to lighten the burden or job of someone else.
I think there are two ways to see a need and fill it. First, seeing the visible needs of others and filling them. And second, perceiving the unseen feelings of others and filling them. There are times when others’ needs are very visible: it may be a parent wrestling children in a line at the post office or on a pew during a church meeting or someone carrying something heavy and asking if we can help out. This concept can be taught to our children simply. I remember being taught in bathrooms, as we picked up paper towels thrown on the ground or wiped wet counter tops. I also remember being taught to stay after a church or school function and help put away folding chairs or dishes.