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.
As I’ve grown older and applied this saying in varied ways, I’ve become an even greater believer in its power. At Christmastime, our family emphasizes this concept with an activity that lasts all month long. We draw upon Matthew 25:40 in teaching our children that when they serve others they are serving God. The scripture reads, “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
We have an empty manger holding a swaddled baby Jesus. As we see needs and fill them, we lay a piece of straw in the manger. It’s helped our family to have a visual of the Christ child’s empty and uncomfortable manger slowly being filled with hay by our simple acts. Throughout the rest of the year, we emphasize this concept in varied settings. We teach our children to pick up fallen paper towels in public restrooms or help clean up toys at someone’s home after they’ve played. They are simple, yet helpful, reminders that we can make other’s burdens lighter by seeing needs and filling them.
I recently listened to a story about a woman whose son passed away. She was in a deep state of mourning and found it hard to even complete basic tasks. One morning she looked out her window to see a young neighborhood boy mowing her lawn. She had not asked him to do so. She shared that he could have said, “If I can do anything, please don’t hesitate to call.” Although this was a kind gesture, she was confident she would not have called to ask him for help. The gift the young boy gave was received with such gratitude because he saw the need of an overgrown front yard and he filled it by mowing it.
Jesus was the perfect example of seeing a need and filling it. There are multiple experiences recorded in the scriptures of Him stopping and meeting people’s needs. In Matthew 9:35, it says, “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” He took the time in His ministry to see the needs of the one.
The second approach to seeing a need and filling it is filling the needs unseen by the eye. These needs can be less obvious. The list is long and the pains so very real and consuming. At one point in Christ’s ministry, a man name Jarius came to Jesus. He begged Jesus to come to his home, where his daughter lay dying. As Jesus went to follow him, He was surrounded by a throng of people. Luke 8:43-47 clearly and beautifully articulates a moment when Jesus Christ saw a need and filled it.
The scripture reads, “And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.”
In this story, Jesus Christ perceived, through the Spirit that He needed to stop. He was almost urgent about it, as his apostles tried to reason with him that it could’ve been the crowd. After this entire interaction, He could have continued on His path to Jarius’ daughter. I believe He instead saw a need and took time to fill it. He said to the woman in verse 48, “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.”
I recently had an experience which drove me to my knees in despair. I shared it with very few, as I instinctively retreated—keeping it buried within me. In my suffering, I received an email from a friend. She, feeling prompted, shared something she had learned in a class focused on the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As I read it, the Spirit spoke to me and called me to action. I followed through on that action and started to feel the healing power of Jesus Christ on my heart.
She reached out a few days later and told me she had been prompted for a couple weeks to reach out to me. We visited and I shared the experience with her. I expressed to her how the promptings she had, to send the email and to visit with me, had been promptings from the Spirit. The experience was so personal and tailor-made, I couldn’t help but ask my husband if he had spoken to her, asking her to reach out to me. It was not my husband; rather it was a loving Heavenly Father who prompted a dear friend to see an unseen need, reach out and fill it.
It is hard to see unseen needs, but it is possible. And when achieved, it blesses someone. A person feels seen by those who filled the needs. Better yet, one feels known and seen by an almighty God, who reaches out to us not only personally, but also through His children.
I believe that we can teach our children this same concept: to look outward like our Savior and this friend of mine did, to perceive the needs of others. My two oldest children sometimes feel nervous going to social settings without us (birthday parties for example). We taught them to find someone in the room who looks as nervous as they feel, to approach them and to ask if they want to play. This helps them look outside of themselves and to try to perceive the needs of others. We also pray to have a spiritual eye to see those who are in need of our help or our friendship. These are simple ways we’ve found to help our children develop the spiritual ability to perceive other’s needs.
Seeing unseen needs and filling them requires an element of vulnerability. It can be daunting to act on promptings, especially when we are unsure if they are promptings. Our children may be worried to reach out to someone only for them to say they are fine, or not want to play. The beauty about trying to see a need and fill it (visible or perceived), is that regardless of the outcome, that person feels seen and loved. Worst case scenario – that’s all it is. Best case scenario – we’ve helped fill another’s need. In my mind it’s a win-win.
Emily is the best friend and wife of Brian Blewitt. They love teaming-up with God to raise their three loving and lively children. They live in Michigan, where she tries to passionately live life as a musician, teacher, friend, exercise-lover and most importantly: a follower of Jesus Christ. She believes that God speaks to each of us and can directly guide us as we make choices, seek and act upon truth. One of her greatest desires is to help her family learn how God speaks to them individually, through the Holy Spirit.