Here's another blog from me about 'The Five Love Languages' as described by Gary Chapman - http://www.5lovelanguages.com/. This time I'm thinking about what he calls 'Acts of Service'. In a way this one's the opposite of 'Words of Affirmation' which I described last time, because rather than appreciating kind and positive words, someone whose Love Language is Acts of Service appreciates kind actions - things done for them, to help them out and bless them.
I appreciate people doing nice stuff for me as much as the next person, and I'm certainly never going to say no to anyone who offers to do some gardening (I HATE IT!), but Acts of Service come right in the middle for me as far as Love Languages go. Words of Affirmation (see blog on 25th June) and Quality Time (still to come) are much more important to me.
As a single person living on my own though, there are LOTS of times I can think of when Acts of Service would be very handy indeed.
A few years ago I ordered a new fridge. It was delivered by a nice man in a big lorry. However, the nice man carried the fridge approximately 6 inches inside my front door, put it down, and was driving away in his big lorry before I could say "oi, you can't leave that there!" There was a great deal of pushing and shoving, a fair amount of sweat, and one or two slightly naughty words involved in getting the fridge from the front door to the kitchen...
When I moved into the Vicarage here, I decided to get a new dining room table and chairs. I ordered them online, and they arrived as flatpack. I decided to be a grown up. I could absolutely do this by myself. I am woman. I make table. It took the entire day. I broke some nails. But - a wooden table and 6 lovely chairs were duly created. I did it ALL BY MYSELF! (Yes, one of the chairs is seriously wobbly. Really, don't sit on that one if you come round. My dad mentions it every time he walks in the room. It does my head in. But what's a wobbly chair between friends?).
On that occasion I did feel pretty proud of myself for stepping up and doing it. Sometimes it's fun to play at being a grown up! But it isn't always possible, or there isn't time, or it's just a job that needs two people. I waited months for a blind to be fitted in my dining room because it just wasn't a job that could be done by someone with only two hands. (To be fair it was also because I'm terrified of using a drill. Not quite that grown up yet). One friend helpfully offered to lend me a drill, but I didn't want to borrow a drill. I wanted a person to wield the drill too.
Maybe I'm just an idealist, but I really think as Church we should be able to help one another out with this stuff. It's obviously not just about single people needing stuff done, and other people helping them do it, though I guess from my own perspective and that of this blog I'm thinking about that side of things more. But we all have different interests/gifts/skills etc and so it makes sense that we would help each other out when we can. It's like a giant, ongoing, free (well maybe cake instead of money) promise auction.
It's not like I want all the Acts of Service to be done for me, of course. I need all the help I can get with DIY and gardening, as you can see, but I can be relatively useful myself. If I can, I'll baby-sit, pet-sit or granny-sit. I'll happily lend books, shoes, car, household items or anything else I have that someone else would find useful. I love cooking and will make meals or puddings or cakes as requested. I'll do your shopping for you. I'll give lifts.
And surely - surely! - if we all just mucked in and offered the stuff we like and are good at, and asked for help with the stuff we can't manage, things ought to work out ok, didn't they?
But I guess maybe that's the problem. Maybe we don't offer help enough, because we're too busy doing our own stuff, or the thought never occurs to us, or it does occur to us but then we forget all about it, or we don't want to patronise, or we just can't be bothered, or 101 other things which are reasons but also excuses. And maybe we don't ask for help because we think we can probably do it so we'll wait and we'll do it, no, we will, one day soon... Or we're not sure who to ask, or we asked once and someone said no or didn't turn up so we're scared to ask again, or we don't want to seem needy, or probably more like 1001 different reasons we make in our heads.
Perhaps a good rule if we want to ask for help and that soundtrack is in our head, is to remember "not to say someone else's no for them" - that is, just ask! What's the worst that can happen? If we all try our best to be grown ups (no judgement intended there - I find it hard myself most days of the week) then we might get to the point where we can ask for help when we need it, and we can offer help when we're able. And maybe a lot more Acts of Service would get done.
And maybe my garden wouldn't be somewhere you could lose a small child in for a month...