Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hummingbirds, Gratitude, and Service

A recent weekend found me doing work projects at a Boy Scout camp, something I have done regularly since age 13. The camp was relatively quiet compared to my visits during the summer when it was filled with several hundred excited campers. Our small crew worked outside between rainstorms. Unlike my father, I'm not particularly handy. I'm usually relegated to doing grunt work under the direction of people that actually know what they're doing. Yet I persist.

In the evening we gathered around the hearth in the lodge. The camp director, who was an important mentor to me in my youth, told of filling the hummingbird feeder on the deck of the lodge a few weeks earlier and then watching the beautiful tiny birds take their fill of the abundant nectar he had provided.

In his mind's eye my friend could imagine the hummingbirds thinking that they had found the most beautiful and wonderful flower ever formed as they gloriously drank from its abundant supply. He didn't mind that they seemed oblivious to the fact that he had worked to provide that resource. Just the joy of watching the minuscule fowl enjoying the nectar was thanks enough for him.

The camp director then turned his gaze toward an open area of the camp that he could see from the lodge. At that moment boys were streaming to and from activities; some of them flitting about almost like little birds. It dawned on my friend that most of these boys were blissfully unaware of the vast effort that went into providing the experience they were enjoying. But the joy of just watching them enjoy the camp was thanks enough.

My first family vacation I can remember happened when I was about four years old. We went to Yellowstone. I remember seeing bears at the roadside and being upset that I didn't get a pocketknife as did my older brothers. I got a stuffed toy bear instead, that I played with for years until much of the sawdust stuffing leaked out. (And anyway, both of my brothers cut their thumbs within minutes of getting their knives.)

When I was about nine we went to Disneyland. We went there again when I was about 13. My parents mostly spent their time shepherding and keeping track of us kids. They rarely rode rides unless we made them. There were other family vacations over the years. Most of them seemed designed to cater to us kids.

When I was a sophomore in college my parents shocked us kids by installing a real in-ground swimming pool in their back yard, complete with diving board. Dad had loved swimming in his youth and my parents figured that a pool would be a good attraction for bringing kids and grandkids to their home as they aged.

They were right about that. But I rarely saw my parents swim during the decades that they owned their pool. They worked tirelessly on cleaning and maintaining the pool, and doing all of the work of hosting frequent formal and informal family swimming parties. They put a lot of money into that pool over the years. But they almost never swam in it themselves.

This puzzled me for a long time. But I now realize that those family vacations and that swimming pool were, for my parents, much like the hummingbird feeder was for my camp director friend. They were willing to put in the effort and expense for the sheer enjoyment of watching us enjoy these offerings, even if we seemed as heedless as the hummingbirds.

I think that's what our Heavenly Father is like too. He knows that we can't adequately thank him for everything he does for and offers to us. Even the most aware among us is likely ignorant of many of the blessings God grants us daily out of his tremendous love for us. But God continues to bless us abundantly for the joy of watching us enjoy his blessings.

I guess that's why I do a lot of the service that I do in my family and community. Despite my inadequacies in serving, I still relish seeing my children and others garner some benefit and even some enjoyment as a result of what I do, even if they don't comprehend the effort involved. Just watching them is thanks enough.

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