Choosing to Serve

Mount St Mary’s Students volunteering at St Vincent DePaul in Philadelphia.

When you get a call from your child that begins, “I have something to tell you, but I’m afraid you’re going to hate me,” all kinds of things run through your mind in the seconds that it takes for you to swallow, blink, say a prayer, and respond, “I could never hate you.  What’s up?”  It’s the equivalent of your life passing before your eyes, but it’s your child’s future that you see instead of your past, all of the horrible possibilities.  There are so many sentences that could follow that exchange, and I’m very relieved to say that the one that my daughter proudly said did not surprise me at all.  “I’m thinking of taking off a year or so after graduation and becoming a FOCUS missionary instead of going directly to law school.”

There are certain moments in a parent’s life when you find your heart swelling with emotion over the person your child has become.  The older they get, and the more they accomplish, the more you marvel at the things they are able to do and all that they make of their lives.  Rebecca graduated from high school at the age of seventeen and embarked on the college career she had always planned.  She earns excellent grades, heads up a handful of organizations, volunteers endlessly, and has made quite a stellar name for herself both on and off campus.  As she grows into the woman I always knew she would be, she becomes the woman I wish I could be.

My daughter, Katie, building a wheelchair ramp for a stranger.

Many people talk about leading a life dedicated to serving others.  Few people actually do it in a way that really matters, but Rebecca does.  Every day.  This past weekend, she and a group of students from Mount St. Mary’s University spent the weekend literally living out the Corporal Works of Mercy by serving food in a shelter, visiting with the elderly, and volunteering at an event for men overcoming addiction.  ‘Hate’ her for wanting to spend a year in service to God and others?  I don’t think so.  Law school isn’t going anywhere; and soon enough, Rebecca will be working full time, married, and taking care of children of her own.  But when she graduates college as a barely twenty-year-old who has already accomplished more than many will accomplish in their entire lives, she will be able to hold her head up high and tell people, “I’m doing something better than going to law school.  I’m doing God’s work.”  I couldn’t be a prouder or happier mom, and the best part is that she has two sisters who are just as special as she is.

Mount St. Mary’s students visiting the elderly.

Think of what our world would be like if more young people were taught to serve others instead of always wanting more for themselves.  Many school systems across this country require students to obtain service hours before graduation, but there are strings.  In a great number of those school districts, volunteering for one’s church, or for any religious based organization, is prohibited.  Recently, a national organization for which I put in many hours myself every year, has begun prohibiting girls from earning their service awards through helping other non-profit organizations such as local fire departments.  Exactly what kind of “service” are children allowed to do these days?   How and where are they learning to put others first and to tend to the needs of those who can’t take care of themselves?  I doubt that many Americans under the age of fifty have ever done true acts of service.  Sure, we all volunteer at school or coach a sports team, but how many of us have worked at a soup kitchen, volunteered at a homeless shelter, or visited the sick or elderly who we don’t even know?

Does anyone even remember President Kennedy’s famous quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”?  He was speaking about service, as was President Reagan when he said “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”  I challenge everyone out there – every parent, every college and high school student, every young child – to find a way to serve others, to help someone.  Instead of relying on the government to fix everything, let’s start thinking of how we can step in and help people ourselves.  If every single person gave just a few days a year to be of service to others, our world would be a much different and enormously better place.  Everyone would see the world through the eyes of someone else, and more importantly, learn how it feels to actually do something phenomenal for one another, even if it’s as simple as sitting in a hospital and holding the hand of somebody with nobody else to be there for them.  So I ask, how are you being called to serve?

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at and on her web site

Amy’s books:  Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015)

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