Talks & Lessons: Making Time for Service, Serving to Make Time

This was written by Colin and given as a Sacrament Meeting talk on December 9, 2012. I (Jeannie) spoke this day, as well. You can find my talk here.

I’ve been told that there are three stages of adulthood defined by the availability of three resources: time, energy, and money. In the first stage, the young adult stage, we have plenty of time and energy, but no money. In the second stage, money becomes more abundant at the expense of our time. Energy is also relatively available still. As we advance to the third stage, we hope to have both money and time available, but our energy seems to have disappeared. As I feel like I fit best into stage 2, I would like to focus this talk on making time for service. But not only on making time for service, but the counter-intuitive notion of serving to make time.

So how do we make time for service?

[The Spiritual Pattern of Small and Simple Things]

For those of you who missed Elder Bednar’s talk at the 2011 women’s conference, let me tell you about the Spiritual Pattern of Small and Simple Things. Elder Bednar invited the women to consider a small phrase in Doctrine and Covenants 52:14. “I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations.” The phrase to consider is “a pattern in all things.”

Patterns make our lives simpler and more efficient by providing a way to pass on learning from one person to another as well as a way to apply previous knowledge to new problems. Patterns allow us to concisely explain complicated subjects by referring to recognizable pieces of the whole. Patterns help us to master our craft and become experts in our field. Consider attempting to recreate a wedding dress by just looking at a picture. There may be a small handful of people in the world who could perform such a feat, but most of us, even the very experienced, would fail without a pattern. And I would argue that those that can do it, only manage because they have mastered the patterns required. The same thing could be said for just about any other craft or field you could name: woodworking, engineering, building a business, various forms of art, even athletics. A great defensive lineman recognizes the offensive patterns as a football play unfolds and avoids being deceived by the opposing team.

From Elder Bednar’s talk:

Vital spiritual patterns are evident in the life of the Savior, in the scriptures, and in the teachings of living prophets and apostles. These spiritual patterns are now –and always have been– important aids to discernment and sources of direction and protection for faithful Latter-day Saints. And as we just learned, spiritual patterns are essential in avoiding the deception that is so pervasive in our world today.

A powerful pattern the Lord uses to advance His work and to tutor Heavenly Father’s children upon the earth is the theme for this Women’s Conference—“by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).

In contrast to what we so often observe in the world, the Lord ministers “one by one” (3 Nephi 11:15). He enables us to learn “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30). And He accomplishes His work by bringing to pass great things through small and simple means.

I believe many, if not all, of the most satisfying and memorable accomplishments in our homes, in the Church, in our jobs and professions, and in our communities will be the product of this important spiritual pattern—of simple and small things. We should find great comfort in the fact that ordinary people who faithfully, diligently, and consistently do simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results.

You may recall the talk by Elder Ballard in the most recent conference. He talked about his father’s bees.

It is estimated that to produce just one pound of honey, the average hive of 20,000 to 60,000 bees must collectively visit millions of flowers and travel the equivalent of two times around the world. Over its short lifetime of just a few weeks to four months, a single honeybee’s contribution of honey to its hive is a mere one-twelfth of one teaspoon.

Though seemingly insignificant when compared to the total, each bee’s one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey is vital to the life of the hive. The bees depend on each other. Work that would be overwhelming for a few bees to do becomes lighter because all of the bees faithfully do their part.

The Savior taught that the first and great commandment is:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. …
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37, 39–40).
The Savior’s words are simple, yet their meaning is profound and deeply significant. We are to love God and to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves. Imagine what good we can do in the world if we all join together, united as followers of Christ, anxiously and busily responding to the needs of others and serving those around us—our families, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens.

This is where the pattern of small and simple things begins to have an effect in our community and in our home. There will be times when large acts of service are required. These are important and have their place in the world in times of great need. However, small, regular acts of service performed by many people over many days can have a more profound spiritual effect on us and on those around us.

Elder Ballard continues:

These simple, daily acts of service may not seem like much in and of themselves, but when considered collectively they become just like the one-twelfth teaspoon of honey contributed by a single bee to the hive. There is power in our love for God and for His children, and when that love is tangibly manifest in millions of acts of Christian kindness, it will sweeten and nourish the world with the life-sustaining nectar of faith, hope, and charity.

It should be that simple. We should be able to give a few minutes of service each day. But why does it feel like I can’t even squeeze 5 minutes out of my day for service. I feel that the demands and desires of my life make it impossible to find time for service. And I’m not alone. Gallup’s Annual Lifestyle Poll shows that about half of Americans feel they generally do not have enough time to do the things they want to do in a day. I can assume, from this poll, that about half the people in this room feel the same way. My guess is most of you are stage 2 adults. The results of the poll don’t tell us that we have less objective time than earlier generations. In fact, with all the advances in household technology and work efficiency, we should have more time. What the poll shows is that we don’t perceive ourselves as time affluent. In our subjective perception of time, we are time-poor, or even experiencing a time famine.

[Serving to Make Time]

The solution to the problem is to change our perception of time. To show how the brain manipulates time, I will share a quote attributed to Albert Einstein as a layman’s explanation of relativity: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour.” Maybe you can relate directly to this quote, but if not we all have noticed times in our lives when time moves faster or slower depending on what we are doing or how we feel. So how do we manipulate our perception of time? A new psychological study suggests that if you feel time-poor, you should spend your time on others instead of yourself:

In the present experiments, we compared giving time to friends or strangers with wasting time, spending time on oneself, and even receiving “free” time. We found that giving time increases perceptions of having time—in both the present and the future—by increasing feelings of self-efficacy. This is welcome news in light of research showing the detrimental consequences of time pressure on happiness, stress levels, and prosocial behavior (deGraaf, 2003; Kasser & Sheldon, 2009). Although feeling starved for time generally leads individuals to prioritize spare hours for themselves, our results suggest that if people instead spent time on others, they might feel less time constrained and better able to complete their myriad tasks and responsibilities.

The authors ran a series of experiments to test people’s perception of time and found that people who spent time on others, either people they knew or even people they didn’t know, perceived that they had more time than people who spent it on themselves. And the conclusion of their study was very clear:

Our results demonstrate that the way time is spent can also affect time perception, and we identify a specific choice that individuals can make to lessen their experienced time pressure: Be effective by helping others. Decompressing in front of the television or getting a massage might be fun and relaxing, but activities like these are unlikely to increase feelings of self-efficacy. Indeed, people’s choice to spend additional leisure time on themselves may partly explain why the increase in leisure time in modern life has not increased people’s feelings of time affluence (Robinson & Godbey, 1999); our results indicate that spending time prosocially is more effective in relieving the pressure of time. When individuals feel time constrained, they should become more generous with their time—despite their inclination to be less so.

So if we can subjectively make time by spending time on others, how can we go about finding opportunities to provide service?

[Elder Ballard’s Challenge]

Elder Ballard issued the following challenge:

There is one simple daily practice that can make a difference for every member of the Church: … In your morning prayer each new day, ask Heavenly Father to guide you to recognize an opportunity to serve one of His precious children. Then go throughout the day with your heart full of faith and love, looking for someone to help. Stay focused, just like the honeybees focus on the flowers from which to gather nectar and pollen. If you do this, your spiritual sensitivities will be enlarged and you will discover opportunities to serve that you never before realized were possible.

If every person in this room is blessed with the opportunity to perform service for just 5 minutes a day, every day this week, I estimate that we will have performed 150 man-hours of service before our next sacrament meeting. Elder Ballard says to “stay focused.” Be like a honeybee focusing on the flowers.

[Helping in the Vineyard]

If your lifestyle doesn’t get you out of the house every day, there are many opportunities for service online through the church’s service website called “Helping in the Vineyard” which can be found at vineyard.lds.org. The church has tasked all of its departments with breaking projects into small bits and submitting them to the new website as available service projects.

You can spend as little as 5 minutes on an online service project. You can contribute music, videos, or photography. If you speak another language, you can translate documents. If you have software development skills, you can join the LDS Tech community and help develop the church’s databases and applications. Even if you are not skilled at any of these tasks, you can help by adding search words to images, indexing historical records, or doing other forms of research. You can even help students learn English through online conversation practice.

[Conclusion]

During the past few weeks, I took up Elder Ballard’s challenge to pray for service opportunities. The opportunities the Lord has blessed me with range from spending 2 seconds helping a stranger get her shopping cart unstuck to spending many hours configuring a new computer for a member of my extended family.

Heavenly Father will provide you with service opportunities if you ask for them, and if you keep focused, just like the honeybee. If we all stay focused on service, our small deeds will add up to great rewards for us and for those around us. In addition to the blessings to our community, we will feel the blessings of time-affluence. And even the stage-two adults will feel like they have extra time.

[References]

Ballard, 2012. Be Anxiously Engaged
Bednar, 2011. The Spiritual Pattern of Small and Simple Things
Mogilner, Chance, and Morton, 2011. Giving Time Gives You Time, Psychological Science, October 2012
Psyblog, 2012. A Counter-Intuitive Remedy to Feeling Short of Time

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *