If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be;
if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
. . . whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant . . .
As I try to rewire my kids' (and my own) natural bent toward self, I'm coming to see that the words we use can be changed, ever so simply, to convey an attitude that is ready to serve.
Years ago, my Aunt Marlene taught me the beauty of this habit when she demonstrated how to graciously receive an invitation to someone's home. It's quite natural to say, "Can I bring anything?" But this has a way of leaving the responsibility in the host's hands. The host can go out on a limb and say, "Well, yes, actually you can . . ." or put you at ease and say, "Oh, no, that's okay." But if we reword that just a tad, we reveal our desire to help: "What can I bring?" The question isn't whether we will help, but how we will help.
With this concept in mind, I've taught my kids to use a servant phrase when we tidy up the house. Rather than using the hopeful exit phrase, "Is that all?" or "Am I done?" I ask them to say, "What can I do next?" (Sometimes I make them say, "What can I do next, darling Mother dearest?" And sometimes they think it's funny.)
Last night as we tidied up the house before bed, I even pulled out the chocolate. (We find chocolate to be highly motivating in our home.) Every time I heard the magic phrase, "What can I do next?" my child was given his next task . . . and a chocolate chip to toss into his mouth on the way. (Drew and Bethie have outgrown this, of course, but still appreciate the joy of stuffing their hands into the chocolate jar while working.) A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, you know.
Although it takes drilling, my older kids are finally catching on. Drew walks into the room, with a "What can I do next, Mom?" and a more observant nature. He sees that Avery is struggling (surprise, surprise) and diverts her attention with a game or activity. He sees that I'm tired at the end of the day and puts the kettle on. We are learning.
Serving is about seeing, asking, and doing. And so I pray that my kids will see the need, ask how they can help, and eagerly put their (chocolate covered) hands to the task.