A few weeks ago my small group at church was talking about serving others. As we went around the circle and talked about how we could serve people in Japan, something I kind of knew in a fuzzy way suddenly solidified in my mind: I don't know how to serve people in Japan.
The statement sounds strange. And it is.
I know how to serve people, I really do. It's just how to serve people in a way that is not burdensome.
For example, the other day I was walking down the snow-piled sidewalk. It had been a few days since people could get out to shovel so the snow corridor was even more narrow than usual. There wasn't even enough room for two people to walk side-by-side without scrapping against the snow walls. I saw an elderly woman walking towards me with a cane. I stopped to let her though before entering the corridor myself. This little old lady saw me stop and started hustling to get out of my way. Making a little old lady, with a cane, jog in the icy snow was not my intent. In fact, I achieved the exact opposite from my intent. I wanted to make this woman's day a bit easier, but ended up making it more difficult. It left me wondering it I should have run up and cut her off so she could take her time.
Other things, like bringing food to new mothers or sick people, creates a whole level of obligation. Dishes will be filled with treats for your family to say thank you. To me, it feels like it defeats the whole purpose of taking the food in the first place: lightening the load of someone in need.
I asked my small group about this and they were unanimous that these acts of service are appreciated. In fact hurrying down the road to get out of my way, or filling the casserole dish up with food is their way of showing appreciation. They were surprised when I said a "Thank you" would suffice in the States.
At the end of the conversation, I left with the same question I came with: how can I serve in a way that doesn't put extra burden on the one whose load I'm trying to lighten?
I'm not sure I have an answer. What do you think?