A few months ago, we started a new family dinner ritual. For years we would go through the typical, "What was your favorite part of the day?" or "What did you learn today?" and for years it bothered me - because all we're doing is talking and thinking about ourselves. And that seemed fully unsatisfying.
So we started asking the question, "Who did you serve today?" And unsurprisingly, at times, the answer was difficult to find, which was fine, because it lead us into discussions about gifts and talents and the purpose of living. Because whether we think about it often or not, our family has been gifted a great deal. We all have healthy minds and strong bodies, we are all talented and unique in our own way, and we have enough things to help us easily and comfortably survive each day.
Yet we are using these gifts and resources most often to serve and glorify ourselves. Which is sad. But not all that shocking.
In schools across America, signs advertise, "Got to college, so you can buy this" - a fancy car or luxurious vacations, commercials and advertisements encourage us to drive nicer cars, buy better appliances, and add more accessories to our phones, homes, and wardrobes. We are constantly evaluated by our personal achievements, the number of likes and followers we have obtained, and the depth and weight of accomplishments we're able to add to our resumes.
Yet, suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, "with increases in every age group except older adults."
I often wonder if it has less to do with happiness and more to do with purpose. Because once you've bought the nicer thing, gone to the exotic places, and slept with the prettiest people and your still empty, what then?
"How was your day," we ask, I ask, because we love our sons and daughters and we want to know how there day really was. Because we love them. But how much more important is it for them to consider how they helped make someone else's day? How they used their gifts and talents and time? Was it to serve others, or themselves?
"Who did you serve today?" we ask, and sometimes the answer is "nobody." Other times it's a friend or family member (often Zion's is helping Mom with Elias). Always it's a reminder that today we were given chances to use what we've been given to help others.
"Yes," Judah says, "I shoveled the neighbors walkway." And I smile. "Awesome," I say, giving him a high five, "well done buddy. Well done."
He takes a bite of his chicken, a smile hidden behind a pile of A1 sauce.
And I swear, in that moment, it's the best damn smile in the world.
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