children, connection to Allah, generosity, helping others, Islam, reflections, service during quarantine, service projects

The Heart of Service: “I Get to Serve My Family”

Written by: Kendall A. | Umm Iman

When I think of the term “service,” the most immediate images that come to mind are serving food in a soup kitchen, donating clothing, and participating in a canned food drive. I think a lot of us associate the concept of “service” with something that we do for strangers, others, sometimes in faraway lands–people whom we may or may not ever see, but whose lives we hope to impact in some beautiful way.

Yet, there is a service that is more direct, more personal, and more immediately felt. A service to people whom we can see, and see consistently. People who directly benefit from out service, but whom also absorb the attitude behind that service. Can you guess who those people might be? Ding, ding, ding! You got it: it is our family members!

For those of us who are normally stay-at-home parents, and for all of us who are currently staying home to stay safe in the Pandemic, we have an opportunity to serve our families day in and day out, with each meal that we prepare, each clothing article that we wash, each dollar that we earn to provide for them, and each moment of quality time we spend with our loved ones. Our lives are an opportunity to be of service to others, namely to our families.

However, it is not enough to just go through the motions of these tasks that can certainly feel mundane as the days, weeks, and months pass by. In order for the beauty and reward of this service to truly be felt, we must harbor a beautiful attitude, a smile, and patience in carrying out these labors of love. We want our children, spouses, parents, extended family members, neighbors, etc. to feel that our service toward them is anything but a burden and rather, a sincere act of love. We want them to think, feel, and know that we are happy and grateful at the opportunity to be in their lives in a such a meaningful way. We want them to see that we feel genuine joy in putting a smile on their faces.

Of course, it is not always possible or as simple as maintaining a smile when we don’t feel motivated to serve or our efforts are met with ingratitude–when young children seem to demand with little thanks or elders belittle our efforts. In response, I would urge us to remember for whom the service is really for. Our life’s purpose is worship Allah swt. That is first achieved through our obedience and devotion to Him, and secondly, through the beauty of our relationships and character with other people. Naturally, it is encouraging to hear a word of praise or thanks from others, but the true reward lies with Allah swt whether it is acknowledged by people or not. Our hearts should smile and continue to serve with happiness, because we are earning pleasure with our Lord, even if it goes unnoticed with the recipients of our kindness.

A friend of mine passed away earlier this year, leaving behind a son. What stands out most to me in my memories of her is how she showed up. She could always be found with a smile pressed to her lips, a helping hand to lend the teachers at his school, an accepted invitation to lead programs for children in the community. She lived in a state of beautiful, intentional, and joyful service in her role as a mother. Her son was blessed to feel that love in his everyday interactions with her, and I know that this is what he must miss the most about her. (May Allah grant her jannah. Ameen.)

This is one of the many examples I seek to follow in my own interactions with my children. For them to find me with a smile as I wash the dishes, fold the laundry, clean the house, prepare crafts for them, and help them prepare for the day. I want to embody the phrase, “Alhumdulilah, I get to serve my family,” because there are some who no longer can…

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