There’s yellow paint on my front left bumper near the dent from the handicapped sign I hit in my daughter’s school parking lot. Not my finest moment. A couple of days later the power steering pump went out and when we took it in, they found an oil leak. $1700 later we picked it up and a few hours later someone rear-ended us on our way out of town. On our way back home, with two damaged bumpers, the battery died and we got home by begging a jump from a stranger.
At some point, my husband coyly said, “we are THAT family, you know.” I mustered my most evil eye and warned, “don’t even.”
And there are job stresses and parenting trials. There are fears about the future and mounting daily stresses.
I believe it’s called life.
And even though most are temporary, these first world problems are still frustrating.
You might be driving around with dented bumpers, too.
You might be wishing you had dented bumpers to drive.
You might need a job.
You might be suffocating in the one you have.
You might be stretched physically, financially, spiritually, emotionally.
You might be empty.
You might be full of it.
You might be sick.
You might be tired.
Or worse, you might be sick and tired.
We all have problems, big or small, we’ve got them all.
And it may sound bold, but I finally figured out how to solve all my problems.
I woke up the other day with a head cold, filled with exhaustion and dread and a grumbling heart. But I’d committed to drive my damaged van, loaded with new and old friends 49 miles miles from my house. We spent the day serving others in a stinky, hot room filled with eager women, an epic language barrier and a lot of gratitude.
I met women like Dalma who is 26 years old and has seven children and is from the country of Bhutan. She spent twenty years of her life in a refugee camp in Nepal. She loves learning to knit and has a bright smile.
And women like Su Meh who is 38 and the mother of 5. She spent fifteen years in a refugee camp and can show me a thing or two about knitting.
I met Me Waeh with a baby strapped to her and three other little girls at her feet. She wore a worried expression and I learned her husband was recently fired and there was an ugly $3000 cell phone bill hanging over their head because they didn’t understand the phone contract they had signed. Her greatest wish was to have a double stroller.
I didn’t think about my car or my small problems one time. And not only that, when I climbed back into my van, dirty and tired and stuck in traffic, I felt sheer joy. I was about to burst with the high that comes from serving. I could honestly say, “The Lord has done great things for us! We are glad!” Psalm 126:3. And I was ready to cry from the dose of perspective I’d been given.
This is the key to joy. I’m sure of it.
This is the answer to our problems.
Because when we serve others, we serve God. And He brings peace despite our circumstances. This is it. When we are feeling down and our problems overwhelm, the temptation to gripe and complain is a real one. When we fill our lives and our homes with stuff, stuffing down our problems, we are only creating a deeper emptiness.
The best antidote for worry is work.
The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired.
One of the great ironies of this life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” -Gordon B. Hinckley
If you’re sad, find a place to serve. If you’re sick and tired, visit a hospital. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, find something to give away.
As I drove home, my problems hadn’t changed a bit. I still had them.
But my perspective was completely different.
I patted my old minivan and thanked God for it, dent and all. Sometimes we need a yellow fender to remind us how to solve our problems.