July 30, 2021

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

God’s gift of joy can come in giving oneself in service to others

Sean Gallagher“I hope you have a wonderful day.”

That wish was shared many times on my Facebook page earlier this month on my 51st birthday.

For those of you who have much experience of the social media platform, it’s a bit of a Facebook tradition to fill people’s pages with good wishes on their birthday.

As it happened, I did have a wonderful day, thanks be to God. But perhaps not in the way one would expect for a birthday.

There was no cake with candles on top. No opening of presents. No friends and loved ones coming to our family home to share a birthday dinner.

But it was still a wonderful day, perhaps far more wonderful than if it had only been marked by a birthday party.

The day, as it unfolded, was focused almost exclusively on service to my family. That’s not unusual, though. As a husband and father, service is part of my daily life—even if I don’t carry it out as well as I would like.

But the service on my birthday was more challenging than usual. My father, who lives in Shelbyville, was experiencing some health challenges around that time.

On my birthday, I ended up doing some grocery shopping for my family in the morning (a usual weekly chore for me). But the bulk of it was made up of driving twice between our family home in Indianapolis and Dad’s condo in Shelbyville on (or sometimes around) a highway undergoing major construction work.

I went to Shelbyville to buy some groceries and other supplies for Dad while my wife Cindy, a registered nurse, took care of him at his home.

After visiting with Dad for a while, I went back to Indianapolis to take my son Raphael to work. (He doesn’t have his driver’s license yet.)

After that, it was another trip to Shelbyville to pick up a prescription for Dad that had just been filled. Then it was back to Indianapolis to pick up Raphael around 10 p.m. at the end of his shift.

Now I know well enough that in describing this day of service, I’m doing so very much from the cheap seats compared to people who give much more of themselves in caring for loved ones on a daily basis for months or years.

Even in the care my dad has needed recently, Cindy has given more time than I, partly because of her medical expertise.

But what made this birthday of service a wonderful day was that I threw myself into it with absolutely no feelings of frustration or self-centered resentment.

That was a gift beyond value and one that came straight from God, for I know that it was only by the help of his grace that I could take such a selfless approach to service.

Now, I wouldn’t say that at other times I go around serving my family as a simmering volcano of anger. I’m like most people most of the time—a mix of good motivations and hard feelings.

So, on my birthday, I did have a wonderful day. I received the priceless gift of joy in doing good things for good reasons and not being weighed down by selfishness.

Open yourself to God’s grace, and he can fill your heart with the gift of his joy when you serve others simply out of love for God and them. †

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