One Simple Question for Cultivating a Heart of Gratitude and Service

Last December, I skimmed quite a few year-end personal finance articles that contained questions designed to help readers take stock of the year. For the most part, they seemed pretty typical. How did your financial situation change over the past 12 months? Did you achieve the goals you set for yourself at the start of the year? If not, what got in the way? That type of thing.

But then I came across a question that was refreshingly different. Who did you help this year? It was so simple, yet so powerful. Isn’t that an important way to evaluate a year—to think of who you might have helped in some way? I kept thinking about that question as I looked back on 2018. And then, over dinner one night, I asked my family the question.

At first, some of our kids said they couldn’t think of anyone they helped. But my wife and I challenged them to give it some more thought and they were able to come up with several names. Our daughter thought of a new girl in her class who seems really shy. Our daughter made a point of asking her questions, sitting by her in the cafeteria, and trying to make her laugh or at least smile. 

Each of them came up with examples, and as a family, we talked about Thanksgiving when we hosted a neighbor family that’s from another country. We knew they didn’t have any family in the U.S., and we found out they had never experienced an American Thanksgiving before. It wasn’t a service project. It was just an enjoyable way to connect with a nearby family that we didn’t know very well. But we think it may have helped them feel more a part of the neighborhood. 

What makes your highlight reel?

Every year, I put together a slide show of our family’s year—trips we took and other picture-worthy experiences from the year. It’s always enjoyable to look back on all that we did.

But I think this question—Who did you help this year?—will become part of our annual look-back from now on. And already it’s motivating us to more actively pursue opportunities to serve. 

It isn’t that we’re not serving. We are. My wife helps lead a women’s Bible study and serves in a ministry that works with refugees. I do some biblical money management teaching at our church. And we financially support a number of missionaries and other ministries, in addition to our church.

But there’s something about that question—Who did you help this year?—that’s stirring something in me. Maybe it’s a sense that service has felt compartmentalized—an event I participate in, but then it’s done until the next service project. Maybe it’s a desire to make service more of a lifestyle. And my hope is that if we keep the question in front of our family, it may help our kids think more outwardly on a daily basis, too.

Have you ever looked back on a year and asked yourself, Who did I help this year? 

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:4

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2 Responses to One Simple Question for Cultivating a Heart of Gratitude and Service

  1. JonC January 29, 2019 at 6:18 PM #

    Great thought provoking question. I especially like the idea to challenge my children to help them reconnect with things they did for others. Thanks!

    • Matt Bell January 29, 2019 at 8:52 PM #

      You’re welcome, Jon. Glad you found it helpful!

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