08 July 2011

Poof! What do you need?

Almost a month ago I was released from my calling as Primary Chorister (more on that next week) and was called to be the Relief Society Compassionate Services Coordinator.  It has required quite the shift in focus on my part.  But that's really not what this post is about.

See in my ward we have a lot (a lot, A LOT) of pregnant woman because we have a lot of young families that move into our ward.  That being the case, there is a great need for service.  We also had a bishopric change in the last year and with all these changes, evaluations are made and questions are asked on how we can best serve each other verses being more self reliant.  But that's really not what this post is about either.

I've had a meeting with our Relief Society President where we discussed how we go about serving a sister in the ward once she's had a baby.  In the church we are really good at bringing meals.  Often meals are a wonderful service.  I've been the beneficiary of some incredibly tasty meals.  I'm not knocking meals. But meals aren't what this post is about.

What this post IS about is how do we go beyond or how do we customize our service for those we are serving?  Here's some more questions to ponder:

Is service more than a meal?
Is our service (as a ward) "rote"?  (Think Matt 6:7-8 where the Lord talks about repetitious prayer and sub service for prayer)
Poof!  What do you need? (Think the Genie in Aladdin)
Everyone could use a friend?
Who isn't lonely?
Customize your service?
What kind of service are we giving?
Are we giving the correct service?
Where should service start from? (from the Visiting Teachers/RS/friends?)

The purpose of this is not to give anyone a guilt trip or to get down on ourselves.  Rather I'm looking for your opinions on how to best help others to serve others. 

Esp. when it comes to having new babies, every experience is different and I don't want to try and squish round pegs into square holes.  For example:  I know Sisters that when they are expecting a baby they have a freezer full of food prepared and family coming for 3 weeks to help.  Those sisters probably won't benefit from a meal right away, or maybe ever?  What do those sisters need?  Maybe some sort of contact to let them know they are thought of?  Maybe two or three months later they might just need someone adult to talk to, or hold the baby so they can shower, or do their dishes.  Maybe sometimes we're that person and we are just to embarrassed or scared of rejection to admit that we need help. 

Here are two scriptures that I think really pertain to this topic:
Mosiah 8:18  Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.  (I like this one so much, it might be my motto while I have this calling.)

Doctrine & Covenants 81:5  Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strenghten the feeble knees.

Okay, now you (and maybe myself) are asking at this point, what is her point?  What is she trying to do?  What does she want from me? 

So these are the short term goals:  Write a 200 word "article" to go into the RS newsletter about service.  Create some sort of  "assessment worksheets"  that visiting teachers can use when someone they visit is expecting a baby (or in several cases in our ward, babies.)

Will you share with me your thoughts to any or all of the questions I've raised, and/or share experiences of service that was rendered unto you when you were having a baby (or any other time that could be relevant.)  If you are uncomfortable sharing on the blog, you can email me (sisterrigby (at) yahoo (dot) com)  or message me on facebook. 

I appreciate any help.  Its a strange, new, scary calling, but I want to make the best out of it.


Lisa said...

When Joseph was born, my Visiting Teachers (whom I'd never seen in the entire 4 months they were assigned, before that) dropped off 2 frozen pizzas, then vanished for another 4 months, until routes were redrawn. That was a hard post-partum. I was depressed, no longer had an outlet since I'd just left my job, and was now juggling 2 kids. I desperately needed a friend--someone to chat with, someone I wouldn't feel weird letting them do my dishes. You know what I mean.

With James, I needed someone to watch my kids while I went to physical therapy, twice a week. I also ended up needing a 4am sitter when I went into labor in the middle of the night.

Just as no pregnancy is the same and no baby is the same, no service need is the same. For me, I needed someone I could call for the more job-like needs, usually watching the kids, and I really needed a friend (I honestly didn't have a real friend in the ward until James was a year old--almost 6 years after we'd moved in) to just hang out and unwind with. Both of those are ongoing needs, too--6-9 months, at least. My last Visiting Teacher, in that ward, would randomly call me up and offer part of what she was cooking for someone else. I will always treasure her, for that. Just having someone who cares enough to ask (and listen!) about what you've got going on and what your plans and needs are is a huge help.

Susan said...

Well, having recently gone through such a situation I can tell you how things were for me. Leading up to the birth, none of my ward "friends" seemed to care at all that I was heavily pregnant and miserable. Even though the standard in my ward was to throw baby showers for 2nd and even 3rd pregnancies, no one even offered - making me feel like I was somehow less important than all the other 2nd time moms in the ward. The Relief Society sure as heck didn't care. Or even know that I was about to have a baby because they chose to outright ignore my pregnancy. No one visited us in the hospital. No one visited us at home - except one old friend. It took the Relief Society a week to arrange meals. By the time they came it was pretty much pointless. We had 3 meals brought and most of them were kinda disgusting or poorly done. There were a couple things we just threw out they were so questionable. The Relief Society president NEVER talked to me post-partum. Not even so much as a passing "hey - how's that baby?" The Compassionate Service Leader never talked to me either. My meals were arranged via email by the 1st counselor in the RS. My visiting teachers did bring a meal, but that was it. They didn't visit me in the months leading up to the birth. And they've only come once since - showing no interest whatsoever in my new baby or me, quite frankly.

Here's what I needed. Or heck, what I need right now, but I know I'm never gonna get. Someone to stinking CARE. Care about ME. About my baby. About how things have been. Someone to notice me. Give me a 'hi' and a hug at church. Someone to notice that I cried through half of Relief Society last week. Someone to come up to my baby and want to look at her because not even my "friends" have done that much. Someone to not have to be assigned to bring a meal but just have called up and been like "Hey - I'm bringing dinner tonight. What's a good time?"

I think we all need these things. We all need to feel validated. Feel wanted. Feel important. Feel like we matter. But how do you assign someone to care?

I think, as compassionate service leader, you have a great ability to do good. Follow the Spirit and I know you can make a difference.

Jenny said...

I've been thinking about what I wanted to say over the last day, but Susan already said a lot of it.

The front line should definitely be the visiting teachers. Their job is pretty much to make friends with those they teach and love them, and act in a loving way. A "Hi, how's it going" goes a LONG way.

After I had my first babies, what I needed most was a friend to drop by and chat. I was isolated and lonely.

Having meals brought doesn't help our family a lot, with food allergies and all, so when I'd decline meals, that was pretty much the last I saw of anybody. What I'd have loved was for my visiting teachers to stop by with a treat or baby gift, or offer of help, even if I didn't take them up on it, or even just a kind word. I would have loved to know that I was in people's thoughts. I would have loved time to chat and be with adults for a little while.

Also, for second (and so on) babies, it might be nice if visiting teachers or compassionate service leaders, when asking if meals are needed, also asked if they needed someone to watch the older child when they go into labor. This was a big source of stress for me. I didn't know who I could ask. I was so relieved and over the moon when a lady down the street came by (with a bag of books for my older boys to read while I was on bedrest) and offered to watch the boys when I went into labor.

I think that's all anyone really needs or wants, really--for someone to be aware of them and to be willing to ask what they can do to help (and even better, if they just do something without asking).

Ideally, this person would be the visiting teacher, but we all know that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.

Marin, I just have to say that I think you are going to be fabulous in this calling. If you're already asking questions like these and making sure that you're doing what people need, and reading the scriptures (I love the scripture you picked as your "theme"!) for inspiration in your calling, I think you're going to be great. I wish all RS leaders put this much thought into the sisters' needs! Thank you.

Alan and Denise said...

I agree with all the above that the most important thing you can do for others is to care. A compassionate service leader can be a point of contact for a family in need, and should talk with the family enough to know a bit about their needs.

I am a very independent person, and would tend to dismiss institutionalized concern. When I have had babies or other issues, I would generally decline the meals offered by the RS, as I had a competent husband who cooks and we all preferred to know where our meals were coming from. The exceptions were individuals who offered on their own--not asked by RS--to bring something, who had respect for me and my family. After my recent surgery one such sister insisted she would like to bring a meal, and we appreciated her offer and friendship.

Back in the day when I was a young mother, I lived far from home and family, and didn't have any family come to share the time of a new birth with me. I remember that as my new baby grew one of my needs was someone to share her achievements with. I wanted to talk a bit about the baby. My visiting teachers at the time were older mothers, and weren't really interested in me and my new baby. I remember thinking that they were impatient with me wanting to talk about baby stuff and were always in a hurry to leave. I thought that if they were there to help me with my needs, would it be so bad if they could just listen to me for a few minutes and enjoy my baby with me.

I also had a difficult time with child care when having a new baby. My carefully arranged plans fell through and when I went into labor, I had no one to take care of Jenny and had to call upon my visiting teachers. They ended up complaining to the RS Pres. and while I was still in the hospital with Doug, I received a lecture from the RS Pres about it being the family that is supposed to help with those in need. After that experience I never wanted to call on anyone ever again to help me with anything. This has definitely contributed to my fierce independence, and is certainly an example of what NOT to do in rendering service.

Recently I was asked to take a meal in to a family whose son had died. They are an older couple and having a hard time. Alan and I took the meal over together and made time to talk to them, thinking that this is what they would most be needing. They invited us in and we sat down and talked, which I think helped them a lot. Sometimes that is what people need the most--someone to listen, and definitely to care.