I bet most of you can conjure up a specific smell when I ask you to think of your grandma. Maybe it’s of a specific perfume. Maybe it’s of flour. Maybe it’s of peppermints. Maybe cigarettes.
Each of my grandmas have a specific smell in my mind, but the most vibrant is a smell I encounter every fall, and that is of leaves.
My Mema Velma was my dad’s grandmother. She was a force to be reckoned with. She met every task in life with such strong perseverance. We had the honor of her living with us from the time I was 5 until just before I turned 17, and I am so thankful I got those years with her. She wasn’t just a grandparent – she was a third parent.
One of the things she did was take care of the yard. She insisted. At 70 and 80-something years old, she was out there raking leaves, mowing, and weed-eating. My little sister and I would go out and “help” her (we probably were just making a mess that she ended up having to clean up later, but she never said anything if we did.)
Velma was a constant presence in my childhood, and she taught me so many things. A good portion of those were taught without ever saying a word. She showed me how to love, by being a servant. She showed me how to be my own individual, but not particularly an individual that stood out from the crowd for my own recognition.
Most women of her generation were like that. They were born during the Great Depression, and raised families through multiple wars. These women did rough things. They worked and managed households while their husbands were off fighting. They managed budgets and grew and then canned their vegetable gardens in preparation for winter and hand made dresses and hand knit socks, and… basically did everything that we do now as stress busters, as a way to care for their family. True heroes, these women supported their homes without asking for anything in return.
Velma helped me realize that service is best when it is done lovingly. We can help someone but if our heart is not in the right place, it isn’t much of a gift. I am quick to help, but I can also be quick to grumble about it. As if serving someone is inconveniencing me.
But here’s the deal: we aren’t supposed to live a life in pursuit of serving ourselves. Jesus is pretty clear that we aren’t to build up our own treasure in this world. We aren’t here to be served ourselves. The moment we become followers of Christ, we are to live lives dedicated to serving others.
Serving God often means serving others directly. While it can be easy to just let the people who have always taken care of needs at work, school, or church, continue to do so, there’s something so powerful to walk into that situation asking a simple question, “How can I help?” When we learn how to be a blessing to others, we are blessed ourselves.
How special that the smell that reminds me of my grandmother is a smell that is directly linked to memories of her service! And, that’s how my family remembers her – we remember a servant f God who was always ready to be the hands and feet. She ministered to us daily in her quiet acts of service and love.