Service First, if you got here randomly, don't look down before you think about the word "service." What emotions or images arise?

Here's what's in The Big Book of Unschooling, and some of the responses I've received are below.

Service

STOP! Cover up the rest of the page past this paragraph. Don't look down before you think about the word "service." What emotions or images arise?

Feel those emotions; breathe; what are those emotions?

I know service has been mentioned before, in this book, but I also know it's something at which very many new unschoolers (and some of the older ones) balk. It stops them dead in their thoughts.

Did you really think about it? Was it difficult to even think about? If not, I'm guessing you're involved in a service organization of some sort, or a group with an emphasis on virtues. I could be wrong. I'd be interested in collecting some reactions and thoughts on this. My e-mail address is Sandra@SandraDodd.com if you'd be willing to share.

[then I quoted some parts of the transcript below]

It is amazing when you don't need to hear thank you. Doing it was enough. "Service as a gift" can be a gift to the server, as well.

Even with grown kids who could absolutely take care of themselves if I died or if they moved away, I'm still doing laundry for them because I want to free their time up to do more interesting things. I started running out of ways to express my affection and to support their interests when they had jobs and cars, but this is a thing I can still do. If I decided it was hurting me, I could turn around and hurt them. Lots of parents do that.

If I decide it's a way to show affection, I turn around and show them affection.

Part of creating a learning environment is creating a safe, generous, loving environment.

(above is me, Sandra; below are messages from others)

I just reached your section on service, where you ask for thoughts - so I thought I'd send them quickly while the children are reading with their uncle and before I read the rest of the page and colour my thoughts.

When I read the word 'service' the first thing I think of is my great grandmother who went into 'service' at a big house when she was 14 (I think). Much of my family would have been in service if you go back a way. My thoughts about that are not of servitude, from family stories I think they saw it as a vocation - to Serve - maybe the same family through the generations. Something they felt themselves innately good at as members of their class, and of their family. So it leads me to thoughts of vocations, people who are dedicated to a principle or a profession, who see their whole lives as coloured by and built around one thing.

Hope that's useful to you - very much coloured by my family history, my nationality and class.

Sarah Dickinson, U.K. (the first response I ever received)

Service reminds me of the way my mother used the word: she saw herself having spent almost all her life in service to others particularly to her mother.

As a child I resented the amount of time she cheerfully spent with my grandmother. As a teen and through my twenties, the feelings deepened as I also became aware of how unkind and harsh my grandmother was towards her.

Service stirred negative feelings for many years, until I had my first child.

Being with my children, giving them in each moment all I can, learning and growing with them, changed my understanding of "service."

I have chosen to give, help and serve my children. I feel being with them has contributed towards a new understanding of the word as well as a way of building a connection with them. I can also see how it can be extended to others.

I realize how much weight a word can carry , how changes in my own feelings have lightened that weight and thrown a new light on the word itself. Service now stirs up and brings great feelings of joy.

Parvine Shahid, March 2015

Dear Sandra:

I just got your big book of unschooling and I came to the service page. I did the exercise you proposed about pausing, breathing and feeling what that word/concept made me feel. And I felt immense joy and positiveness. I continued reading and I was surprised to read that for some people it might have a negative connotation. And then I thought about what made me feel the way I feel. Me and my husband are colombian but lived in India for 7 years, in an ashram where my children were born (they are 6 and 3 now). In India and specially in an ashram, people do work as an offering to a Divine source, without any expectations. As you serve others, you receive a tremendous amount of joy and your heart is at the same time filled with gratitude, because that Divine source, or life itself (the name does not matter) has given you that opportunity. It is a matter of choice. You choose to serve others, to see it as a divine gift and to be filled with joy, awe and magic. You could also see it as a simple unpaid chore and feel miserable and make everyone miserable. The act is the same; the attitude is different and so the atmosphere you create is different. Only with an attitude change. I choose to be positive and to take every opportunity as a gift. So serving others (and many other things) becomes a great spiritual endeavor.

I just wanted to share this with you and also thank you for the inspiration of your words.

Peace,
Manuela (2014)

I wanted to share my reaction to the word service. May be my strong draw toward Eastern philosophies, such as Taoism and Buddhism and Hinduism, but I felt strong compassion and giving a gift. I felt the phrase "may I be of service?" while leaning down to aid my child with something. I felt love, being, kindness, gentleness. I also felt a bit of "doormat", because the dishes section was so fresh and I was trying to really explore what bothered me about doing them and tease it out and understand it better. I know that I felt very powerless as a child, searched for a voice as a way to heal and feel powerful, and am now really working on finding a balance and remembering that I can give of myself in ways that does not mean I am trampling over myself or being trampled over. I must be doing pretty well on that, because I was having trouble "inducing" that feeling, as an attempt to try to feel it enough to understand it better. Just love and offering and assisting/helping - offering being a big one.

Vanessa
free mama to Kass, Noble, and Jai
This is my greatest adventure

My first image when I got to your section on service was of Downton Abbey. I guess the feelings attached were somewhat romanticized, and spurred by a recent marathon viewing. The characters seem to have pride and honor in their service, and it is done with grace and efficiency. When I really think about it in my own life, I do love the idea of being in service.

Although I do not operate with the grace or efficiency of the Downton staff, I do have joy in being a part of our family, and being here for them, in service. The joy is in the day to day filling of each other's cups. In my case, you are right on the money about being involved in a service organization. I would agree that my positive thoughts on service come from a childhood of community service and then later serving with AmeriCorps in early adulthood. But until I read your book, I don't think I really connected it to family life. It is a beautiful idea, that I will keep in the forefront from now on.

Shannon Chang, 2014

One of the things that has shifted for me in recent months that I suddenly realised was one of the things that has enabled me to really begin to understand unschooling has been a new understanding of the word 'service'.

I have spent a lot of time over the past two years while I recovered from serious mental illness, in women's circles and exploring life purpose and meaning. I also recently decided to go back to nursing and have been surprised to find myself finding care of the elderly hugely rewarding. I asked myself why and realised that, as my changing awareness of women's cycles grew, my feeling of needing to be of service to our society's elders, particularly, being a woman, the older women (the crones!) became part of my purpose.

With four daughters, I also realised that I had the opportunity to also be of service to some of our society's maidens as well. My personal, and I guess spiritual, beliefs about women's cycles (beliefs that are 'home grown' - an eclectic jumble of learning about what feels right and not part of a religion or movement), all came together to a point at which being of service stopped feeling like a chore and became a privilege, a beautiful way to honour our elders and support our daughters.

So now the word 'service' has only positive associations for me and is linked with the words 'honour' and 'privilege' and 'joy'. And I think also 'gratitude'. There is nothing richer than making someone's life more joyful and I get to do that at home and at work for the people in our society who need it the most.

Clare Kirkpatrick

I read the bit about service today and you asked people to share what they thought about it.
Here are my thoughts;
  • Service with a smile
  • Giving/providing...something
  • Doing (or not) someone a disservice
Those were a few of my immediate thoughts, there were others, but to me service is about the provision of something - not resentfully or unwillingly but gratefully and joyfully. Service is a good thing - good service is a great thing!

Morag Donnachie, Edinburgh

When I read the word "service" I felt warm and positive. I love to serve as it is a way to give and express love. So for me service is a positive word, not a "must do" at all. It is also a choice. If I feel under the weather I don't think "I must serve and cook dinner". If I am really not up for it then I call my husband and discuss it (either get take away or if he is up for it he can cook). Service is an expression of love for me. It really depends on the attitude, doesn't it? Like the half full or half empty cup....although for me it is neither but plenty in it to go around :)

Nicole Kenyon, Cairns

The word service means a lot to me. I used to be one of those moms that hated housework and even though I never demanded help I did not have a good attitude about it. But after reading something on some unschooling site everything changed. It was probably on your site. Someone said that since you have to do it anyway you might as well enjoy it and not waste your time being miserable and complaining about it. But to live your life with joy and with the knowledge that you are doing it for the people you love. That has changed my whole attitude.

Just this summer my husband and I decided to sell our house and travel the country doing acts of kindness. My husband sings country gospel music and we have heard of other families that sold everything and live in an rv and help other people. We just knew that that was the next step for us. The beautiful thing about helping others whether they are your family or strangers is the way it makes you feel. It is hard to be depressed or angry while you are reaching out to others. Also, the bible says when you do something for others or give something, you should not do it to someone that can return the favor. When the favor is returned, it is unexpected and part of the blessing of giving. Anytime we give of ourselves or our recources we always receive more than we give away.

Sorry that I went so long but I just wanted to respond when I read the word "service". You can check out my husbands music at www.russelldeanmusic.com. You can check out our new ministry at www.thevoiceofthunder.com. It is brand new and we haven't accomplished much but as we start traveling and help people we will be adding things to the website. We are excited about our new adventure.

Thank you for sharing your life with a bunch of strangers and for making the world a more happy, peaceful place for families.

Diane Marcengill
South Carolina
(ministry site)

From a blog post on monkey platters, by Shan Burton: Food you want, served to you by someone who loves you and brings it to you with a smile and a hug, has magical powers to heal and replenish the soul as well as the body. **

About the bonding of people who serve together:

Lori Odhner, one of my La Leche League leaders when Kirby was a baby, writes a marriage enrichment blog called Marriage Motes." I have said that one of the things that most strengthened my marriage was the shared satisfaction Keith and I gained from having worked together to be good parents. Lori wrote about the bonding of performing service together:


Marriage Moats-Leave a Mark
It makes sense really. I read of yet another study that says volunteering together as a couple increases your feeling of connection.

Working with someone on a project you care about, helps you to care for each other as well. It has been true for me. I can still pull up the affection I felt for my co leader in Brownies, or my team creating a children's program six years ago for a church assembly. We showed up together, dreamed a little, made some mistakes and fixed them, witnessed the results of our efforts, grew. I have a permanent warm spot for the choirs I have sung with, from the joy of making beautiful music together. My quilt guild made baby quilts to donate to Project Linus, and it felt much more nourishing to my soul than when I landed an order for 100 doll quilts that paid me $22 each and sold for $69 through a pricey catalogue. Don't tell the little girls who opened them on Christmas morning, but I resented those quilts fiercely.

There is a shift when we show up to serve. Instead of the slice of our personality that critiques and expects to get our money's worth, we rotate to a more vulnerable side that zeros in on the needs around us. Entitlement dissolves into thin air, leaving space for more nourishing emotions like altruism.

It feels good to make a mark, side by side, and to high five each other over the success.

Giving in meaningful ways bonds you to the people you are working with, so you are wise to have your partner on the other side of the adhesive.


Keith and I met in a madrigal group. Singing together was bonding, as Lori mentions. Before we had children, we organized many events together, and helped each other with projects variously involving writing, printing and mailing, all as a service to others.

So though the primary focus of this page is to encourage parents to reconsider what they do and how they do it, in regards to their parenting, sharing outside service might be considered, as long as the children are serving voluntarily. Otherwise it's like Lori's story of the doll quilts for too little money. There will be no real giving and no joy.

Joyce and her daughter volunteered at a small local animal shelter for a long time. Jill and her children delivered meals for people who couldn't get out. Once when Kirby was five or six and Marty was younger, I was picking trash up in a public park and putting it in a trash bag I had brought for that purpose. Kirby started helping me. After a while he asked if they were paying us to do this. I said no, we were just doing it to be nice, so the park would be cleaner for other little kids. He smiled slowly, thinking, and said that was nice of us. [I looked for exact words, but didn't find a report from those days, and it's been nearly 20 years.]




This space is partially blank so people can have a moment to think. There's lots to read below, but first... "service."



What images and emotions?




Church? Military? Servitude? Class? Martyrdom? Lunch? Tennis? Subpeonas?

"Service" is an old word in English. It's from French. They have it from Latin. The root word is "to serve." It means to present something to someone, or to take care of someone or something. It means to be useful, to do what is needed.

In the Big Book of Unschooling, I expanded on the statement above. That has been added to this page, with comments that followed on that. (to the right →)


This was a spontaneous expression of changed attitude, which the author, Megan Valnes, attributed to abundance. In considering where to store it on my site, I thought it was the act of service that affected Megan so profoundly:
Today, while making my older daughter's bed, I was reflecting on the very act itself. The girls have a bunk bed and Lila's is on the top, so I have to climb up there and she has about 20 stuffed animals--it's what I would have used to think of as a pain. Instead of feeling overworked and underpaid as I made her bed, I found myself taking extra care to make her bed very nicely because I know how good it feels to sleep in a freshly made bed. I tucked the sheets and blankets in tight and cleaned off any food crumbs. Thinking of my sweet girl, I made the bed as perfectly as I thought she would like. Her stuffed animals are placed in their special places and her bed looks very cozy and inviting. Even if she never mentions it (which I doubt she will), I feel good knowing she will appreciate the gesture.

Is this the abundance everyone talks about? This fullness of heart that I no longer think of making beds as a chore, but as an act of service and gratitude? The feeling was such a wonderful surprise!

—Megan Valnes
October 18, 2016

In an unschooling chat in April 2009, a general discussion turned beautifully serious for a while, and I've saved that part for people to read. We had talked about England, World of Warcraft, hand-knitted socks, and we were having a good time when someone mentioned that her teenager had jumped up to help with groceries. Below is that transcript, followed by links to other things it ties in with. It was like finding a piece of a jigsaw puzzle on the floor and knowing exactly where it goes.




SandraDodd: Holly said the coolest thing the other day. She said she wondered how things might have been different if the Beatles had had names like Ian and Nigel and Rupert instead of John, Paul, George and Richard. And I said probably lots of American kids might've been named that.   I said there were other names, like "Hugh," that nobody had.

JennyC: that's a cool thought that holly had

SandraDodd: She looked at me like I was all wrong and said "but there's Hugh Grant and Hugh... oh yeah..." "Laurie," she was about to say.
Then she thought of Hughie Lewis and the News.

joykelsa: insightful lady, holly is.

SandraDodd: She is. It's fun. I'm in awe sometimes of her ideas.

JennyC: sandra, i feel that way about chamille a lot

Schuyler: Ringo does an ad for Norwich insurance, which has changed its name to Aviva, that is about how he wouldn't have been the same with a different name http://tinyurl.com/89ygwu

joykelsa: yes, a great commercial with ringo the first time you see. very funny.

SandraDodd: I've e-mailed that TV ad to Holly to watch later. She's at work. She'll appreciate it!

Some of what's below is in reference to a story about a boy who left home on mother's day once. The mom was devastated. She thought there had been a connection, but the house had many rules:
no video games in the house
nothing but organic food and
a step-father who wasn't connecting with the boy.
Those things ended with him walking out in a huge argument.

Schuyler: The connection in an unschooling household or so different

JennyC: so true

Schuyler: I get invited out to the trampoline, I get kidnapped on facebook, I get asked to come and see something

JennyC: it still amazes me how mean people are to their kids and how we don't have that at all in our house

SandraDodd: I read something recently about a cook who became a cook because his parents only fed him macrobiotic foods and he hated it. He got hungry and started cooking

In the Kitchen with ... Guy Fieri
After Rebelling Against His Macrobiotic Childhood, the Food Network Star Now Cooks Easy, Affordable Meals with His Own Kids—and Puts Their Favorites on the Menu
SandraDodd: Yesterday when Lee Stranahan was recording me and Holly we were talking about that--the differences in relationships between some unschooling teens and their families. She couldn't tell stories about her friends, though, without getting them in trouble. Seriously. The stories could end up on facebook and the parents would get angry and ground them more or longer.

joykelsa: that's a big interest for me atm Sandra.

RVB: Unschooling parents?

JennyC: yesterday evening chamille hung out with me, just because she wanted to

SandraDodd: That right there is an indicator of the problem

Schuyler: That's a big indicator

joykelsa: so these other teens are unschoolers as well?

SandraDodd: IF Holly even said, on MySpace or Facebook, "My friend's parents are ruining her life. She's grounded for the most minor offenses, and one of the conditions of being grounded seems to be she can't even ask how long she's grounded," that kid would get in BIG trouble for having talked about it to Holly

joykelsa: sorry asked the same thing as rvb just differently.

JennyC: we have that happen a lot , and the more they control, the more the kids push back, and the more the control must be upped

SandraDodd: No, though that one was homeschooled for several years. She's 15 now

Schuyler: It is amazing the level of control that parents think they can effectively exert over their children

SandraDodd: There are some teen homeschoolers who aren't as happy as my kids, and I'm careful not to tell those stories in recognizeable ways, but sometimes I get cranky and just keep it in when one of those moms goes all braggy about how unschooling is great.

Schuyler: I know a couple of families who like the idea of unschooling but who say things like they know what their children really need.

SandraDodd: One family has lots of rules, and the mom assured me that there are families who don't do the whole radical unschooling thing and unschooling still works great.
One of her teens wrote on MySpace about not being able to wait to grow up and leave home.

Schuyler: I was thinking for a while that it was time in that made a difference.

SandraDodd: the other family has kind of surly eye-rolling kids. But that's because there are surly eye-rolling parents.

Schuyler: [the details of some families] make me think that time isn't all that matters,

SandraDodd: Nature+nurture

RVB: Geez, has she read anything on your site, Sandra?

Schuyler: Respect is a huge thing, a massive thing

JennyC: yes, respect is big big big

SandraDodd: [yes, but some details deleted to protect feelings] Just is sure the rules aren't all that important. Maybe her husband isn't willing to let go; I don't know.

SandraDodd: I think in both cases it's negativity that's poisoned the nest

JennyC: fear and negativity

RVB: That's a biggie.

joykelsa: i think that's exactly it - the respect is forgotten about.

SandraDodd: Negativity can be fun and entertaining and all, and the frothy joy of a bitch fest can be cathartic

JennyC: my husband just went for a bit feeling that feeling of fear and negativity and I told him to stop watching the news for a couple of days and he did, and then he felt better

SandraDodd: But some people like it so much they live there

RVB: Yeah. You don't want to take up residence.

JennyC: yes, sandra, my parents live there a lot, in the fear and sarcasm

joykelsa: yes, live there and often don't even know it.

JennyC: that was hard to get out of my system

SandraDodd: Jenny, a month or so ago Keith was coming home every day with the need to discuss what he was reading on news site at work, and what his co-workers were talking about, and what was on the news, and I finally directly said that I am choosing not to watch the news, and he could too, but in any case if he filled me up not only with news, but his agitated opinion of it, I might as well start watching the news again.

Schuyler: I can get caught up in a whirlpool of negativity, it helps to have pms pushing the water, but it is amazing to have this other focus take over

RVB: My dh's family was/is like that.

Schuyler: Today I was in the kitchen making a cake and David came in and needed me to put the groceries away.
I asked Simon and Linnaea if they'd help and they both came running to the rescue
I never would have expected that

SandraDodd: He got defensive, but then i think he thought about it and started reading more cartoons at work and looking at fewer news sites.

JennyC: i like to keep abreast of news here and there, but i can't do it everyday because it's way to fear inducing and full of negative things

Schuyler: I can read and watch most of the news, but I don't look at most environmental stuff Or human interest pieces

RVB: It makes a difference what you let in. Though you can go the other way and be off in some dreamworld.

SandraDodd: A few days ago Keith went for groceries to Costco. He usually comes back with a car trunk full of stuff and we all go out and bring some in and put it away, so it's usually one trip, but with three to five worker ants. One day, though, Holly heard him pull up an yelled "Dad's Home!" and ran down to be the first to help him, and it only took two people.

Schuyler: No coercion, no force, just a request and the ability to say yes or no

RVB: Sometimes, I'll get home from grocery shopping and Michelle will come, without me asking, to bring in the bags.

JennyC: chamille does that all the time

SandraDodd: I think not many people would expect that of a 17 year old. I just kept sitting at the computer, and nobody got mad at me for it.  

JennyC: she always helps bring in the groceries, i never have to ask, she just does it

SandraDodd: I've seen parents say "I shopped, you have to carry it in," and then it's not fun anymore

JennyC: she'll even put groceries away sometimes that's what chamille's best friend's dad always did

RVB: Michelle often asks for help bringing her things from the car. I helped her and mentioned I'd have to come back to get my purse and coffee. She said "well it's a good thing I'm here" and she brought my purse and coffee in!

JennyC: the kids HAD to bring in the food and put it away

SandraDodd: "Will you help me?" is way better than "You have to do it." Yucko.

joykelsa: i forwarded your email recently about Marty and doing some of his laundry to dh. really spoke to me. (see the box for something I found when I went to look for what Joy read recently)
I looked for the newer writing, but found this first:

Re: [AlwaysLearning] "What was I thinking" was Telling our kids the answers vs. having them figure it out themselves (someone had written:)
-=-Not that long ago, he even claimed he preferred wearing dirty socks (when we pointed out that if he just tossed them under the rubble they wouldn't get clean...)
----------------

Schuyler wrote:

-=-I might prefer wearing dirty socks to having my stuff referred to as rubble. It helps, it really, really helps to find joy in the things your children do. -=-

Schuyler's whole post was direct and clear and good. It's here in case anyone missed it or has deleted the mail:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AlwaysLearning/message/36392

Yesterday Keith, my partner of 30 years and husband of 24, said to me:

"It's nice to be able to throw stuff in the corner and have it come back clean."

That came up because he was packing for a camping trip, and I found him looking in laundry baskets by the dryer and asked what he was looking for. "White stuff."

"It's on the bed."

So...

He had complimented me. It was my move. If I wanted to invest some rancor into what would lead to divorce I could have said many tacky rude things, or assured him he should be grateful, or that it was about time he said something nice about it, or that I wish someone would do that for me, or or or...

Instead I said, "Unfortunately, sometimes it only makes it as far as the den."

When the kids were little, I would put it folded in their drawers or on their shelves. I did that for Kirby until he left, because I understood his system well. Marty's was more mysterious and particular, so I'd put the stuff on his bed. Holly sorts shirts in certain ways, so I would give her the pile on the bed or in a basket.

Lately, Holly helps me sort into baskets and the baskets might go unfolded into the correct rooms. I fold mine and Keith's in our room. I hang Marty's work clothes on a rack near the dryer.

I'm telling all this because even with grown kids who could absolutely take care of themselves if I died or if they moved away, I'm still doing laundry for them because I want to free their time up to do more interesting things. I started running out of ways to express my affection and to support their interests when they had jobs and cars, but this is a thing I can still do. If I decided it was hurting me, I could turn around and hurt them. Lots of parents do that.

If I decide it's a way to show affection, I turn around and show them affection.

Sandra


(I don't know where the more recent one is, but will inquire.)


Comic Relief:

SandraDodd: When Keith comes in from costco, he usually reaches in to open the garage door (an electric button inside the front door) and says "I'm back!" And people who hear him go out and help.

Schuyler: It's amazing to see doing for others as a gift It takes the whole angst about servitude away

SandraDodd: Or maybe one will go and say "Marty's playing a game" or "Holly's on the phone," so we're all accounted for but might not all be helping.

Schuyler: There isn't any servitude in it when it's a gift

SandraDodd: And it's not "a rule," it's just a routine.

Schuyler: David just brought me tea He does that most nights, it is such a sweet thing

JennyC: i just helped my husband see this

Schuyler: I just got Linnaea Dr. Pepper, she thanked me

SandraDodd: Schuyler,

Schuyler: The gentleness is so overwhelming, the consideration

SandraDodd: There's another level in medieval monastic thought that says the opportunity to serve is a gift

JennyC: he was feeling overwhelmed with work and seeing everything that was NOT happening, so I showed him what was happening and what our kids actually do and sent him a lot of links to stuff

SandraDodd: And I'm getting old enough to understand and feel that. It's very interesting

Schuyler: I get slightly nervous when I talk about service. I am too aware of the religious overtones

SandraDodd: One place to see it is with Diana /hahamommy

Schuyler: And too uncomfortable about them

joykelsa: yes! a gift. never knew anyone who thought like that but one in my days before my family.

SandraDodd: who realizes that when she does things for Hayden she's lucky to have a child.

Schuyler: Diana humbles me in so many ways

JennyC: me too

RVB: Indeed.

SandraDodd: But most people can't even relax enough to think of the gift they give someone else by bringing them a cup of tea or a Dr Pepper

JennyC: and her facebook comments are hilarious

Schuyler: The small things make me so happy
I can remember being disappointed at every Christmas, at every birthday because the big presents that I got weren't enough
And a cup of tea that David made for me can bring me to tears depending on where I am in my cycle

RVB: And it's sometimes those little things, so important to us, that others miss entirely.

JennyC: my husband and I always make tea for each other

SandraDodd: Joy, can you tell us who the one person was, before your family, who saw service as a gift?

RVB: Grand gestures are overrated, in comparison.

SandraDodd: I think it comes back to respect again.

Schuyler: Grand gestures seem to go away more quickly than do little gifts

SandraDodd: If someone gives you a blanket when you need a blanket, just because they know you need one and think you might like to have one, it's better than a hand-quilted show-piece given to someone who had blankets.

JennyC: and little gifts are easy to repeat

joykelsa: Sandra, it was an ex-boyfriend's mother. I recently talked with her for the first time in many years.
..  just as wonderful and lovely as ever!

SandraDodd: Had she explained her idea to you when you were younger, or had your boyfriend or what?

joykelsa: no. I knew she was wonderful but didn't realize how much of an impact she'd made on me until I thought about the possibility of having a child.
She would talk with her kids. We'd all go to her house. She'd tell great stories about her children. all the love and adoration of them was there in her voice.
My own mother didn't like her. I didn't understand why then.
This lady helped me to believe that there was another way to bring up children and so started my journey which eventually led me to unschooling. .. 

Schuyler: I think the little gifts are about noticing need or desire or habit. David is really good at acts of service, he takes care of so many things. And because of him I've noticed things with Simon or Linnaea as well as with him

RVB: I gave my dh the gift of the benefit of the doubt. He's in France, missing us, feeling under the weather. I had written him about getting a new DS for Michelle and he replied (email) that we needed to make sure that she had to give something in return

JennyC: i love having texting ability on my phone because i can send someone an instant pleasant thought

Schuyler: I was really enjoying Facebook for that reason today

RVB: and that we couldn't do this all the time. I was about to write him back with "What exactly do you mean?" in a nasty way. Instead I talked with him on the phone and he was really sweet about it. It was a moment in time for him.

JennyC: probably guilt

SandraDodd: Robin, do you think he meant like give up a toy, or do some family service?

RVB: Chores, or her allowance or something.

Schuyler: It is a big gift to forgive grumpiness and tension in someone else— to ignore the moment of tension

RVB: Anyway, he was the first to ask me this morning if I'd bought it for her yet, in a "I hope you did" kind of voice.

SandraDodd: So now he sees it as a gift rather than something sne needs to "earn"?

RVB: Benefit of the doubt is my little gift to him.

JennyC: chamille and i talk about benefit of the doubt a lot

Schuyler: And forgetting, glossing over, not making a big deal or a fight

JennyC: assuming the best in people

RVB: Yes. It takes him a bit to get over his conditioning. His "you don't get it unless you work for it."

JennyC: that's a hard one for a lot of men i think

Schuyler: Beth Fuller talked with me a bunch about believing that everyone is doing the best that they can with what they have in that moment

joykelsa: RVB: Dh finds it hard to forget or gloss over. He takes stuff really personally, especially from Michelle. Not always, but when he's in a rough spot himself.

JennyC: well, it's nice he has a connection to his daughter, that part is really cool some dads don't care enough and hers cares a lot]

SandraDodd: Keith was more like that some years back, when Kirby was young. They had difficulty having a good relationship. But I think it was Keith's own neediness, his memories of his own childhood being stirred.

ChristineD: "believing that everyone is doing the best that they can with what they have in that moment " finally getting that through my head has made life so much more pleasant

JennyC: yes, that has happened at our house

SandraDodd: So I tried to remember to treat Keith gently and sweetly sometimes, to help him not be jealous of Kirby.

RVB: Sandra, that's exactly it for Ross.

joykelsa: Assuming the best in people! yes! that's what we've found can cause trouble for us is not doing that.

SandraDodd: not in wifely ways, but in motherly ways

JennyC: right

RVB: It's hard to watch your child be given everything you weren't, including respect and love for who you are.

JennyC: it can be healing too

Schuyler: Or assuming that there are other things that are changing their best in that moment, that there can be environmental influences on their ability to give or receive pleasantly

RVB: He was the black sheep - still is.

joykelsa: yes, i found that here too. Can be hard for the dad to not feel the need in them.

SandraDodd: It sounds sweet and peaceful to think of people always doing the best they can with what they have. If you add "in that moment," maybe it makes it true. But what of parents who know and have and still shunt kids off?

Schuyler: It really disturbed me, the whole notion

SandraDodd: Is the justification for that that they just didn't know the importance of the attention their children needed/ ?

RVB: I think it's helpful to remember that about your own parents - the doing the best they could. I have to be really conscious of not making that my excuse not to do better.

Schuyler: But I think there are some parents who haven't decided that their children are important and the best they have has little to do with their children

SandraDodd: I think in half or more cases it's true, but I also thing that in some of the other cases there is sneakiness or malice or even evil. But maybe what I'm calling those things is another word for "really wounded and needy."

JennyC: that is something to consider for sure they can manifest themselves into yucky behavior

Schuyler: It's also about making an assumption, that people are doing the best they can, with what they have, in that moment.

JennyC: that wounded and needy child can grow up and be mean to their own children

SandraDodd: When my neighbors in back deal drugs by my back gate and shoot a BB gun into our yard when I'm out there (not aiming at me, just randomly shooting), it's hard for me to think "poor things"

Schuyler: If you have that assumption to hand at all times, maybe it lowers conflict, even if the assumption is false.

RVB: I don't want to say to myself "I'm doing the best I can" and have that be enough. It can be helpful in the moment, I guess.

Schuyler: I don't think I ever say that to myself

RVB: Yeah, Schuyler. It's can be a total cop-out.

Schuyler: I know a couple of parents who compete with their children for attention and praise

JennyC: oh yeah, i have a friend like that

SandraDodd: Thanks for being here. We can quit if you guys want. I'm saving the end part, about kids bringing in groceries, and service as a gift

Schuyler: I want to be better than my grouchy self

RVB: No kidding!

SandraDodd: I think I wince at those sweet justifications because people do use them to justify behaviors.

Schuyler: And if that was the best I had in that moment than I don't want to be that limited again

RVB: Yeah.

SandraDodd: My "make the better choice" tool has helped me move from "acceptable" to "better" and then MORE better.  

Schuyler: If I can make that assumption about other people it may help me to get along or to cut my losses

RVB: Mo bettah!

Schuyler: More better is a nice place to be Mo bettah!

JennyC: it's nice to catch yourself in the moment and do better. The more you do it, the easier it is to do it

RVB: Yes! If I think it of other people, it releases me from wanting them to be different.

SandraDodd: Schuyler to you mean cut your losses by disengaging from people whose best isn't in your range of "good enough"??

Schuyler: Yep
Or to see the relationship as about something else
Like their kids are friends of Simon and Linnaea

JennyC: I've done that schuyler

SandraDodd: This part's going to be hard to edit.   People are saying "yep" and YES!

SandraDodd: to things that passed by

RVB: In fact, if I think it of Michelle, it gives her space to get better. Oh just ignore my yesses, Sandra!

ChristineD: for me it helps to think that they're doing the best they can with what they've got and then see what it is they're working with, not as an excuse so much as a tool to broaden how I see them

SandraDodd: Holly and Marty are both good at seeing people realistically. They might be exasperated but they know some people have limited understanding or ability.
I *know* it, but it still pisses me off sometimes.

Schuyler: I like the story of Ben and …Marty (I cut out some story here…)

JennyC: chamille is good at that too, and waaaay more accepting than I am of people's shortcomings

SandraDodd: but because I have this added SCA life, I've had some very touching and almost too sweet to tell without embarassment instances of service as a gift, of tiny things that would 'bout make me cry from my SCA students.
I got a thank you note for a wedding gift from one of my former proteges, and he's done some very touching things. The mail had just come and the note from Cathyn was in it; I didn't clarify that I had just opened it, during the chat.

Schuyler: I was told that God didn't know I existed because I hadn't been baptised or christened

SandraDodd: And Ben/Dermod, too. Though he's unreliable about showing up, when we're "in persona" and at an event he can stun me with little gestures

Schuyler: It made me question his omniscience I was loud Still am

SandraDodd: (Schuyler, how could God not know that!? He knows when a sparrow falls.)
And surely God monitors the internet

RVB: You must have made a big impact on your proteges, Sandra, for them to respond so.

Schuyler: That's a fair bit of porn he's got in his inbox then

JennyC: invisibility before being spiritually doused in water, it sounds very sci-fi

Schuyler: She got called by the guy whose car she hit. This woman touches people

RVB: Profoundly.

SandraDodd: And the reason I mentioned "respect' way up there in the chat is that when one of them does something like that it might be partly because they're "playing their part" but sometimes like when nobody's even looking, it seems to be because they have the urge to express something toward me and it comes out in a service or courtesy rather than in words. And I've done things for them, too, and felt that same way.

RVB: And it's more private than public.

JennyC: I like paying things forward
because sometimes i can't for whatever reason pay someone back and i don't like the guilt, so paying forward has been good for me

Schuyler: It is amazing when you don't need to hear thank you, doing it was enough

RVB: It's a whole different attitude, Schuyler.

Schuyler: I always seem to need acknowledgement, and it is stunning when I don't, at least for me

SandraDodd: Jenny, I just read what I missed because I was writing, but yes! She was invisible until the water hit her.
Isn't there something like that Predator?

Schuyler: And so far no water

Schuyler: Linnaea likes the idea that if someone doesn't bless her after she's sneezed she can be possessed for a while

JennyC: i told chamille that story and she loved it

SandraDodd: I hope she sneezes while I'm there. I'll save her

Schuyler: It gives her moments to be evil

RVB: We say "You're so good looking" ala Seinfeld.

SandraDodd: Schuyler, I think this: It is amazing when you don't need to hear thank you, doing it was enough is the "service as a gift" to the server.

Schuyler: yep

SandraDodd: What is it you were saying bothered you about that? The Christian angle of it?

Schuyler: It is wonderful to have people to care for
The idea of service strikes me as a very Christian idea

SandraDodd: You're afraid it will somehow transubstantiate itself into water and you'll be visible?

Schuyler: I'm sure it is also a very Buddhist idea and other things

JennyC: and not doing service can be very guilt inducing

Schuyler: I don't want to touch the water

RVB: More like sacrifice, Schuyler?

SandraDodd: (Visible to God, I mean... I've seen photos of you, so you're not a vampire...)

Schuyler: I think I may have taken communion though... Special camera...

SandraDodd: Ah JEEZ, you can't take communion if you're not baptized!

Schuyler: No mirrors, pinhole camera

SandraDodd: It doesn't work.
It will be like poison or something.

Schuyler: That explains the vomiting

SandraDodd:  

Schuyler: beg  

RVB: But you're sparkly, Schuyler. Like the Forks vampires  

Schuyler: I'm sparkly?!! I love that! Thank you!

RVB: You're welcome.

Schuyler: I was raised in a Catholic neighborhood.
The fact that god didn't know me was about all my catholic neighbors being appalled at the Unitarian on the block

JennyC: i'll bet there were lots of woopins going on in your neighborhood

Schuyler: I got wooped No sticks or belts, just hands

RVB: By Unitarians?

Schuyler: By Unitarians

JennyC: a hold over of protestanism protastantism o gosh i can't spell

Schuyler: I like your attempts

RVB: Protestantism. My gift to you.

JennyC: thank you

Schuyler: I like the idea of a protestantism, the religion of protesters protestanims it's contagious

RVB: Too bad it's as bad as the original. Or worse. original

Schuyler: It's typing tongue twisters

SandraDodd: I like those typings. Jenny's second one looks like it has SATAN in the middle

JennyC: i protest

SandraDodd: protesatanism

Schuyler: Or Stan, his less evil brother This reminds me of "Stan and Dan." See note at the bottom of the page. —Sandra

SandraDodd: 668

RVB: A new religion!

SandraDodd: The neighbor of the beast

Schuyler: Simon and Linnaea love that 616 is the new number of the devil

RVB: Coffee's coming out my nose. Ouch.

JennyC: is it, i haven't read the news today

RVB: There's a new number?

SandraDodd: Keith came home. I went out to see if he's sick or what. He went to sleep early last night and now he's home early, but he says he's fine. Why'd they renumber the devil?

Schuyler: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_the_Beast JennyC: 6 was always my favorite number as a child, not a good fav for a christian kid

RVB: 666 is the fax number. ROFLMAO.

SandraDodd: Keith said "So a whole new area code is evil now, huh?"

JennyC: i wonder if one could text to the number 666

Schuyler: Stephen Fry said it first, or Alan Davies, or somebody on QI

JennyC: *666

RVB: It's Michigan!!!
616
Heathens.

SandraDodd: I wonder if very Christian towns leave "666" off their address grids like some high rise buildings go 11, 12, 14, 15...
Or *maybe* they could save 666 and zone it only for a bar or strip club

RVB: Now they'll have to leave 616 off, too. Whole chunks of the city will be missing.

Schuyler: And adult bookstores Only if people read about 616, they can ignore it until forced to pay attention to it

SandraDodd: Well on those streets they could put a church in the whole block and the address would be 602

JennyC: yes they do! 666 was a prefix phone number of a town near me and they changed it to 669 because too many residents complained

Schuyler: 69 is a good alternate...

RVB: It would be fun to purposely find that address and open a gay & lesbian bookstore or adult toys store or....

JennyC: i liked that irony too

SandraDodd: Ooh.... like Satan and Saddam in the South Park movie, 669

JennyC: yes, OMG! you guys are making me laugh!

Schuyler: Yay!

RVB: Maybe the writers of the Bible were dyslexic and it's actually 999 or 919....

Schuyler: Avoid numbers at all costs

SandraDodd: I don't know what hebrew numerals look like
[…then we joked about someone's sex-offender neighbor, but I shall spare all involved…]

Schuyler: God's probably busy monitering the internet

SandraDodd: Write a book Schuyler. "Invisible like me"

JennyC: yes, please write a book schuyler

SandraDodd: And then at the end you could reveal that you were never really invisible, it was just makeup

Schuyler: I can't maintain a blog, how could I write a book...

SandraDodd: (You all might be too young for that reference; sorry...)

SandraDodd: There was a 60's book called Black Like Me

Schuyler: I loved the book Black Like Me

JennyC: or an invisibility cloak

Schuyler: I don't know how little melatonin to take to be invisible anti-melatonin
But maybe that just makes me albino like me

RVB: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_numerals

JennyC: that would make you blonde in the UK
[earlier we had talked about how few Brits are blond]

…and we said goodbye and that was about it. I left the end part because it led to reading about Hebrew numerals and whether 666 might look like 616 or 999. Here's an example from that page:

“Monday, 15 Adar 5764” (where 5764 = 5(×1000) + 400 + 300 + 60 + 4, and 15 = 9 + 6):
In full (with thousands): “Monday, 15(th) of Adar, 5764”
יום שני ט״ו באדר ה׳תשס״ד
Common usage (omitting thousands): “Monday, 15(th) of Adar, (5)764”
יום שני ט״ו באדר תשס״ד


Here's my kids' favorite "Stan and Dan" bit from Sesame Street. We still quote it.

This isn't the greatest closing for a page on service, but... perhaps it's a service to appreciate the individuality of siblings and friends and to support rather than begrudge, envy or copy, if possible.

The wonderfulness of others will not diminish you. Your realization of the wonderfulness of others will enlarge you. (from the Humility page)

(In case that one disappears: http://www.truveo.com/Sesame-Street-Stan-and-Dan/id/4282466453)

.

Service as a gift Raising a Respected Child Gratitude Abundance