From what I recall the bear was made of a green fabric stitched together by hand with a small amount of cotton inside and buttons for eyes. He came in a fabric bag with exercise sheets that talked about stewardship and giving back and helping others. He had the coarse feeling of being made from hand or bought in a Dollar store, but maybe that was the mileage and not the years speaking. His name was Stew Bear.
But, so every Sunday during Lent one kid from the church would get chosen at random to take Stew Bear home with us. What we were supposed to do is go perform acts of service with Stew Bear, document them, and share them with the other kids the following Sunday when we all got back together.
Me being me, I completely missed the point and assumed Stew Bear was a popular guy who's time was only so valuable. He went to soccer games. He went to my imaginary moon. He hung out with my sisters some too, but Stew Bear was my bro and bros are never far apart. (My mother is a saint for having dealt with nine year old me.)
The lesson for us kids was simple: Stewardship means helping others and Lent is the christian time to dedicate ourselves daily anew to it. It took me awhile to learn that. I always thought service was a number of hours I had to complete each trimester of school in order to graduate high school. For me, mandatory service made my experience disheartening. How could I give back when I felt so upset that I had no choice? Maybe it's my personality type, but making me do something only upsets me. It makes me want to do the opposite.
When I think of service I remember the lesson from Jesus
Matthew 5: 7
"You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
I found it my prerogative to clean up my act and the world closest to me before I truly dedicated myself to helping out the world at large. Now that was in high school so my perspective was a bit limited.
Regardless of what needs to happen first service is primary in Jesus' teachings. Jesus lived as a servant, even when people told him not to. He honored servants. He loved those who helped others. (Well, he loved everyone, but he had a fondness for servants too.)
I don't think of it as my obligation. I think of it as my privilege to serve others through my talents. Money hasn't always been my strong suit and 10% of what I make can roughly be anywhere from $5 to fifty cents. My time and my hard work are the best ways I can give back right now. I intend to use them as much as possible through my YAV year of service.
I am beyond excited to be going to Peru to serve others. It's an opportunity I think more people could benefit from. I expect (and hope) that it will shape who I am as a person drastically. I hope more than anything to be beneficial. I look forward to obstacles and roadblocks. I just gotta get there first.
Stew Bear, wherever you are, I hope you read this. I'd love for you to come visit me sometime. We can hang out like we used to. Send me your email address so I can send you some pics!
- Daniel Pappas -