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Family Talk: Try asking your family 'How may I serve you?'

Find out what happens when you offer to help others in your family. [Thinkstock Photo]

Find out what happens when you offer to help others in your family. [Thinkstock Photo]

The young girl working in the fast food restaurant asked me an interesting question: "How may I serve you?"

She didn't ask, "What would you like to eat?" or say, "I'm ready to take your order." She said she wanted to serve me.

Or at least that's what she said — and it proved to be true. She did a good job serving me. She smiled. She gave me what I asked for with speed and efficiency. At the end of our short transaction, she said it had been her pleasure to serve me, and the way she said it, I almost believed it. I thanked her sincerely, telling her I appreciated the good job she did. It was just a routine encounter, the kind we all have several times a week. But it made me wonder.

I wondered how our marriages and families might be different if we asked the question: “How may I serve you?”

What if husbands genuinely asked their wives, "How may I serve you today, honey?" and vice versa. What if parents and children asked each other that question once or twice a day — or at least once a week? Would it alter our attitudes? Would it affect our actions?

I think it would. If marriage partners and family members sincerely sought to serve each other, I believe it would promote a greater sense of unity in our homes. That we're all on the same team. That we're working toward the same goal: Serving one another.

Jesus did this with his disciples during The Last Supper. During The Last Supper, the Gospels tell us Jesus washed the disciples' feet, a chore usually done by a servant or the youngest in the room. After doing this, Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves,” and, “I have given you an example.” He was telling them, and us, that even the great should serve the least.

Of course, being willing to “serve” one another in a marriage and family doesn't mean disagreements never occur. From time to time, there will be arguments and tension and dissonance even in the most unified home. But the attitude of service provides a bedrock foundation. A willingness to serve would create a home where the theme music is harmony, not cacophony. Where perseverance preserves relationships, even in adversity. Where commitment transcends self-centeredness and where everyone bails water when the family boat springs a leak. That's the kind of marriage and family all of us would like to belong to.

That's the kind of home in which we'd all like to live.

So how do we find such a home? By creating it. By uttering the words, "How may I serve you?" both in what we say and what we do. Try it this week. Make a habit of sincerely asking your spouse or family members, "How may I serve you?" Then, get ready to serve — and brace yourself for a wave of change.

Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at jpriest@sunbeamfamilyservices.org

Jim Priest

Jim Priest is the CEO of Sunbeam Family Services, a 108-year-old nonprofit that provides a range of social services to support Oklahoma's most vulnerable people, including early childhood education, counseling, foster care and senior services. Jim... Read more ›

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