Should I be teaching or serving right now?

I attended a June Boy Scout Camporee one year in a small valley nestled among some large mountains. We spent tent-548022_640two nights there participating in all of the typical activities that Boy Scouts love – playing with fire and eating food.  Our ward Young Men Presidency was a rather new one. They knew the boys and knew their roles. All were experienced outdoorsmen and talented youth leaders.

As we arrived, we picked a perfect campsite near a wide bend in a stream, in a field of wildflowers. The Senior Patrol Leader designated a location for the leaders to pitch their tents, a place to put the dining fly and store troop gear, and then pointed out where the youth could go pitch their tents.

When you set up a tent, anticipating inclement weather, there are several things to consider.

  • First, you choose level ground, free from rocks or roots, and choose something slightly elevated from the surrounding area, so you don’t end up sleeping in a puddle. If you have to be on an incline, you dig a small moat around the uphill side of your tent to get runoff to go around your tent.
  • Second, you choose a three-season tent with a full waterproof basin sewn in, and still use a footprint underneath.
  • Third, you put in every stake and guy line, making sure the tent lines and surfaces are taught.
  • Fourth, you secure the rain fly on the tent, but allow for moist air to ventilate out of the tent if you expect cold.
  • Lastly, you ensure that nothing inside the tent touches the walls of the tent, as that wicks moisture through the fabric walls.

Everyone went to work, set camp up quickly, and enjoyed the evening’s activities.

storm-642614_640We got precious little warning at dusk when we felt the wind suddenly change directions, bringing cold air rushing at us from the south, and spied dark clouds billowing vertically a short distance away. We sent everyone to their tents with instructions to call for help if they were cold or wet. We leaders went to our tents and tucked into our warm bags just as the sleet began.

Rain, sleet, and snow came in torrents.

There is nothing quite like sleeping in a warm sleeping bag, inside of a reliable tent, with the cold evening air on your face, as a huge storm hits.  It must be some inner pleasure at having conquered the elements.  I was asleep in minutes, with a grin on my sleeping face.

Half an hour later, our ward YM President woke me. Several of the boys were cold and wet and needed help quickly. Together with the other adult leaders, bundled in rain gear, we began checking on the scouts, tent by tent.

puddle-690866_640Some tents had puddles inside them. Some didn’t have all the poles installed. Some weren’t staked to the ground.  Some were clearly not meant for anything but backyard use on a warm summer evening.

In some of the situations, we simply fixed the problem ourselves, because it was more of a serving moment than a teaching one. In some of the situations, the scouts were shown how to fix their own problems, supervised in fixing them, and then tucked in safely. Some of the older and more experienced scouts helped us as we assisted the younger scouts.

By the time we got finished with the boys in the last tent, we were soaked despite our rain gear. It had taken a good hour of work. While all of the problems could not be solved, we were able to alleviate suffering, teach lessons, calm worries, restore warmth, and ensure that all were going to survive the night. More work would be done in the morning, but for now we had everything solved.

Some of the scouts had the knowledge and experience necessary to face that challenge.  Some were on their first or second lifetime campout, and so they were teamed with seasoned scouts who could help them.  The newer scouts had listened to our instruction as we had prepared them before the campout, but not all of the information sunk in.  Some thought they simply knew better than we.

How often must Heavenly Father view us the same way we leaders viewed the scouts in their plight?  Mormons are Christians, so we try and be good people, but are we reliable, prepared and experienced, so that Heavenly Father can count on us to help others?  Are we simply in a spiritual puddle and need help getting out?  Is Heavenly Father serving us or teaching us right now?  Have we listened and tried to follow all of the wise counsel given to us?  Are we prepared for what will surely come our way?

When you are helping others in your calling or simply as their friend and neighbor, would Heavenly Father have you teach them, or serve them?  Sometimes service is the best answer.  For instance, it would not be appropriate to teach a feeble gentleman next door to dig up and replace a fountaining sprinkler pipe.  It’s best just to fix it for him.  Teaching, however, would be appropriate when you are helping a five year-old tie her shoes.  Service should be the choice when your Bishop assigns you to do a specific service for someone.  Teaching is the right choice when you are asked by the Bishop to help someone work on a budget to address their debt.

Thankfully, Heavenly Father both teaches and serves.  He may send you help in a tough situation, and He may teach you how to remedy it yourself.



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