After a long day working for a bank in Downtown Manhattan, attending a baby shower in Brooklyn, and then riding the F train home it occured to me that was the 6th baby shower I attended in 7 months. That's a lot of baby shower presents! I imagined my own baby shower one day and hoped I would have a decent attending crowd so we could be gifted as well. I suppose you could say I began to think my gifts were an investment of our money into something that would, later, offer a return. Such is not the proper idea to have when gifting someone (this I now know). Some years later I would move and few, if any, would even know of our turn at celebrating a baby coming into our lives. I (selfishly) thought of all the money we had spent in that ward for so many years gifting babies we would never know.
It wasn't until I had my own baby shower that I was able to learn a valuable lesson. Not about money, but about people. And service. I am not sure what it's like outside of the Mormon culture, but within the Mormon culture when a baby is joining a family it is joining The Ward Family. It has been my experience in three different states and various cities that you pull together and celebrate. Not because you want the same celebration back. Not because you want or expect anything back from that family (it's not an investment). It's just what you do.
Service to one another is just like that. It's not an investment. So many of the people I have given of my time or assistance to are not the same people that will be necessarily able to give it back if I have a need. That makes it challenging, at times, to accept help. You want to be able to pay them back equally, even if you are not in a place to be able to. Because that's the way the world wants you to operate, but charity isn't like the world. Charity is Christ-like.
I think of it like those revolving doors at the entrance of all those sky scrapers in The City. The people who can give of service at a given time are the ones spinning through the door. Some people seem to be able to give a lot (in the door for a while) as others are in and out of the door for brief spots of time. The idea is for all of us to take as many turns jumping into the spinning door whenever we can. And to be okay with yourself if you are not at a place to give much- your time will come later when someone else is in a similar or harder spot.
As a mother of young kids, I have come to realize the importance of checking my 'giving' reserves. I am learning to stop before I offer and pause before I accept the call for a need of another. I take a mental inventory of the urgency of the need, the status of my family and personal needs and determine the level of stress that may or may not be placed upon me and/ or my family. I owe it to my family to not always be the 'yes' person. I got very ill once because I was the 'yes' person at a time in my life once when my family (and personal) needs were not being fully met. I was running on empty- unaware of it at the time- and still giving of myself when I, in fact, needed support. It's an important balance to strike, but not easy to get right.