In January, the weekend before I proposed, Leah and I went on a trip to help out at a high school retreat. We were two of the three dishwashers. It was a fairly gross job, even with gloves and apron, and pretty hard work because the camp, for whatever reason, thought that only foods that stick to plates and become cement substitutes can be tasty enough to be worth making.
The other night, she and I were talking about it and she said she didn’t feel like she’d contributed. I thought briefly about it and then shared three thoughts with her:
1. While it’s almost certainly true that no kid thought, “These dishes are being done for me. That’s so sweet that I’ll become a Christian,” we did make a contribution. If the dishes aren’t done, there’s nothing to serve food on. Without food, the kids get hungry, restless, and grumpy, meaning they probably won’t listen to the messages they hear. They’ll also have a negative view of the experience overall.
2. We don’t know their hearts. Some may have dedicated their lives to serving Christ and meant it, some may have had seeds planted in their hearts that gnaw at them until they become Christians, and some may ignore the message or get fired up and then watch their enthusiasm fade in a few days. Since we can’t read their hearts, though, we can’t say what kind of impact that retreat had on them.
3. It doesn’t matter what kind of impact it had. Whether they believe or not is on them, not us and our efforts. Jesus didn’t tell us to do good when it would make a huge impact. He said to do good, to love your neighbor. He did it Himself when He healed people that didn’t come back and thank Him (Luke 17:11-19).
The next time you think your efforts at being nice are worthless, remember these three things. Know that your efforts may be part of a bigger picture, that they may affect the person in a bigger way than you know, and that even if they don’t, it is on you to love others, not to change them.