“I’m setting the timer for 1 hour. Now Go!”
Thus started our Saturday “One Hour Clean Up”, a tradition in our family for several years when the kids were children and teens.
The purposes for instituting this Saturday ritual were two-fold: 1) we wanted our children to learn responsibility and develop a good work ethic, and 2) I was a busy homeschooling mom and desperately needed help maintaining order in our home.
I can’t clearly remember the day we started this tradition by accident, but my foggy recollection is that the house was horrendous, the day was beautiful, and the kids wanted to do something fun. I do remember realizing that it would take most of the day, as usual, for me to get the house in order by myself. I then had the options of 1) saying “No” to their requests for an outing, 2) letting dad take them while I stayed home to clean, or 3) insisting that the whole family help where we could all go out together. Since an underlying goal for our family was to raise responsible, hardworking kids, my husband and I quickly decided what to do. We would have everyone jump in and help, getting done whatever we could in only 1 hour, and then permitting ourselves to stop cleaning and go have fun.
We made a list, set the timer, and dove in to the mess. When the timer went off we were shocked! The house looked remarkably clean and neat. It would have taken me at least 4 or 5 hours to do by myself all that we had accomplished together. Granted the mirrors were only wiped 3/4’s of the way up by the kids who were too short. And the wash cloths were folded, but not in perfect squares. Even the beds were made, although the comforter corners may have not been perfectly aligned. The dishes, laundry, floors, and bathrooms had been appropriately washed, folded, swept, mopped, and cleaned. It seemed as if we got more done than we thought we could have before we started. It was amazing!
I’ve heard that farm animals used for plowing, such as oxen, when yoked together can do more than double the work of one animal alone. First, herd animals work better in teams than on their own. There’s encouragement and inspiration in teamwork. Synergy, they call it in the business. The second reason has to do with the static coefficient of friction being higher than the dynamic coefficient of friction and because the animals have twice the strength on that initial pull to get going, they get a jump-start on the task. (That’s about all I can explain. Go ask your nearest mechanical engineer or physics teacher for more info.) All I know is that our family herd yoked together for a common goal and “Got ‘er done!” God has already shared that principle with us in Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.”
As we left the house that day to “go have fun” we all realized we had already been having fun together. From the 4 year-old to the 8 year-old to the 11 year-old to the 14 year-old to the two 40 year-old parents, each person exhibited excitement, camaraderie, and a sense of being needed and being proud of their contribution. We learned a lesson that day and the new tradition began with enthusiasm. What is one hour on a Saturday morning when you’re all working together and when you get to have a day full of fun afterwards? The One Hour Clean Up became the weekly norm.
But how does that affect my life you ask? I… live alone, or have no kids, or have a maid clean my house. Let’s think of the ramifications of this principle in another area of life. Basically the idea I presented in my family scenario is this:
6 x 1 = 1 x 66 people x 1 hour each can do the equivalent of 1 person working for 6 hours!
It’s the commutative property of mathematics (if I remember correctly) at work. So yes, those math lessons are important in real life! But how can we use that bit of data in other situations? In church? In service? In volunteer work?
Well, here’s an example. You’re having a churchwide activity. Let’s say you have a class of 24 people and need 2 people to man a booth for 3 hours. If 6 of the 24 volunteer, they each will have to work 1 hour. If 12 volunteer they will only have to work 30 minutes each. If no one volunteers to help you and your buddy, you’ll both have to work the entire 3 hours.
What about in a particular ministry at church? Men’s ministry for example. They have Bible studies, camp outs, retreats, steak nights, archery shoots, breakfasts, and maybe even fishing, golf, or basketball tournaments. If we leave the planning all up to the Men’s Director he’s going to be one busy man with something new to plan, prepare for, and lead every month. But if we get 4 people operating in their gifts and areas of expertise – they each only have something once every 4 months at most. And what if 1 guy can only do the steak night every year? Well hey, he’s got a whole year to plan and only 1 responsibility! And at the same time he is lightening the load for the others.
Why do you think service groups, ministries, and volunteer organizations are always asking for volunteers? To lighten the load. Whether it is the Salvation Army, Red Cross, an inner city tutoring program, or a church ministry, your small contribution may not seem like much to you. “Surely my 1 hour a week doesn’t even make a difference?” you may say. But when my one hour adds up with your one hour and my college student’s hour and your best friend’s hour who decided to go with you and the couple-from-the-other-side-of-town’s hour, we end up with 6 hours of productive work instead of just one.
So my challenge to myself and to you is to find something you are passionate about and have a bit of ability to do, and serve for an hour a week somewhere. Serve in Jesus’ name. Be His hands and feet and heart to the world. Spend more time and energy reaching out to the world than you do bemoaning the current state of affairs. Make that call to Teen Challenge and see how you can help. Let your church leaders know what you are skilled at, and be willing to head up that once-a-year event or clean out that storage closet or lead that study. Be the one who starts a program to adopt an inner city school. Help with that fundraiser. Do a backyard Bible club each summer. Organize that school clean up. Bake for that bake sale. Join or start a sewing ministry. Whatever you’re good at, get connected with a ministry that needs your kind of volunteers. It will not only help that ministry, but you in turn will be rewarded by a feeling of camaraderie, fulfillment, and purpose.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:15