The Benefits of Humble Service

Stephanie NelsonBy Stephanie Nelson8 Minutes

Excerpt adapted from Imagine More: Do What You Love, Discover Your Potential by Stephanie Nelson


We can move mountains when we encourage ideas. Even when we aren’t the ones directly responsible for an initiative that helps others, when we look up and say, “The answer is yes” at every wise opportunity, we become key players in God’s plan to help people help others. Barbara was in the habit of encouraging people at all income levels. She encouraged the charity’s clients who had nowhere to turn when the electric company turned off their power, and she encouraged wealthier people who discovered that money didn’t fulfill them as they’d expected. Her charity encouraged clients, volunteers, donors, board members, and anyone who walked through her door who needed help or who wanted to help. She said yes to anyone looking for encouragement, fulfillment, or both. Let’s be like Barbara.

Being humbled by the earlier nonprofit director also forced me to recognize my impatience. When we’re impatient, we are telling God that His timing isn’t good enough for us. But when we are humbled, we lower our expectations and we become more patient. When we are humbled, we are happier with smaller successes over a longer period of time. Being more patient allows God’s timing to do its work. Working with the smaller food pantry felt like a very big deal after being rejected by the large one. And it turned out that the smaller food pantry was able to move mountains after all.

Our personalities can also impact who we are most likely to link elbows with as we go along the path to our dream. Barbara’s personality was very different from the other director’s. Barbara did not care for the limelight and was never trying to get the spotlight on herself. She worked alongside the other employees to meet with clients, worked in the food pantry, and got the newsletter typed up and mailed, among many other tasks. She is one of the humblest people you’d ever meet, with a huge heart for helping people in need. Over the thirty-five years she’s been the charity’s director, it’s grown in staffing, seen financial donations increase, and moved to a larger building. When people complimented her for her leadership in growing the organization, she’d say, “This is not the type of organization that we want to grow. It shows that the problem is getting worse. Ideally, we’d like to solve the problem so that we’d be out of business.”

When we spoke recently about our first meeting with my PowerPoint, she said, “Well of course I liked the idea! It was fully developed and ready to go. We needed all the help we could get!” Barbara personified humility and service to the people in our community who needed assistance. And it was clear that her service filled her with joy. Not because of accolades or public approval, but because she personally connected with the clients and supporters and knew she was making a difference in their lives. Barbara was in the business of encouraging people, loving them, and building them up every day.

That’s how love is. When we freely give it to those who are most overlooked instead of seeking approval for ourselves, we are the ones who are filled with joy. Joy is God’s reminder that we’re on the right path. We don’t need titles or accolades from people to know we are doing God’s work. We’ll just know.

Barbara was a fun, optimistic supporter of our cause from the beginning. In the early years, a small publisher published my first book. It taught the reader everything about strategic shopping, coupons, and donating free food to charity. Unfortunately, the publisher printed far more books than they could sell and ended up with a warehouse full of books. I felt terrible that the publisher had lost money betting on me. Rather than throwing the books away, they offered to sell the entire inventory to me for a dollar a copy. This was great for us because it was much less expensive than publishing marketing materials would be, and it was far more helpful in teaching our message. It also helped the publisher make their money back, which made me feel better.

We used the book to raise money for North Fulton Community Charities. The first time we tried this, I felt a little sheepish promoting a book and didn’t expect many sales. At the end of a Rotary Club breakfast talk, I held up a copy of my book and explained that they were available for twenty dollars each, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to North Fulton Community Charities. One of the members immediately walked up to the podium, grabbed the book, and traded it for a twenty-dollar bill. Then he looked at the group and said, “Okay, everyone—get in line. We are buying all her books.” And they did. It was so overwhelming and exciting. I drove to Barbara’s office, told her what had happened, and dumped a pile of twenties on her desk, over $800. We couldn’t believe it. It was so fun to share the joy of all that was happening with her.

We continued to take this approach with speaking engagements. It always worked, and we ended up being able to give thousands of dollars to the charity while educating people on how to be strategic shoppers and food pantry donors.

It’s all about perspective—the world’s view or God’s view. We could either look at that first book as a commercial failure in the publishing world because it sold so few copies, or we could see it as the unexpected gift it was—a marketing and fundraising success for the charity we loved. That’s how God’s economy works; it doesn’t follow the same success metrics as the world’s. Sometimes it takes a pile of twenty-dollar bills and a big laugh to remind us that God has our back, all the time.

Adapted from Imagine More: Do What You Love, Discover Your Potential. Copyright © 2023 by Stephanie Nelson. Published by Thomas Nelson.

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