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The Beauty of Serving

A little boy’s anger toward his brother gives way as he learns to serve.

The blue owl on Samuel's bed. Photo courtesy Shawnelle Eliasen.

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the sinful nature, rather, serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13)

“I’m mad at Samuel,” Isaiah says. “I’m downstairs trying to read and he’s singing. I keep asking him to stop but he keeps doing the same thing.”

His little-boy face is red with anger. His nose is scrunched in the way it scrunches when he’s upset. He pounded up the stairs with harsh footsteps and his hands are curled to fists.

I’m picking up the living room. I glance through the door and I see that Samuel’s usually tidy room is an all-out mess.

“’ll talk with your brother,” I say. “But for now, I have an idea. Let’s surprise Samuel. You and I can make his bed.”


“Make his bed?” Isaiah asks. His eyes are wide, round circles and his mouth, too, takes the shape of an “O”. “No way. I won’t make his bed.”

I shrug. It was worth a try. I read once that worry and praise can’t occupy the same place. I wonder if it’s true with anger and serving. I won’t find out because Isaiah has slumped, arms crossed hard over his chest, into a deep, leather chair.

I go to Samuel’s room anyway. There’s a sweatshirt on the floor. I pick it up. There’s a crumpled piece of paper that didn’t make the trash. I toss it in. The curtains are still drawn from nighttime. I pull them back.

“What are you doing?” Isaiah asks. He’s standing at the door. His eyes are narrowed.

“Helping Samuel,” I say.

I cross the room and tug on the sheet on Samuel’s bed. I draw it up and fold the top down and then smooth out the wrinkles with my hands. I do the same with his blanket.

By the time I get to the corduroy comforter, Isaiah is on the other side of the bed.

He takes the soft blanket in his small hands. He tugs it toward the top. At first, the tugs are short and sharp. But he keeps working. And as he pulls, his face softens. The muscles relax. His mouth isn’t curved down. He quits pulling like he’s in a tug-o-war. His movements become calm. Gentle.

When we’ve covered the bed, Isaiah stoops and picks up a pillow. He fluffs it and places it where Samuel rests his head.

I don’t say a word.

Isaiah’s heart is changing.

Together my little son and I clean Samuel’s bedroom. I gather a drinking glass and a towel that need to go downstairs. Isaiah places a blue stuffed owl on the center of the bed.

Just where Samuel likes it.

It’s true, I decide, as we leave the room together. Anger and servanthood can’t simultaneously fill a man’s heart. One gives way to the other.

And the beautiful wins.

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