It feels like yesterday when I heard the sound of muffled thumps and giggles in our living room. I was so intrigued by what I heard that I had to sneak behind our couch to spy on what was happening. As I quietly crawled within view, I saw Mitch laughing as he would squeeze and twist Ethan’s ear like a squishy toy. They were both laughing so hard that I couldn’t help but laugh, too. Little Mitch never had a mind to hurt his brother – only to wrestle as young boys do.
Because Ethan knew his little brother was physically weak, he adapted his play-style so Mitch might feel strong and competitive. Ethan could have easily turned the tables and overpowered his younger brother. Instead, he set aside his pride, bridled his strength and allowed Mitch to win in ways that were unique to him – and in so doing, they both won.
There was a point while home on hospice Mitch said to me “Dad, I just wish I could wrestle. I just want to wrestle...” By this time Mitch could hardly function – so it broke my heart to see him yearn for something he loved to do but couldn’t. I wondered if Mitch missed wrestling so much because his older brother helped him feel normal, healthy and strong.
By surrendering his strength, Ethan did more than serve his brother this day. He reminded me that on the other side of service is the often invisible act of lifting hearts and minds – and Ethan knew how to do just that for his little brother.
This image reminds me there is so much more to service than lifting heavy things or shoveling a neighbor’s driveway. There is a time and place for strong arms - but there is a greater place for gentle hands and soft hearts. The service of a smile, a kind word or loving encouragement can do so much for the downtrodden soul.
Sometimes, perhaps more often than we appreciate, service can be seen in handing strength over to someone who is not as strong – and giving them a chance to win.
I miss the muffled thunder of Ethan and Mitch wrestling in my home. And while part of my home is empty and heart hurting, my soul is overflowing with gratitude because I was blessed with two little giants who showed me the other side of service. They showed me a different kind of love – and I am better off because of it.