It took until I was in my late-20’s to recognize my grandmother’s acts of service as her love language. For a lot of years it was just something we joked about because we didn’t really understand it. We didn’t understand why she’d wake up so much earlier than necessary to iron my grandpa’s uniform and fry bacon and eggs for breakfast. We’d mutter to ourselves, “Can’t he iron his own uniform?” or “He can eat cereal or a bagel just like the rest of us.” We couldn’t figure out why she’d put herself out for something that seemed so simple and silly.
We’d also joke and tease that she’d walk in a room, hand my grandpa a plate of food, and he’d just start eating whatever she gave him. He wouldn’t ask for food, he wouldn’t even really be hungry, but if she handed it to him, he ate it. We wondered why she was such a servant when she didn’t have to be. As I grew up I realized acts of service was her love language.
Doing for others is how my grandmother showed her love.
In a lot of ways, I regret not being aware of her love language while we still had her. She passed away on July 26, 2010 and we lost a real angel that day. She was always giving to others. When I think of her now, that’s what I think of.
I think of…
- Her waking up early to make biscuits and gravy from scratch for breakfast because she knew we loved it and only indulged in it when we visited her in West Virginia.
- Her always gathering our shoes and organizing them by the back door.
- Her little disappearances during our family bonfires to go and gather more stuff to burn once we ran out of wood. She’d gather old boxes, old magazines (she loved the Enquirer, lol), etc. She’s also sneak away to gather mason jars so the kids could catch lightning bugs.
- All of the canning she did (veggies, sauces, etc) that she gave away to family, friends, and neighbors.
I also think of her open house. There were always people coming and going from her home. No one was a stranger. No one needed an invitation. Family and friends just showed up and were always welcomed with open arms. That’s just who she was and what she did.
I wish I had been able to recognize her love language back then. I wish I had been able to see that behind every action were the words, “I love you.” I wish I had seen it so that I could have said it back to her in her own language. As a person who relies on touch as my primary love language I say, “I love you” through hugs, snuggles, and other gestures. If I could spend one more day with her I’d make the gravy, move my own shoes, and collect the mason jars. I’d act in service to her. She deserved it.
I have noticed that as I’ve gotten older I’ve started treating acts of service as a love language toward my husband. It’s not near the level of my grandma (it’s not my primary language) but I do finding myself serving him out of love. For example:
- Every time I go in to the kitchen I offer him a water or a coffee (even if that means I have to spend a few minutes brewing it for him). Also, water and coffee are the only things he drinks. If he did drink tea, soda, beer, etc I’d offer him that too.
- I’ll offer to take the dogs out when it’s his turn if I notice that he’s busy with work or if he’s extra sore after a work out.
- I pick up the dirty coffee mugs or small plates he leaves around the house (he tends to eat/snack while he works and that often means dirty dishes).
I do that, and other acts, because my grandma taught me that sometimes it’s the little things we do for others that speak the loudest.
I also recognize the million things that my husband does for me as an act of service. I know I’m not a perfect wife or roommate. My hair sheds like crazy and it’s all over the house (yet he vacuums or sweeps without complaint). I leave clothes in the closet floor (and he picks them up and puts them away). He cleans up the kitchen when it’s dirty or after I cook. He takes the dogs out when it’s too hot, too cold, or too rainy for me. He opens my car door, our apartment front door, and every other door we encounter. I haven’t opened my own door in over 6 years. 🙂
The most important part of acts of service, to me, is doing it without complaint and without expecting any expression of gratitude or acknowledgement. When you start to do things out of an expectation of what you will receive in return it stops being an act of love. At least, it stops being an act of selfless love.
When you do for others, do it because you love them. They may not recognize it now but hopefully one day they will recognize your loving acts of service much as I have recognized my grandma’s.
For more about acts of service and other love languages see The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.