While scrolling through Facebook recently I came across a post from a twenty-year-old young lady, a former student of mine from the Classical Conversations program where I teach tenth graders once a week. Although I didn’t know the young man she wrote about, I could tell he was a dear friend of hers who had passed away in an accident. Later when his phone was returned to his parents, they discovered an alarm on it that asked, “Who did you help today?”
It seemed that this hidden prompt, a daily for-his-eyes-only reminder to evaluate how he was living and serving others didn’t come as a surprise to those who knew him. It made an impact on many, and my former student shared a photo of its impact on her — those words tattooed on the inside of her wrist.
Though I didn’t know him, his story impacted me as well.
I have three alarms set on my watch, inspired by Stephanie Bryant’s devotional in the first (in)courage book, Craving Connection. In it, she encourages readers to set prayer alarms throughout the day. The idea really spoke to me, and since then, my watch quietly nudges me at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 8 p.m. each day.
Sometimes I stop what I’m doing and pray. If I’m really busy I may get no further than a simple Thank You, Lord. My favorite is when I’m in the middle of devotional time and the alarm syncs with what I’m already doing; it prompts me to dig beneath the words on the page and connect deeper. Lately, I’ve been challenging myself to pray big prayers because I worship a big God.
But now after reading such a small piece of this young man’s personal story, the question on his phone alarm left an impression on me, someone he never met. I’ve renamed my 8 p.m. alarm. It’s no longer labeled Prayer, but rather, Who did you help today?
I chose the evening prompt so that I can reflect on most of my day. Sometimes it’s easy and I know exactly how to answer the question: I ran an important errand for my husband while he was at work, I made an essential oil recommendation that helped a friend, I juggled schedules so that one of my kids could do something special they’d hoped to do that day.
But, honestly, some days it’s hard. Who did I help? Did I do anything for anyone else? The question nags at me until I can answer it.
I don’t plan to rename my watch alarm again. The prompt to reflect on how I serve is good for me. It reminds me to look beyond myself, to feel another person’s needs and then act on them. I jokingly say that my watch is not the boss of me when it prods me to stand or to move or to take a brisk 50 minute walk at the end of the day, but if this electronic device around my wrist can prompt a heart change, I’m all for it.
After all, when we serve others we serve God.
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:40 (KJV)
I hope the story of this young man’s phone alarm spreads among his friends and family and they honor his memory by challenging themselves the same way he did. The gentle prompt on my wrist will continue to influence me and challenge me until it becomes easier and easier to answer the question: Who did you help today?
How might you answer that question today?