Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Helping Hands

This past Sunday we had a priesthood meeting and one of the themes that the stake presidency is promoting to the brethren is creating a culture of caring. They had some kind of foreign name attached to it that has something to do with some kind of tribe, but the point is just making ourselves available to each other in every way that we can.

From the moment I began my contact with the church I have always been most inspired by the priesthood holders, probably because that is the role I will be fulfilling. It began when I would go on the scouting activities when I wasn't even a member or a scout, and would have long drives with the Young Men's Presidents and the other advisors. Brothers King, Briggs, Ostler Chapman, Greggorson, Cornwell, Reid, Gassin, Muir were all men that I aspired to be in so many ways. I guess it's just funny to me because I still look for those kinds of influences in my life almost 15 years later. I wonder if that will ever change, even when I'm a grandfather and looking down instead of up, in terms of age.

Anyway, my current bishop and stake president have felt like those kinds of men to me. President Baker mentioned how important it is to make an effort to show people, even strangers, that we care. At the time he said it, I wondered if doing those little things (e.g. holding doors, donating generous fast offerings, provide a listening ear, making meals, letting people in during traffic, etc.) really made any kind of difference, if people really noticed that kind of thing. I've been thinking about it for a few days, not constantly, but it comes up every now and then, and I have to conclude that it does. A couple of examples:
  • At the last fast and testimony meeting one guy that I have a man-crush on got up and mentioned in his testimony how he was in a Smith's parking lot, and this woman was asking everyone in sight if they spoke Spanish or not. She finally approached him, and he talked about how he was deciding in his mind whether he wanted to make it known that he did actually speak Spanish. When he didn't respond either way, she just assumed that he did, and asked him for a ride home. On that car ride she began to unabashedly talk about her faith, and he marveled at her forthrightness. Anyway, I just loved his testimony because it was entirely self-effacing and speaking well of the woman, not of himself. Not even a week after hearing his testimony, I was walking out of the Wilk into the parking lot where the bus stop is, and this little latin man was asking everyone if they spoke Spanish. I had my Ipod playing in my ears, but immediately recognized what he was doing, and the immediate thought I had was of the testimony I heard, and how I owed it to the man to help him out. It was really simple, just explaining that the forms he had were for student aid for his son. After chatting some more I found out he was from Chile, and we had a nice little conversation.
  • For years the Reid family home teacher was President Muir, my first stake president and the person who gave me my first set of scriptures when I was baptized. During one of President Muir's visits, he mentioned how the father not only responded to a call of service, but in doing so asked when there was the least amount of help available and that he would go then. Greg would have never told that story about himself, but even after hearing that story more than a decade ago, that example is still something that inspires me to want to serve.
These simple acts of kindness inspire people to be and do better. I know that if it weren't for the men in those two stories I mentioned, I wouldn't have responded so easily, or maybe at all, to the calls to help.

This commercial illustrates my point well:

In a conversation I had over the summer, a friend was telling me about an acquaintance he has and how completely selfish he is, and asked what it takes for someone like that to change. The first thing I thought of was Jean Valjean and the Bishop in Les Miserables. Jean was a convict, living a selfish life and rejected by society, and had been taken in by the Bishop when no one else would. As payment for the Bishop's kindness, Jean leaves in the middle of the night, stealing various items as well. When the police catch him and ask the Bishop if he had stolen the items, the Bishop pretends that he had sent Valjean on his way with the goods, and chastises him for leaving so quickly and not also taking two silver candlesticks with him. So touched by the graciousness of the Bishop, Jean Valjean changes his life forever and lives wholly dedicated to the service of others.

The little things we do matter. If not to ourselves, then to the people we are serving, and if not them, then maybe to some unknown bystander who is watching your actions. Sometimes you'll be rewarded for your kindness, and other times it will feel like you're being punished, but that's the gospel, isn't it? From Matthew 5 (and 3 Nephi 12):
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy bneighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

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