A Weary "Sole"
It's 3 am and after tossing and turning in bed for the last hour, I finally decided to get up and stop wasting time. I now sit at the computer, eating bread, ready to put my thoughts out there.
About ten years ago, Jake and I were out to dinner. I immediately noticed a cute elderly lady sitting at the booth next to us, eating alone. I couldn't stop noticing/worrying about her the whole time we ate, and I talked myself out of inviting her to sit with us. It seems a funny thing to remember, but since that day, I have vowed to "Never Postpone a Prompting" (Thomas S. Monson). What was the worst that could have happened that day? She would say, "No thank you." ?!
Well, I have learned that I would much rather live with that than the constant 'What if?' and regret of not acting on my prompting.
There is a man. He is tall, but hunched and he walks the same path to the gas station every day. I see him every day as I drive to the gym. He cradles his insulated cup as he shuffles along the sidewalk. He looks as though life hasn't been too kind to him. He wears the same dark, baggy clothes, usually with a hood covering his head, has an unruly beard, and walks with his eyes at his feet.
I was stopped at a light yesterday when he passed by on the crosswalk. As he walked, I noticed the sole of his shoe was holding on by a thread as it flapped back and forth with each step. Buy him shoes, came a thought, not only to my head, but also in my heart. I immediately started analyzing his feet haha. What size shoe did he wear?!
With a new pair of shoes sitting on the seat next to me, I knew exactly where to deliver them. I pulled up to the gas station window and said, "I have a weird favor to ask..." I got out two adjectives before the nice worker exclaimed, "Yes! I know exactly who you're talking about. That's John." I handed over the shoes and asked that He made sure John got them the next time He came in. That worker was so appreciative and, you could tell, touched.
Fast forward to 9 o'clock last night. My kids should have been in bed, but instead, we were in the car, waiting to order ice cream. One of my little guys came home from school in tears after another rough day. We decided ice cream could fix anything :) As we waited in line I said, "Can I tell you what I did today?" I had their full attention. As I described John and tried to put into words how the spirit prompted me to help him, that same spirit filled our car. I told them what I did, and finished with something like this... "You know what, He's not going to know I was the one who gave Him those shoes, but it doesn't matter. I feel happy knowing that I did what the Holy Ghost was telling me to do. And I feel happy thinking about how excited He will be when He shows up tomorrow to get his drink and will be surprised with shoes. I think the best part is that He will feel loved..." Then I hear, "Mom you're about to cry aren't you?" They're used to it haha, I just ignored them and kept talking. "I think when John gets His shoes, His heart will be touched to know that someone thought of Him and to know that He's not alone. I hope He will feel Heavenly Father's love for Him, because Heavenly Father sent me the thought and feeling to help Him. Do you know what is going to be the coolest? It will be so cool, the next time I see Him, to see the shoes on His feet. It will remind me that I did something good and served Him."
As I have not been able to stop thinking about this whole experience, I've thought about this quote,
Yes, the act of buying John a pair of shoes was a small thing, but the ripple effect our acts of kindness can have are not a small matter at all. In my experience, when we serve, act on promptings, show kindness etc., is that the person who learns or who truly "needs" something is not actually the person we've decided to help, but it's us, or someone else. There's a ripple effect. What do I mean? Let me try to explain...
John: He gets a new pair of shoes, and I hope, with all of my heart, He feels the love of our Heavenly Father.
My Children: They felt the spirit. They saw their Mom trying to lead by example. Their hearts were softened and their eyes opened to having charity. They ended the day more concerned about others (specifically for John. They had the sweetest prayers. Milo prayed that the shoes would fit him.) than themselves.
The Gas station worker: I could honestly tell, by the look in his face, the change in his demeanor, and by his graciousness for the shoes; something that wasn't even for Him, that he was touched. Maybe He felt the spirit, maybe He found more faith in humanity, maybe He was inspired himself to pay it forward, I'll never really know, but I am pretty positive He felt all of those things; which is reward in and of itself.
Me: I have felt gratitude. I feel grateful I am in a position to be able to buy a pair of shoes for a stranger. I feel grateful that Heavenly Father trusts me to send me on His errands. Grateful for promptings from the Holy Ghost, and that they get more clear and come more often as I never hesitate to act. I feel most grateful that I was able to have a sacred teaching moment with my children and feel the spirit with them. I will never forget it, and I hope they don't either. These moments humble me and remind me what truly matters.
It is my testimony that when we look outside of ourselves and serve, no matter how big or small that service is, we will find joy, hope, peace, and purpose. You can't serve and feel depressed, or lost, or ungrateful, or mad. It's not possible. When I feel like i'm in a funk, or feeling sorry for myself, this is the checklist I go over,
1. Am I reading my scriptures every day?
2. Am I having sincere prayer every day?
3. Am I serving?
Usually during those "funky" times ;), one of those things is not happening like it should be. As soon as I fix that, all is right again. Problems and responsibilities haven't gone away, but my ability to handle all of it is increased.