Kindness knits all hearts together
On the Sunday before the presidential election, in a ward in Greensboro, North Carolina, the Relief Society lesson was shaped around the passage in Mosiah 18:21, where, at the Waters of Mormon, Alma tells the newly baptized Saints to look forward with one eye, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love toward one another.
To prepare for the lesson, the teacher had called one sister and asked her for an example of service -- something wonderful and unexpected that someone had done for her, a service that really meant something.
Then the teacher called the person who had done that service, and asked for a story from her ... and on and on up the chain of kindness.
Each one of them said that there were so many examples they had a hard time choosing. But that day in Relief Society, each got up and told the story that happened to pop into their minds when the question was first asked. Here are the stories.
A few weeks after Patty was diagnosed with cancer, as she was preparing to begin chemotherapy, Elizabeth showed up at her door with a Krispy Kreme hat. "You'll look great in this when you lose your hair." They had a great laugh together -- and Patty felt both loved and comforted.
Elizabeth had lost her sister a few years before. She was shown so many kindnesses during the first days and weeks of grieving that she could fill hours with those stories. But that day in Relief Society, she told of a sister in the ward, Cathy, known for her love of arts and crafts, who showed up at her door with a picture frame. "It's for you to put on your fridge. To hold a picture of your sister." That frame is still on her refrigerator, and has held many pictures of her loved ones.
Cathy's husband served in the bishopric, which meant that he stayed after church for hours. With all their children grown and gone, that meant Cathy went home alone every Sunday. One day, Ann invited her home to dinner at her house. "How could she know I was lonely and needed a lift?" It brightened her day and she has never forgotten the impulsive kindness.
When Ann's husband was called into the bishopric, it wasn't that she had any doubts about the calling; but as a convert to the Church, she had never been in the family of someone with such an intense calling. She wasn't sure what it would mean -- or how she would handle it. Her mentor in the Church, Eileen, came and gave her a hug and said that she knew Ann's husband would do a great job in his new calling because he had such a strong wife. "And you'll be a wonderful example to other converts in the Church."
When Eileen was serving as ward Relief Society President, she had a particularly difficult presidency meeting with lots of issues to deal with. At the very end of the meeting, which was full of worries and concerns, one of her counselors, Lesley, had saved up a delightful, happy story about a couple in the ward who had recently gotten married. It was so charming that they all laughed and laughed -- and got the uplift they so badly needed that day.
Lesley told about the time when Jossie invited her home for lunch between sessions of General Conference -- they had both been watching at the church meetinghouse. Lesley said that sometimes it's hard to go home alone to just her kitty, and that day it meant a lot to her to be able to go home with Jossie.
Since Jossie would mark the end of the chain, the teacher allowed her to tell two stories. First, she told about a time when she had a serious injury and was bedridden -- she couldn't move her neck. Edith came to her home, brought her flowers, and just sat with her.
Jossie also remembered many years ago when she first moved to Greensboro, North Carolina. She had been a member for a couple of years, but had become inactive. When she gave birth to her first child, the one and only person who came to visit her or give her a gift for her baby was Jean, the Relief Society president at the time. She felt loved at a time when she needed it most -- and came to church, knowing she had a friend there.
These stories might sound very simple, perhaps insignificant -- but to the person on the receiving end of the kindness, they had meant enough that the incident stayed alive in their memory.
Since everybody in that Relief Society knew all the people in all the stories, you can be sure there wasn't a dry eye in the room.
The teacher ended the lesson early, so there was time for testimony bearing. One of the sisters stood to tell of how hard she had worked for one candidate in the presidential election. She felt strongly about her choice and had sacrificed a lot of time to support him.
Then, a few days before, a sister in the Church forwarded her an email attacking her candidate. "I wrote a blistering email, answering the false charges and making some judgments of my own."
She didn't send her reply, though. Instead, she read it again. "I realized that I didn't want this to be the relationship between us."
So instead she wrote another email, one that spoke of how much she loved that sister, without mentioning the election or the candidates at all. The forgiveness was heartfelt -- all the more because it did not begin with accusation. The other sister might not even have realized she was being forgiven ... but she was.
The meeting ended. They went home, going their separate ways -- but with all hearts knit together in unity and love.
Copyright © 2008 by Orson Scott Card
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