In his April 2010 General Conference address, Dieter F. Uchtdorf stated, “Our hands can comfort. With this in mind, let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path. As disciples of Jesus Christ, our Master, we are called to support and heal rather than condemn. We are commanded ‘to mourn with those that mourn’ and ‘comfort those that stand in need of comfort.’”
You Want Me to Do What?
Have you ever received a prompting to do something for a stranger but, feeling uncomfortable, you added a caveat? I have found myself in that situation frequently. The thought of, “Tell this person that they are doing a great job,” gets an answer of “I’ll do that if they happen to walk right past me.” I’ve been working to become more dependable and allow to the Lord to use me in His circumstances, not just when I force it into my ideal situation. In this instance, it worked out just the way I’d wanted it but I believe there was a lot of divine help that time. (Interestingly, I’d forgotten about that experience until I went looking for an example.) And this experience, helps boost my confidence when I’m asked to step out of my comfort zone.
Once, while my boys were in swimming lessons, there was an elderly woman working with a physical therapist in the same pool. Having had to endure plenty of physical therapy in past years, I knew that it is difficult, and, at times, you wonder if it is worth it.
Watching this woman work so hard to do these exercises, I had the thought that I should say something encouraging. Almost immediately, I started to brush the idea aside. “Well, I don’t want to interrupt her therapy session.” “It’s so hard to hear in this pool area anyway. I don’t’ want to yell at her.” “Maybe if she gets out before we leave, I’ll consider it.”
Then, I remembered my resolve to follow through. I waited until we were walking out but I did it. I leaned down to the edge of the pool where she was and said, “I’ve had to do some of these same exercises. It’s not easy but it is definitely worth it.” She gave me a huge smile and a thumbs up.
Upping the Awkwardness
The next time I was prompted to comfort a stranger, it seemed I was being stretched further.
At the time, I was seeking some guidance from the Lord. I walked along a nearby river to clear my head during a busy day. (It may be my lake-filled childhood in Minnesota, but I have always found solace in being near water.) I made my way down to the bank and then used a rock bridge to wander a bit closer to the flowing water. While there, I received an outpouring of encouragement and comfort, knowing I was headed in the right direction.
As I turned to head back towards the bank, I saw a woman standing at the edge of the water. I heard the Spirit whisper, “Can I count on you?” I had a feeling this was going to push me out of my comfort zone a bit. However, I had just received this blessing of comprehension for my question – the least I could do was show some gratitude by being dependable. I felt impressed that I should hug this woman. For the record, I am not a “huggy” person. In addition, being barely 5 feet tall, hugs sometimes feel awkward. Still, I felt I needed to follow through. (Besides, this woman was shorter than me.)
As I approached, I noted that the woman was Hispanic. Having served a Spanish-speaking mission, I thought “A-ha, I get why it’s me you’re sending.” I said, “Habla espanol?” She said, “No.” On my mission frequently, we would get this same response because they had thought we asked if they spoke English, so they said, “No.” Just to clarify, I asked if she spoke English. She confirmed that she did. I was starting to feel quite foolish at this point. I forged ahead, saying, “I know this sounds weird, but I feel like you may need a hug. Can I give you a hug?”
Tears came to her eyes as she nodded and reached for me. She held tight for about 10 seconds – which feels like a really long time when hugging a stranger. I tried to think about sending her God’s love for her through that hug. As we stepped apart, the awkwardness started to creep in again. I cupped her elbow, looked her in the eye and said, “I hope you have a wonderful day.” And then I hiked up the bank and back to the trail.
Be a “Somebody”
Even when it is awkward, it is satisfying to know that I have been able to be His hands to help comfort His children. And it is rewarding experience if, even for just a moment, we can see another as He would see them and feel a bit of the love that He has for them.
In her book, “Joy in the Covenant,” Julie B. Beck discusses the importance of being someone the Lord can rely on in those circumstances. She says, “I believe we can all develop a lifelong pattern of stepping forward and saying, ‘Somebody needs to help, and I will do that.’ Being a ‘somebody’ is more than serving in Church callings; it is seeing a need anywhere and filling that need. We might call it discipleship…The Lord knows and depends on ‘somebodies’ to do all kinds of thing…Our help makes a difference. And in making that difference, we follow the Savior’s example of going about doing good” (113-114).
Ponder for a moment a time that you have been blessed by the seemingly “random” act of a stranger. How did it help you in that moment or even later on? The fact that you still remember it is telling. What changes can you make so you can be a better “somebody?”