Sunday, July 24, 2016

when the challenges we face are frightening

More than 150 years ago, thousands of stalwart pioneers fled their comfortable homes into the wilderness in search of freedom from religious persecution. A newspaper headline from 1914 summarized their remarkable westward trek in these words: "Strong Men, Brave Women and Sturdy Children Crossed the Wilderness Afoot."

But if you could talk to some of those men, women, and children, they would probably tell you that they didn't always feel strong, brave, and sturdy. Betsey Smith Goodwin, who pushed and pulled a handcart more than 1,000 miles as a 13-year-old, recalls food rationing and bitter cold weather. "But we never forgot to pray," she said, "and we sang, 'Come, Come, Ye Saints,' with great zeal and fervor. We realized that we needed the help of God to see us through."

Betsey continues, "I will not dwell upon the hardships we endured, nor the hunger and cold, but I like to tell of the goodness of God unto us." She recounts one day that especially stood out in her memory. The wind blew fiercely. The dark clouds were ominous and threatening. The approaching storm was so violent, the thunder and lightning so frightening, that even the ox teams refused to take another step. The group's captain stood in the middle of the road, took off his hat, and bowed his head. Soon other members of the company joined him in bowing their heads and removing their hats, until 100 carts had gathered around the captain, who said, "Let us pray." Betsey remembers that as he poured his heart out in prayer, heaven felt close. The clouds then parted, and the company pressed forward with faith until they reached camp and pitched their tents—just before the storm clouds finally burst open with torrents of rain.

So often, the best thing to do—the only thing to do—is pray and then get to work. That's true whether we're crossing plains in handcarts or facing more modern hardships and difficulties. When our days are daunting, when the challenges we face are frightening even paralyzing for a moment we don't have to rely on our own strength, bravery, or sturdiness. We can seek divine help. As we do, will be able to share with future generations stories of 
"the goodness of God unto us." 

Lloyd D. Newell

You are worthy of your own trust

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

. . . may cherish them over a lifetime

One thing this world needs more of is kindness. Our daily interactions provide limitless opportunities for more patience, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, and compassion: in other words, more kindness. 

A short poem by an unknown author conveys this sentiment well:

I have wept in the night
For the shortness of sight
That to somebody's need made me blind;
But I never have yet
Felt a tinge of regret
For being a little too kind.

Perhaps the pressing demands on our time are what make us blind to the needs around us. When we're preoccupied with ourselves, it's easy to forget that everyone has the same basic needs—we all need and appreciate basic human kindness. And though we've all felt a "tinge of regret" for being a little less than kind, we can resolve to open our eyes, and more importantly our hearts, to be a little more kind in our interactions. 

Everyone who tries to do this—in homes, in workplaces, in communities—discovers the same thing: When we simply practice genuine kindness, other desirable qualities—respect, honesty, trust, fairness, and affection—all blossom and grow. In the absence of kindness, nothing very positive can take root or flourish. 

We might have different views on any aspect of life, we might disagree on a range of issues, or we might have diverse personalities and interests—but we all have the need for kindness. The well-known American writer and speaker Dale Carnegie shared his belief that we all have within ourselves the "power to increase the sum total of the world's happiness . . . By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged . . . Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime."

We never forget kindness in word or deed. And we will never regret being a little too kind. 

Lloyd D. Newell