A Chain Reaction of Kindness

Some mornings, when I am feeling particularly weak, I have a favorite fast food restaurant that I visit. I say “weak” because, while the food there is great, it is probably (definitely), not the healthiest of breakfast choices. From time to time, I will pay for the meal of the person in line behind me—probably a subconscious effort on my part to cancel out the guilt I feel for stopping there in the first place.

I know it isn’t much, but when I do this, I always feel better. I drive away hoping that this small gift made a difference to the people in the car behind me. I enjoy imagining what their reactions might have been. It makes me smile to think that maybe, it made their day a little brighter, a little happier. At the very least, I know that it has made my day better.

While most of these reactions are seen only in my imagination, I have had the good fortune to learn about one that actually happened. On one particular visit, as I pulled up to the drive-thru window, the cashier seemed overly excited to see me. She seemed to almost bubble over as she spoke of my previous visit.

The cashier told me that after I paid for the meal of the car behind me, the man was so surprised and touched that he paid for the meal of the car behind him. When she told this to the person behind him-he did the same. She said this chain reaction went on for several more cars and that she and all of the other employees were very touched and inspired by it.

I drove away that day feeling very grateful to my Heavenly Father for blessing me with this experience. I am grateful to Him for reminding me that no act of kindness is too small or insignificant. Even the smallest acts of kindness can touch many other lives that are unseen and unknown to us.

I think about this experience often, and when I do, I am reminded that I can be a part of making the world a better place—one act of kindness at a time…

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Trials and Traffic Signs

 

Recently, as I was driving to work, I found myself suddenly mesmerized by a random highway sign. It may seem peculiar that an ordinary, everyday sign caused me such fascination, but something about this one caught my eye.

What drew my attention to this sign, was the man who was standing in front of it. I’m not really sure exactly what this man was doing to the sign, but he was strapped in a bucket high above the highway. What mesmerized me by this sight, was how very small the man looked in relation to the sign. I pass dozens of these signs every day, but I had no idea that they were so huge.

I reflected on this sight for some time. I thought, to this man, just inches away, this sign must have seemed immense and daunting. I thought how the man probably cannot even read the entire message on the sign from his vantage point or perspective.

As I pondered this man and his work on this huge sign, I thought how he is much like us facing the problems and trials in our lives. We cannot see them clearly or understand what they are trying to teach us while we are so close to them. Much like this sign they can seem enormous, intimidating and confusing. They can make us feel very small or inadequate by comparison. As we get some distance between us and our trials we can usually see them in perspective.

During these times when our problems and trials are so close that they seem insurmountable and overwhelm us, when we feel hopeless and unable to endure, our Heavenly Father will always be there for us. He, with His eternal perspective, can see the whole picture. He knows that we can succeed, that we are meant to succeed.

He will be there to comfort us, strengthen us, and help us through the trials of this life—every time we ask…

 

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That their burdens may be light

 

It has been almost two months now since my mother passed away. During this time, I have experienced an immense outpouring of love and support from family, friends and acquaintances. Many, have also offered their suggestions and advice for dealing with my grief.

I have discovered that everyone grieves differently. For me, grief has been like a sad melody that has played in the background of all my other thoughts. It hasn’t been big and bold out in the forefront of everything. It has just seemed to color everything else that I have done or everything else that has happened to me.

Even though I seemed to feel fine on the surface, I suddenly began to have trouble coping with normal day to day problems. Everyday decisions and choices became more difficult. I even began to have minor panic attacks and issues with anxiety.

As I struggled with problems that would normally be only minor annoyances, it occurred to me that our ability to cope with the problems of our lives can be different from time to time and from person to person. We cannot judge the severity of the problems or trials of others or their ability to cope with them.

I remember as a child feeling completely heartbroken due to some minor childhood catastrophe and being told by adults that my problem was silly or insignificant. I understand now, that to them, my childhood problems must have seemed very trivial, but to me, at the time, they were huge.

I think, at times we are all like little children. The severity of our problems is dependent upon our ability to cope with them at the time. We want, we need, our thoughts, our feelings, our worries, our concerns to be important, to be valued.

I will try to remember this past few weeks and the difficulty I have had coping with even minor problems. I will try to avoid the tendency to compare the trials of others with my own or to minimize or discount them. I will try to be more compassionate, more empathetic.

Instead of trying to judge the severity of my brothers’ and sisters’ burdens, I will try to help them carry them…

 

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Fireworks, Fear and Faith

 

When I was a child, I loved celebrating Independence Day. I loved the cookouts, picnics and parades and I especially loved the fireworks. As I got older, I began to appreciate the reason we celebrate more than the celebration itself. I loved celebrating the birth of this magnificent nation and the freedoms that I enjoy as one of it’s citizens.

As I got even older, and became a mother, the celebration itself became even less appealing to me. I began to dread the annual fireworks. As the fireworks stands went up, so did my anxiety level. I still enjoyed watching them, but I worried about the danger associated with them. I worried about the safety of my children and my home and property.

My fear has become reality a couple of times. The first, was several years ago when one of my sons was badly burned by a defective firework. The second, was last night when an errant firework threatened to burn down my home.

Last night, I was sitting at my dining room table working on a project that should have been completed much earlier in the day. The sun was setting and the window blinds were closed. I moved the blinds just enough to look out the window and happened to see an orange glow reflecting off of my daughter’s car. For a moment, I assumed that it was just the setting sun, but something told me to take another look. As I peeked out the window, I saw the back corner of my house engulfed in flames.

I have no way of knowing exactly how it happened. I do not know where the misguided firework came from. I do not know who shot it off or why it landed so close to my home. What I do know, is that my Heavenly Father was watching over me and my home last night.

I know that the corner of my house that caught fire is only visible from one window in my home. I know that I almost never sit near that window at that time of night. I know that I looked out that window at the exact moment that the flames began to engulf my home. I know that because I did, we were able to put the fire out with minimal damage to my home and family.

I do not know why my Heavenly Father chose to save my home and family at this time, but I know that He did. I know that He is in control and that He knows me personally and watches over me. I know, that if I am listening, He will lead me in the direction and path that He wants and needs me to follow.

Most of all, I know, that if I follow that path, in the end, I will be safe no matter what.

 

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Above the Storm

 

Earlier this week, I heard the distant rumbling of thunder as I was getting ready for work. Within minutes, the rumbling grew closer and the sunlight shining through my window began to dim and eventually disappear. As I pulled out of my driveway, the clouds seemed to take that as their cue to open up and drop all of their contents at once.

As I drove to work, the storm grew fierce. The sky was dark as night and the winds were strong and powerful. The rain fell fast and hard and began flooding the roads. Thunder rumbled so loudly that it seemed to shake my car and the lightning was closer than I have ever seen or ever want to see it again.

When I got to work, I pried my white knuckles from the steering wheel and added a thank you and amen to the prayer that I had been voicing my entire drive to work. I rushed inside and watched as the storm continued to rage outside my office window. The last month has been a difficult one so I wondered for a moment if the weather was just mirroring my mood. Either way, it wasn’t helping it.

As the storm and my mood continued to deteriorate, I happened to see a picture that someone posted. Someone was flying out of my local airport and took a picture just as the plane was rising above the clouds, above the storm. There right above the fierce storm that raged below was one of the most beautiful sunrises that I have ever seen. I smiled to think that while I was fighting the storm below, that beautiful sunrise was there right above me the entire time. I could not see it, but it was still there.

As I reflected on this beautiful unseen sunrise, I thought about all of the times that we fight the storms of this life and feel as if we are all alone. We face the darkness and fierce winds of this life forgetting that just above these storms our Heavenly Father is there waiting to help.

Just like this glorious sunrise, we cannot see Him, but He is always there above the storm.

 

 

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My Gifts

 

It has been four weeks today since my mother passed away. As you might expect, I’ve spent much of that time reminiscing about her. My mind has sifted through a seemingly endless procession of memories as I have attempted to recall all of the milestones and tender, precious moments that filled my mother’s life.

As I spent this time reflecting on my mother’s life and legacy, I began to think about my own life, my own legacy. I wondered what people would remember about my life when I am gone. I wondered what type of legacy I am creating. Is the way that I am living my life creating the kind of legacy I want to leave behind?

As I attempted to answer this question, I spent some time contemplating what I want to be remembered for, what legacy I wanted to leave behind.

I would like to leave the gift of time. When I am gone, I want my family and friends to have no problem remembering all of the time that I spent with them. I want them to remember me as someone who was never too busy or too tired to be there when they needed me.

I would like to leave the gift of beauty. I want to be remembered as someone who recognized the beauty of this world and the people in it. I want them to remember me as someone who tried to share that beauty with others and who tried to make this world a more beautiful place for them.

I would like to leave the gift of gratitude. I want to be remembered as someone who was always grateful for all that I have, for all of my Heavenly Father’s blessings. I want them to remember me as someone who always let them know how grateful I was for them and their place in my life.

I would like to leave the gift of faith. I hope that I will be remembered as someone with a deep and abiding faith in my Heavenly Father and in my Savior. I want them to remember me as someone who did not let the trials and tribulations of this world keep me down for long but who trusted in His plan, in His time.

I would like to leave the gift of miracles. I want to be remembered as someone who always believed in miracles. I want them to remember me as someone who not only knew that miracles can and do happen every day, but who helped to create them in their lives.

I would like to leave the gift of love. I want to be remembered as someone who was more concerned with people than things. I want them to remember me as someone who loved my family, friends and fellow human beings in this world. I want them to remember me as someone who demonstrated that love through my actions often.

As I review this list, I recognize that I have much work to do, but I will do my best to remember these gifts. I will try to live my life each day in a way that will help to create the legacy that I want to leave behind. I know that it will continue to be a struggle, but I also know that my Heavenly Father, who blessed me with this life, will be there to help me every step of the way.

 

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Spiritual Shoes

 

A few days ago, I dropped my daughter off at a job that requires her to be on her feet all day. As she walked away from the car, I smiled as I saw that she was wearing a skirt and tennis shoes. As I thought about it some more, it made complete sense to me. She chose shoes that would be of the most benefit to her, shoes that would best help her to accomplish the tasks that were required of her that day.

As is usually the case, my mind quickly began to ramble on this subject. I thought about all the different types of shoes that help people walk through their lives and accomplish what is required of them. I thought about cowboy boots, steel toed shoes, dress shoes, ballet slippers and all of the shoes that people wear for their occupations or careers. I thought about snowshoes, rain boots, house shoes, sandals and all of the shoes that people wear depending on the geography or weather.

As my mind continued to ramble and the images of dozens and dozens of various shoes ran through it, I thought about the old saying “you never truly know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” This saying seemed to suddenly become more real, more meaningful to me.

I thought about all of the people associated with the shoes that had been running through my mind. I thought about the varied and diverse lives that they lead and the different trials and problems they face. I thought how walking in their shoes or by their side and learning more about their lives, their worries and their struggles can help us to truly know them. It can help us to see and understand the world as they do and to develop compassion, empathy and love for them.

I believe that our Heavenly Father places special people in our lives that try to walk in our shoes, learn to truly know us and help us through our journey here on earth. I also believe that He has blessed each of us with special gifts, strengths and abilities that help us handle the unique challenges of our lives. He gives us the spiritual shoes we need for the path that we must walk to return safely to Him.

I am grateful for the special people who have tried to walk in my shoes and have helped me through this life. I am grateful for the gifts and abilities that Heavenly Father has blessed me with that have made my path easier to walk. Most of all, I am grateful for my Savior and the example He set as He walked on this earth.

Because of Him, I know that I do not walk alone.

 

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