Thursday, December 22, 2016

Lighting the World

Twenty five acts of service in twenty five days during the month of December to "Light the World" - that was the invitation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the world for this Christmas season.  

Let me share a few of the wonderful acts that I have seen and heard about:

* A single mother, her 2 daughters and her 9-year-old foster daughter were driving along and came across a car accident.  One of the drivers had only a sweater and flip flops on in the very cold winter air.  The family stopped and gave them a coat they had in the car.  Then they went home and got some socks that they had bought for their son for Christmas and took those back as well for the driver's cold feet.  They left with their own hearts warmed as well as the driver's.  

*A young stay-at-home mom with two tiny children wondered what she could do to serve during this holiday season.  Then she realized the many things she does in her own home every day and started paying attention to the service and love she was bringing to her own little corner of the world, and the positive difference she was making in the lives of her own children and husband.

*A busy mom found she had a flat tire.  A neighbor offered to fix it for her while his wife took her to pick up her daughter and take them to their appointment at the doctor's office so she wouldn't miss it.  Another woman brought back the purse that she accidentally had left at the doctor's office during that stressful time.

*One morning someone scraped off the windows of a truck that did not belong to him.  When the woman went out to leave for the day she was so grateful because she could not reach to scrape off the middle of the windows herself.

* One woman paid attention to who was feeling down, or overwhelmed, or just needed a smile.  She baked them something special and took it to them so they would know they were loved.  It made her feel wonderful to know that they felt cared about.

*Another woman had the privilege of honoring her mother by lovingly dressing her body for burial on the day that "Jesus honored his mother and so can you" was the "Light the World" invitation.  She said it was a sacred experience.

* Some children took the time to write handwritten notes to their parents telling them why they were lucky to have grown up in their home.

*A man walked up to a woman about to get gas, swiped his credit card to pay for it, and said, "Light the world!" and walked away.  What he didn't know was that she was using the last of her money to get gas that day.

This is just a smattering of many thousands of acts of kindness that have been done this month to help light the world.  It has been a magical and heartwarming experience to be part of.  May this kind of love, awareness of others and good-heartedness continue throughout the new year.  What a positive difference it would it would make to "light the world" the whole year long!

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 11, 2016

It Is Not Where You Live That Matters

Recently I read a wonderful book called "The Rent Collector" by Camron Wright.  It is the story of a young mother who lives at the dump near a Cambodian city with her husband and infant son.  They survive from day to day by what they can find at the dump.  This young mother is influenced by an old woman who also lives at the dump.  The old woman helps her learn many great things.  One piece of wisdom that fairly flew off the page at me was this: "It is not where you live, but how you live that matters".  The idea that HOW you choose to live your life regardless of your circumstances puts a whole new spin on what is important.  It does not matter whether you are among the most humble and poor, as was this young mother from the dump, or whether you are wealthy and well-known.  What matters is HOW you live your life.

Anyone can be kind to others, regardless of their circumstances.  Anyone can build up other people, notice and point out the good, and be positive.  Anyone can serve others.  These things are true to all of us, regardless of our circumstances.  We all have the innate ability to treat others well.  We all have the ability to make the world a better place.

Most often making a positive difference in the world happens in the smallest of ways on a daily basis.  These little things add up to make us what we are.  Just as a painting comes together one stroke at a time, or a beautiful quilt is made one stitch at a time, or a lake is filled one drop at a time, living a good and meaningful life comes one moment at a time, and one tiny act at a time.  These small moments  manifest in a million tiny ways that add up over the years. Things like being kind to your family, even when it is hard; giving a soft answer to someone who is less than kind; smiling, giving encouragement to a child or others, letting someone else go first, showing respect, striving to slowly root out character flaws and replace them with positive virtues, being patient and forgiving.  It means correcting children in love.  It means forgiving as fast as possible.  It means being a light to those around us; being a good listener; being caring and non-judgmental.  It means being kind to strangers.  It means giving all those around us the best of ourselves.  It also means being patient and loving with ourselves, which allows us to love others better.

This month the LDS Church has a wonderful campaign of service called "Light the World".  Serve others in 25 ways in 25 days.  The suggestions for each day are small and simple yet meaningful ways to make the world a better place.

As my family and I have worked to accomplish some small act of service every day for someone else, we have felt the joy that comes from doing something meaningful to make someone else's day a little brighter.  What I have discovered is that it not only lights someone else's day when I give, but it also lights my own, probably even more than theirs.  That warm and wonderful feeling inside is one of the best feelings there is!

It is not where you live, but how you live that matters.  How will you live your life?  How will you light the world?  How will your being here make the world a better place?

Monday, December 5, 2016

What I Learned From a Pine Tree

What I Learned From a Pine Tree: Actually, it was a giant sequoia, it just looks like a mammoth pine tree.  Recently I happened to spent some time studying the giant sequoia, which is the largest tree on the planet.

These giant Christmas-looking trees are native to California.  I was very surprised to learn that they can grow taller than the Statue of Liberty and are extremely heavy, weighing more than a million pounds each at maturity.  Surprisingly, their roots grow shallow and wide rather than narrow and deep.  These giant trees can survive the strongest and fiercest winds and storms without being blown over.  As I wondered at this and explored further I learned that this is because the sequoia trees grow together in groups and intertwine their roots with their neighboring trees to share resources and strengthen each other.  When storms come, they literally hold each other up.  When these trees grow alone they often fall when heavy winds and storms come.  They need to grow in groups. They need each other to survive.

I could not help but think about the lessons these trees offer us.  The one that hit me most strongly was that none of us thrives well when left to ourselves.  We all need the support of those around us.  When we intertwine our lives with the lives of those around us, family, neighbors, friends, coworkers and community, then we are able to stand strong together when hard times comes, when storms rage and winds blow.

Each Christmas I think back on years past when other people's intertwined "roots" kept our family vertical during strong storms at this season of the year.  Christmas is a difficult time to have trials, be they financial struggle, grieving, or a myriad of other possible hardships.  During our trials I felt like we were in the middle of a raging storm, but we did not fall.  Many around us kept us standing.  Strength came to us in so many forms and from so many people, especially at this season of the year.  We received emotional support from many around us. We were given means to provide Christmas for our children when we had no means of our own.  We were doorbell ditched with gifts, food and money.  Those around us intertwined their roots with ours in amazing and meaningful ways to strengthen us and hold us up so we would not crash to the ground.  I will NEVER be able to thank those people enough for the service they rendered us, for intertwining their roots with ours to hold us up and strengthen us.

Christmas is a special time where we have more opportunity than the rest of the year to look around us, intertwine our lives with others, serve, share resources, and uplift and hold each other up. As we do this we stand strong together, just like the sequoia.