Summer is busy, so here is a super-short reminder for all of us. When I was a teenager, I read Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. The truths he described so long ago still ring true. Extracted from his book are 6 salient points, recalled from memory in my own words:
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember a person’s name.
- Talk about another’s interests. Get him to talk about himself.
- Highlight and reflect the other person’s strengths.
I want to learn their names…learn their stories…learn their hearts…learn their worth. I want to be “other-centered.”
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34).
Statistical reports claim that in 2012, Americans spent over 11 billion dollars on cosmetic surgeries such as face and body lifts, Botox injections, breast augmentations, liposuction, and other optional, reconstructive surgeries. An increasing number of men in every age group are also seeking plastic surgeries. As I read these reports, I felt ashamed of this excessive expenditure when so many people in the world are going without the basics of food, shelter, and critical medical treatment. In my opinion this excessive spending is a reflection of misplaced priorities and values. I like this quote: “Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside.” What are we doing to build and strengthen the inner soul? How much time do we spend nurturing others and feeding our spirit? How often do we reach out a helping hand to those in need? How does this compare with time and resources spent on external things? I need this reminder to always remember these words from the Bible: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve. . .but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:1).
The idea came softly, as spiritual promptings often do, when I thought of 20 good questions to ask my aging parents during my daily visits. I didn’t have a fancy recording method. I just scribbled their answers in a notebook and later typed them up. They were in their early nineties, still mentally alert, but declining rapidly in physical health. I didn’t realize then that within a few months their cognitive window would be closed. It was a delightful project—for them and for me—resulting in a binder of stories, counsel, and life lessons for their posterity.
Here are just a few questions I asked each of them separately:
- In what ways are you like your mother? Your father?
- What legacy would you like to carry on from your mother? Your father?
- Describe an experience in your youth reflecting the beginnings of testimony of Christ.
- What qualities first attracted you to Dad (to Mom), and what other merits of character have you come to discover in each other over the years?
- Describe a trial in your life and what you learned from it.
- You have been married almost 70 years. What counsel would you offer your descendants about the makings of a good marriage?
If your parents are living—try this idea. Make up your own questions. You might discover as I did, invaluable gems to treasure forever.
Should We Shelter our Kids from the Winds of Life?
Sometimes as parents we go too far trying to help and protect our children from consequence of choices and disappointments. We feel we don’t want them to struggle like we did. However, a Harvard psychiatrist said that overprotected children are more likely to struggle in relationships and with challenges. He believes we are sending our kids the message that they’re not capable of helping themselves. To quote clinical psychologist Dr. Wendy Mogel: “It is our job to prepare our children for the road, not prepare the road for our children.” In nature, trees that grow up in a windy environment become stronger. An apostle of God taught, “As winds whip around a young sapling, forces inside the tree do two things. First, they stimulate the roots to grow faster and spread farther. Second, the forces in the tree start creating cell structures that actually make the trunk and branches thicker and more flexible to the pressure of the wind. These stronger roots and branches protect the tree from winds that are sure to return” (Neil L. Andersen). Opposition in life can be a blessing. As parents, we must teach correct principles and then allow our children to become stronger through the inevitable buffetings of life’s adversities.
Strong Winds Produce Stronger Trees
Righteous routines and holy habits are those little things I should regularly do and feel to draw close to the Savior—who gives me the enabling power to resist temptation and deception, stay true to my covenants, and find joy. This is my personal list:
Things to do daily:
- Pray morning and night.
- Study scriptures.
- Exercise and make healthy eating choices.
- Offer kindly service to someone.
Things to do weekly:
- Attend church and partake of the sacrament.
- Plan family time together.
- Record insights, special moments, and gratitude in my journal.
- Attend the temple and pay tithing.
Attitudes to feel continually:
- Demonstrate an attitude of gratitude.
- Be teachable and eager to learn.
- Smile and reflect joy in each new day.
- Learn to see and celebrate the best in others.
What have I left out? What is on your list of righteous routines and holy habits?
When our son’s family came to visit, we stopped at a country farm. While walking through one section, a peacock strutted past with his feathers down and closed. We were almost to pass him by unnoticed, when suddenly he spread his lofty feathers into a wide fan of rainbow colors. Our jaws dropped open in amazement! Had we not caught him showing his true colors, we might have passed by unimpressed, not seeing his true potential. Isn’t that also true with people? We often don’t see our fellow human beings in their full glory and magnificence. We fail to see their glorious fan of qualities and brilliant features. Sometimes it’s because their true colors aren’t fanned out for all to see. They are closed and down. We pass by because we don’t see what is magnificently yet quietly hidden. It is our responsibility to see others in their true colors, whether feathers are fanned or closed. Everyone is a beloved son or daughter of God. Once recognized, we have an obligation to reflect their beautiful aura to others. “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). I have to work on this continually.
Showing His True Colors
I’m collecting an idea bank of ways to reach out in kindness to others. Here is a list of kindnesses that others have offered to me that I really appreciate: Receiving an unexpected thank-you card or text. Making me feel welcome in a group of strangers. Giving me eye contact while I speak. Carving out time for me when schedules are busy. Praying for me. Telling me the truth when it isn’t easy. Anticipating my need and stepping in to help when I couldn’t ask. Showing me a beautiful sunset that I didn’t notice. Remembering my name. Teaching me a new skill. Forgiving me. Kidnapping me and taking me to lunch. Listening to my problems with empathy. Sharing an uplifting thought that resonates in my soul. Showing me a better way by a shining example. Sharing a good book. Encouraging me when I think I can’t. Giving a heartfelt hug. Helping me see something good in myself. Remembering my birthday. Laughing with me. Dismissing my faults and focusing on my best.
Can you share some meaningful kindnesses that you especially appreciate?