The highest compliment I could give anyone is to say, “I am a better person when I am with you.” This means that you bring out my best self. Your interest in me is genuine. Your conversation is clean and stimulating. You help me see the positive among the negative, the joy inside the sorrow. You help me think my best thoughts—and open up new vistas of my possibilities. You ignite wholesome laughter and delight. You look past my quirky ways and value my soul’s worth. You take “chaff and grain together…and sift them—keep what is worth keeping—and with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away” (Dinah Craik). Your humble, sincere example stands as a beacon, making me want to follow. Thank you for lifting me higher, helping me see myself with new eyes. “I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you” (Roy Croft). This describes the kind of friend I want to be. It describes the kind of parent, grandparent, sister, daughter I want to be. “There is a responsibility which no man can evade—his personal influence—the effect of his words and actions on others” (David O. McKay).
“Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved” (Thomas S. Monson). Years ago when teaching school, I bid my students goodbye and turned with urgency to the mountain of work piled like a tower on my desk. With more to do than reasonably possible, I dove in with gusto. Almost immediately, someone knocked on the door. A colleague peeked in and asked, “Could I talk to you for a minute?” As she pulled up a chair and began a long-winded explanation of her troubles, I put down my pencil and exhaled slowly. I knew it would be much longer than a minute. A nudge of conscience whispered that her need to talk was greater than my need to complete tasks. More than an hour later, I loaded up my work—untouched—and headed for home. But instead of feeling burdened, I felt buoyant and happy. It had been the right thing to do. Hopefully her cup was filled, but I know mine was. I have to keep reminding myself that people are more important than tasks. Most of us are fighting a hard battle and we need each other. Regardless of age, we need to express our concerns, views and hopes. We need genuine interest and honest feedback from others. We need reassurance of our worth. People need people. “I sought to hear the voice of God, and climbed the topmost steeple. But God declared: Go down again; I dwell among the people” (Louis Newman). I want to make time for people. I want to learn their stories, understand their hearts, and reflect their worth.
I looked out the window and saw a very long car pull up to our house. No one got out immediately. I waited and wondered who it was. Slowly, the driver’s door opened and an old man struggled to climb out, bracing himself with a cane. I grabbed a jacket and rushed out the front door. It turned out to be the oldest couple in our neighborhood. With great effort our aged friend hobbled up the sidewalk, teetering on his cane while balancing an enormous vase of flowers. It was my birthday. Tears gathered in my eyes at this generous demonstration of caring. The lovely bouquet stood on my kitchen table for days as a reminder that the most precious gifts are those hardest to give. Mother Theresa said, “You must give what will cost you something.” If we do not give when we have little, we are not likely to give when we have much. Action verbs from a favorite LDS hymn identify specific ways to serve: “I gave him all; I ran and raised the sufferer up; I flew; I revived…and supplied…and honored him. I roused…brought back…found him. I bid him welcome.” I will never forget the great lesson taught by my aged friend stumbling up the sidewalk on that windy October day. “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
Here’s a little parenting tip that I learned years ago about talking to teens. At age 14, our son had very few words to share in conversation. He kept a lot inside. Then gradually things began to change. It was during our long commutes in the car to school, work, and activities while building our new home. My initial attempts to spark conversation failed because I peppered him with too many questions. He felt interrogated, and his answers were brief, usually one or two words. It was obvious that the kind of communication I wanted was more than a volley of questions and answers. So I shifted gears. I decided to share my struggles, hopes, victories and even failures—and what I was learning from them. At first I was doing most of the talking. But as I entrusted my innermost feelings into his safe-keeping—he gradually began to reciprocate. He told me about his struggles and victories, even his failures—and what he learned from them. We responded to each other with empathy and support as friends navigating a difficult world. The car is like a cocoon that can provide intimate communication. Not long after, while tucking him in bed at night, he said, “Mom, I can tell you everything.” Then he quickly qualified it. “Well, almost everything.” In the many years since that time, we have continued to share freely with each other “almost everything.” Now a father of six, our son makes a conscious effort to continue the tradition of talking openly with his children. They have learned to value conversation and unplug from electronics. Talking builds relationships. Unplug. Utilize time in the car for real communicating.
Our main role as parents is to teach our children. But how do we teach them most effectively? We know the lecture format doesn’t work very well. Our monologues are tuned out as we drone on and on. During His mortal sojourn, Jesus Christ modeled for parents, many instructive methods, such as teaching as He went—walking and talking along the way. When my children were young, we spent lots of time in the car driving to lessons, sports events, and youth activities. In an era before electronic devices, imagine this—WE TALKED! Time in the car provided opportunities to share experiences and what we learned from them. We discussed struggles and brainstormed solutions. We laughed over humorous or embarrassing moments in school. We told each other details about our day. We shared goals and dreams and anecdotes. These exchanges also happened while we worked side by side at home—washing dishes, weeding the garden, painting a room. Subtle teaching happened as we went through an ordinary day. And relationships were strengthened. Little seeds of insight and counsel slipped unperceived into fertile soil. Snatching priceless in- between moments to subtly teach values to our children can provide the seedbed of great lessons remembered and lived.
A wonderful event is about to take place. On April 4-5, 2015 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will hold its 185th Annual General Conference of the Church. May I invite you to join with me in viewing/listening to all five sessions. Some have mistakenly thought the General Conference is only for members of the Church. That is incorrect. Everyone in the world is invited to hear messages of inspiration and guidance delivered by the First Presidency, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other General Authorities and general officers of the Church. The sessions will be streamed live in 23 different languages beginning at 10am, at 2pm and 6pm on Saturday (4th) then at 10am and 2pm on Sunday (5th) at: https://www.lds.org/generalconference/live/languages?lang=eng, or you can view it on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/user/LDSGeneralConference or enjoy listening on the internet at: http://www.mormonchannel.org/radio/mormon-channel-talk
I trust you will enjoy it, just as I will.
“Oh, she’s so judgmental!” This common claim is against anyone looking down on another with sharp criticism. Of course that is wrong. Every soul is of great worth and should be treated respectfully. But sadly, some think that we must accept any moral perversion as acceptable behavior in order to be non-judgmental. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, clarified this issue in Matthew 7:1 [JST]. He said, “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment.” We must make judgments constantly to differentiate between right and wrong. But this kind of judgment is not punitive; rather, it is merciful. We love the person, not necessarily the behavior. How we disagree is a measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. I can extend compassion without embracing the worldly philosophy that anything goes. “[Being non-judgmental] is a very good quality if it doesn’t mean confounding good with bad, and thinking nothing matters” (Mrs. Oliphant, The Marriage of Elinor). So, how do I make righteous judgments? Dallin H. Oaks offers these helpful guidelines:
- Seek the guidance of the Spirit in our decisions.
- Limit our judgments to our own stewardships.
- Refrain from judging people until we have an adequate knowledge of the facts.
- As far as possible, judge circumstances rather than people.
- Apply righteous standards.
- Remember the commandment to forgive.