Several people in the post office rushed to assist a woman maneuvering her husband’s wheelchair through a narrow doorway. The need was obvious and urgent. But I think there are many people who have hidden handicaps which are even more debilitating than physical ones. They are equally urgent but we don’t rush to help because we don’t see them. The physical eye cannot see emotional wounds or heavy burdens borne deep inside. This requires a different kind of vision which comes from whisperings of the Holy Ghost. If I am attentive to the quiet voice of the Spirit, it is possible to perceive hidden wounds and needs. Specific ideas of how to help can come from that same source. Then I can spring to assist or comfort as instinctively as I did the woman in the post office. If someone is hurt in a street accident, an ambulance comes quickly, but if a person is broken in spirit, depressed, afraid, burdened—little is done. Yet this person may be in greater need of rescue than the other. I pray to have eyes to see unspoken wounds and burdens of the soul, and to leap without hesitation to minister comfort. “The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on [others]; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs” (Joseph Smith).
Much is reported in the media about identity theft—a valid concern. But is there identity which no one can steal? Discovering one’s personal identity is an interesting pursuit. How are we known to ourselves—and to others? Here’s a clue: “Tell me what you are busy about, and I will tell you what you are” (Goethe). “A man is known by the books he reads, by the company he keeps, by the praise he gives, by his dress, by his tastes, by his distastes, by the stories he tells, by his gait, by the motion of his eye, by the look of his house, of his chamber…” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). “People around you can tell who you are; they can see it in your eyes and feel the spirit you radiate as they associate with you” (Jayne Malan). These are the measures of real identity that no one can steal. But a sober responsibility is attached to it. “There is a responsibility which no man can evade; that responsibility is his personal influence, the subtle radiation of personality, the effect of his words and his actions on others. Every man has an atmosphere which is affecting every other man” (David O. McKay). This identity is to be protected and cherished, so it is of great worth.
Two of my favorite words are “eager” and “earnest” because they describe the amperage of a person’s spiritual motor. Here is a vivid example: “And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” “And they immediately left the ship…and followed him” (Matthew 4:20,22). After testifying of His divinity, Jesus Christ invited Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow Him and become fishers of men. Undoubtedly, the Savior spoke many words as they tarried by the water’s edge, and the Spirit bore witness to their souls of His truth and divinity. The fishermen must have keenly felt this powerful witness to immediately leave their nets—their livelihood to follow the Master. They didn’t say, “I’ll think about it and get back to you,” or “Let me finish what I’m doing and make some arrangements first.” They immediately left behind all that was familiar and went forward with faith. I want to do the same and follow the Savior with eagerness, without excuse or caveat. I will obey His commandments with all my heart. He promises, “All that I have is thine” (Luke 15:32).
As a child, sitting still in church was difficult for me. Talks at the pulpit seemed long. But when time came for congregational singing, my wiggles stopped and I sat upright. Even before learning to read, I felt something joyous in singing hymns of praise to God. Later, while driving as a family on road trips, my sister taught me to harmonize. I clearly recall peering out the window at rolling countryside scenes while singing, “Ere you left your room this morning; Did you think to pray?” Throughout my life, singing and accompanying church hymns have burrowed gospel messages into my heart. This is good counsel for all: “Let us use the hymns to invite the Spirit of the Lord…in our homes, and our personal lives. Teach your children to love the hymns. Sing them on the Sabbath, in home evening, during scripture study, at prayer time. Sing as you work, as you play, and as you travel together. Sing hymns as lullabies to build faith and testimony in your young ones…Let us memorize and ponder them, recite and sing them, and partake of their spiritual nourishment” (First Presidency preface in our hymn book). I wish I had sung hymns as lullabies to my young children. Quality of voice doesn’t matter. There is a feeling that comes through music that is more powerful than words.
There was a day when my feelings were wounded by a person’s careless, perhaps unintentional words. Some pain is compatible with the Spirit, but this was not. It consumed my thoughts and furrowed my brow. I wanted to get rid of these feelings, but didn’t know how. As if holding a huge bag of trash, I frantically looked for a place to discretely discard my load. I prayed for help and reached for my scriptures. They fell open and my eyes landed directly on these verses: “Sue for peace…Lift up an ensign of peace…make a proclamation of peace…make proposals of peace…unto those who have smitten you, according to the voice of the Spirit which is in you, and all things shall work together for your good. Therefore, be faithful, and behold and lo, I am with you even unto the end” (D&C 105:38-41). I leaned back and closed my eyes, letting the words fill my soul. There were four references to peace, each with a different action verb, something I could do. I could request, summon, exemplify, stand up, speak and invite peace. It was all about peace. These words soothed me like loving arms. My silent prayer had been heard. The process of healing had begun.