Saturday, January 17, 2009

Giving Spiritual Alms: A Profound Experience

After my post last Saturday, asking about Spiritual Alms, someone I respect very much sent me a private e-mail with the following experience. It is truly profound, so I thought I should share it as a separate post rather than just as a comment on last week's post:
About a dozen years ago, a student working for me came to my office and asked if she could talk to me. When I told her she certainly could, she added that it wasn't about work, but was personal.

She was an excellent employee; a returned missionary; a gifted poet who could churn out vivid poetry about as fast as kids nowadays can text each other; and a senior.

She reminded me that the previous April she had moved to another apartment and thus to another ward. She'd been the Relief Society president in her former ward.

She commented that she'd now been in her new ward some seven months - and hadn't even been asked to serve as a visiting teacher yet. She hastened to add that she didn't need to be president or anything, but that since almost all of the women in her new ward were freshmen or sophomores, she felt she could contribute something to the ward.

And that brought her to the question she wanted to ask me: "Do you think it would be wrong for me to say something to my bishop about it?"

I remember leaning forward in my chair, ready to say that it wouldn't be at all wrong, especially if she told him the way she'd told me - in full humility.

But the Spirit stopped me before I could even open my mouth, saying that I was to tell her what He wanted her to hear.

So I told her that there would be nothing wrong with her discussing it with her bishop, especially if she did so as she'd mentioned it to me. But then I added, "But let me share with you another option, and you can decide which you want to do.

"When you were Relief Society president in your former ward, what were you thinking about each week as you arrived for meetings?"

She looked a little perplexed, not having considered that thought before. So I added, "Let me take a guess. I've been in presidencies before, so I'd guess that as you came into the room you were probably looking around to be sure the day's teacher was there; the music people were there; the person in charge of getting the tablecloth over the table or desk or podium in the room so it looked more like RS than a classroom; the person responsible for the flowers; and so on."

She grinned and agreed.

As prompted, I then added: "Let me make you this promise. If just before you leave for meetings each Sunday, you kneel down by your bed, alone, and ask Father to help you discern who NEEDS you that day, there will never be a single Sunday on which at least one person won't need you. And often it will be several different people. Sometimes the "need" will only be for a smile or handshake, but sometimes they will need a visit - or a series of visits. I promise you that if you do this, you will find it as fulfilling as was your mission."

I repeated again that it wouldn't be wrong to talk with her bishop.

She said nothing more about it until the next April.

She came to my office again and said she didn't want to move without telling me what had happened.

She paused meaningfully and then added, with great emotion, "I had no idea there were so many with needs. You were right; there has never been a single Sunday on which at least one person didn't need me, and almost always it was several. Some needed just a little encouragement, but some needed many visits."

She paused again and then added, "It has been even better than my mission!"


Jami said...

Thank you, Ray. Thank you know who too.

Mama D said...

It is interesting to consider this advice in context of your spiritual alms question.

Knowing from whom it comes, I have also been given this same counsel. It helped me through a difficult transition in callings and feeling needed. This is a wise friend indeed!

Christy said...

Wow, thank you.

Rob and Crys said...

That was wonderful. It makes me stop and think am I doing all I could for those around me.

Tasha said...

I can always count on you to turn me to the right perspective.
love ya!

Unknown said...

Wow. A powerful message.

I'm working on having the courage to serve people in that way... it takes courage!

Papa D said...

Everyone, I will pass along your thanks to the person who sent me the e-mail.

Rosalie Erekson Stone said...

This is a wonderful post, and it reminds me that I want to be more focused on individuals as I attend my meetings.

As someone who is naturally rather reserved, talking to people I don't know well (when it is not a part of a formal calling) usually takes me out of my comfort zone at first. But whenever I decide to forget myself and reach out to someone else, I enjoy the experience.

Thanks for posting this outstanding example of both inspired counsel, and inspiring results!