Helping the World
I never feel I can do much for the world. I watch those commercials of starving children in Africa, I read about under-age sex trafficking in America, I see posts on Facebook about genetically modified food and politics and slavery and war and pestilence and death, death, death… but what can I really do? Clicking “like” and “share” doesn’t always cut it, let alone make a difference.
I have several small children. They are my world, not only because I love them fiercely, but because they are in the physically and emotionally demanding stages of life. They need me — desperately — to be accessible. This means less time for the world. I’ve had to learn how to balance service of others with service of my children and husband — and how to teach them the same.
I had an experience, however, which showed me just how easily I could combine both.
I had my three youngest boys with me at the local shopping center. I had been having a particularly good day, social conscience-wise. I had remembered to bring in my cloth bags. I had been polite to every person I came into contact with, including my children. Out in the parking lot I returned my cart to the inconvenient cart-return, taking the time to grab another cart that had been left near my car. Yes, yes! I felt good about myself. Not in a gloating way, but in a “Yes! I can do this! I can be service-minded! This might make up for all the times I’m not!” way. I didn’t tell the children what I was doing; I simply let them see me trying to think of others before myself. Fortunately for all of us, it got even better.
While I had been checking out my groceries and supplies, I had asked for $40 cash back. I wasn’t sure why, since I only needed $20 (to pay for a school fundraiser, which was next on the errand list), but I felt prompted to go ahead and get $40. I tucked both $20 bills into my wallet as we left.
As we drove around the parking lot, I thought about taking the boys for ice cream with that extra $20. I decided against it, realizing our budget was still a bit too tight for spontaneous treats. As I wrestled with my love of ice cream and logical financial stress, I came up to the exit of the parking lot. There, in a very popular spot, I saw a man standing with a sign. I’ve seen these signs before, many times. This one, however, was slightly different. Instead of simply saying “hungry” or “homeless” it said, “Laid off. Kids to feed.”
I pulled over.
I rolled down the window, told him I understood his position –hadn’t my husband been laid off before? Once, twice? –and handed him a $20 bill. He thanked me, sincerely. I told him “No problem. Good luck!” and drove off. I felt great. The Spirit flooded my heart and I realized I had done a good thing.
Was he lying? Sure, it would have been easy for him to write anything on a sign and stand on a corner, begging for money. But it didn’t really matter, and I honestly didn’t feel as if he was lying. The Spirit had prompted me to get the cash in the store, and the Spirit prompted me to give it to that man.
My children watched the whole exchange and asked me about it. We talked about helping people and following the Spirit. And you know what? I realized the entire experience had actually done something good for the world! I had helped someone in need and I had shown my children how to do the same.
I mulled over this for the rest of the week, and then I came across this video again:
[Flecks of Gold from Mormon Messages]
We don’t have to feel despair when we are stymied by limited time and resources. There does not have to be guilt in our hearts when we simply cannot give to every charity and every cause that pricks the contours of our hearts. It is not the size of our service that matters. What this experience taught me, as well as Elder Ballard’s words, is that there are ways to help the world, even if it’s just one person at a time.
- How have you been able to “help the world” in your limited sphere?
- Have you foregone service because it didn’t seem good enough or big enough?
- How have you overcome those feelings?