“I shall pass through this world but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do, let me do it now; Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” (Stephen Grellet 1773 – 1855)
With all the natural disasters that have happened lately, this is a good time to ask ourselves what we can do to make a difference. How can we help others during this time of devastation, which several hurricanes and earthquakes have caused?
The charity of others during these disasters is very touching. We hear about the policemen, firemen, and medics who work from morning till night to help others, but we also hear about individuals who have volunteered. Those who were willing to help hopped in their cars and went to their aid. Those who could not travel afar sent clothes and canned goods to help the homeless.
Hurricane Harvey left thousands of people homeless in Houston, Texas, damaging around 200,000 homes. Among those who helped were a group of people wearing “yellow tee shirts” with two hands printed on the back that said: “Mormon Helping Hands.” In Florida, where Hurricane Irma had done much damage, the people called the volunteers “Yellow Angels.” These Yellow Angels were from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They showed their love and support by delivering truckloads of food, water, clothes and supplies, and hot meals to those in need. They even helped clean up debris left by the hurricane.
Gail McGovern, president of the American Red Cross, said, “We’re particularly grateful for the Latter-day Saint’s Church. It’s an enormous privilege to work side by side with people who care so deeply and want to help others. Everything we do together is miraculous to me.” (Texas Strong — Mental Health Counselors Complete Service, Newsroom, 19 September 2017)
After Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean, it looked like a nuclear disaster hit the islands. The Church Welfare Department of the LDS Church shipped more than 40 gigantic containers of food, water, and supplies to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. Martin.
In Mexico City, more than 200 people were killed in an earthquake and thousands of homes were damaged, leaving many people homeless. The LDS Church quickly sent more than 15,000 boxes of food to the people. Not only that, many members of the church traveled to Mexico to help the people recover, wearing their yellow “helping hands” tee shirts.
I have read about many charitable acts during these disasters. What is charity? It is when we show genuine concern and compassion for others. And it comes straight from the heart. Anne C. Pingree said:
“We can alter the face of the earth one family and one home at a time through charity, our small and simple acts of pure love. Charity, the Savior’s pure love, is the ‘highest, noblest, strongest kind of love.’ Little by little our charitable acts change our natures, define our characters.” (Charity: One Family, One Home at a Time, Anne C. Pingree, Ensign, Nov. 2002, 108–9)
We are here upon this earth to lift the burdens of others, to bring joy to those in need, to give a hand to those who are struggling. We should make a difference at all times, not just during disasters.
Many years ago, I remember feeling overwhelmed. My new baby was only a month old, toys were strewn across the floor, and I had dishes in the sink. Not only that but I needed to feed my two young children and we had run out of bread. I usually fixed peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and I didn’t have a car to run to the grocery store. Why hadn’t I told my husband that we needed bread before we ran out?
As I stood in the kitchen, wondering what to fix my children for lunch, I heard a knock at the door. I cuddled my baby in my arms and answered it. There stood a cheerful gray-haired woman with steaming hot bread in her hands. With a smile on her face, she handed it to me and said, “I was baking bread today and thought about you.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I thanked her, telling her that she couldn’t have come at a better time. She wanted to see my new baby so I invited her in and allowed our neighbor to hold my little treasure. To this day I have a fond memory of that wonderful woman. I have never forgotten that “act of charity.”
In Corinthians 13:2, it says: “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”
Is it possible to make the community that we live in just a little better place? Can we make a difference in the lives of others and in our community? The joy one feels when helping those in need is indescribable.
In central Idaho at Valley County, wood is a valuable resource because they use it to heat their homes for the winter. In this community, there is a yearly event called “Woodstock Day,” in which volunteers split wood for those who can’t do it for themselves such as the elderly.
Large trees are chipped into usable blocks of wood and then dumped into a huge pit, ready to be cut, split, and delivered to those in need. When a few young adults were interviewed, the response from one of the youth was so touching. Jessica described it as “a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.” She said that many people began to weep with joy when they saw what had been done for them.
Seth, a thirteen year old teenager, said, “This year when we were delivering some wood, we came to a house with a widow who tries to cut her own wood but was unable to do it. We threw some wood into a woodshed but then started to stack wood alongside her house. When we finished, she had tears in her eyes and couldn’t thank us enough. She also pitched in some s’mores. But besides this treat, we received something greater. We all learned that a simple act of service can go a really long way.” (Serving Our Neighbors, New Era Magazine, July 2015)
Mary Anne Evans, known by her pen name as George Eliot (1819 – 1880), wrote: “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other.”
There are different ways we can show charity and make a difference such as sharing our talents.
When my children were young, I made a point to take them to the nursing homes at Christmas time and we would sing familiar songs to the elderly. Their eyes would light up and they would tap their toes to the rhythm. Some would even sing along with us. Afterwards, it was inevitable that at least one sweet woman would ask our littlest daughter to sit upon her lap.
My little Alaina was timid and shy when it came to being held by a stranger, but she always gave in. The joy that filled this woman’s countenance was indescribable as I watched her hug my little girl. This scene made our visit worthwhile. Years later, my daughters told me that they remembered those days and were glad they had done it. By using our talents, we can uplift others.
Thomas S. Monson said, “We are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness… We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children.” (What Have I done for Someone Today, Ensign, Nov, 2009, 84 – 87.)
Each one of us can definitely make a difference in the world by showing unselfish love to others. Make a conscious effort to help those in need, even if it is as simple as just listening to someone who needs to talk.
“The Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity, they were nothing.” (2 Nephi 26:30)
A certain hymn reminds us of our duties towards our neighbor: “Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed.” (Have I Done Any Good, Hymns, no. 223.)