Kindness- Serving with Love
Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
July 27, 2010
Vice President for Academics
After watching Donna and her students serve each other with kindness, I noticed something that touched my heart. Many of the students felt like they didnâ€™t deserve the kindness that was shown to them. Brothers and Sisters, such is not the case. What we fail to see is that as we serve with love, happiness falls on us like the dew from the sky in the early morning. We are happy. We do need to always be grateful for the kindness shown to us. When we fail to express gratitude we offend God, for he has said:
â€œAnd in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandmentsâ€ (D&C 59:21).
I love children and what children teach me; as I experience grandchildren I learn the truth of this thought: â€œA baby has a way of making a man out of his father and a boy out of his grandfatherâ€ (Angie Papadakis).
Sometimes their questions can be profound, such as these that have come from grandchildren. One child while riding on airplanes said, â€œWhy are there flotation devices under plane seats instead of parachutes?â€
And another, â€œWhy is it that when we transport something by car itâ€™s called a shipment, but when transporting something by a ship itâ€™s cargo?â€
Or what about what we learn from this four year old after she complained about a tummy ache to her mother and her mother said, â€œYour tummy aches because your stomach is empty. If you had something in it, youâ€™d feel a whole lot better.â€
Later that afternoon, a neighbor stopped by for a visit. The neighbor said; â€œIâ€™m not sure what is wrong with me, but Iâ€™ve had this headache all dayâ€. The four year old explained, â€œYour head hurts because itâ€™s empty. If you had something in it you would feel a whole lot better.â€
I hope that none of you have either a tummy ache or a headache. I hope you have something in it. I hope that one of the things that you have in your heart are the messages that you received from conference last April. Donna my wife decided some time ago to encourage all of our children and grandchildren to read the conference talks. After conference she created a list of the different talks that we would read or listen to each week either as a part of our family home evening or sometime during the week. I have really enjoyed this exercise and would encourage each of you to consider doing this in your own life. And while reviewing conference I try to find the common theme that seems to come from the general authorities. Sometimes itâ€™s really easy, but usually you have to ponder and be very aware of the feelings that come from the spirit as you listen to these messages. My talk today is a product of that pondering and considering as I studied those conference addresses.
President Uchtdorf especially helped me understand how we can live our lives and obtain happiness through the process of being kind. He told a story that I would like to share.
â€œA story is told that during the bombing of a city in World War II, a large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of Godâ€™s presence in their lives.
Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it wasâ€”a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue of Jesus Christ a sign with these words: â€œYou are my hands.â€
â€œAs we emulate His perfect example, our hands can become His hands; our eyes, His eyes; our heart, His heartâ€ (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, â€œYou Are My Handsâ€, Ensign, May 2010, 68-70).
The image of each of us serving as the hands, eyes and heart of the Savior has not left me since last April General Conference. He has set such a great example of how to serve others in love that the thought of representing him with my hands is humbling and exciting at the same time.
As I thought more about kindness I looked up in the Hymn book the word Kindness to see what Hymns might inspire me. I learned that no hymns are referenced to kindness, but rather to the songs under Love and Serving. It struck me that that definition describes exactly what kindness is, serving with love.
You might ask can you serve some other way. I suppose you could serve out of duty. We think of those who serve in the military as serving in this way. We think of prisoners serving their time, not out of love or duty, but out of fear, fear of additional punishment.
Kindness is serving with love.
As we serve, remember happiness fills our soul. Iâ€™ve never met someone who didnâ€™t want to be happy. I have met some people whose definition of happiness was quite different from mine, but they still wanted to be happy. Some people confuse pleasure, which is temporary, with joy and happiness, which are far reaching and longer lasting.
I remember as a bishop that we encouraged our ward members to practice random acts of kindness by wearing a badge that encouraged us to serve. We might bake cookies for a visiting teaching sister, ask a Family Home Evening brother to go play basketball, even pick up a piece of paper and throw it in the trash can. Whatever you do will help someone else and in the process will help supply happiness fuel to your soul. Our Stake President liked what was happening and made a new pin that uses the gospel phrase, Serve One Another. I was pleased that as I worked with ward members who were trying to overcome obstacles in their lives, that as they practiced serving others, their challenges would come down to a manageable perspective, and in most cases they overcame them completely.
Some groups try this same approach; perhaps they only gain part of the fuel for their soul as they also seek publicity in their cause. One such organization is the Kindness Offensive. This group of young people have given thousands of toys and other items to people randomly; they have fed them on a pancake day Â½ million pancakes; they have even created their own You Tube channel where you can see some of the actions they have taken to bless the lives of others. These are good things and certainly represent the kind of things that we can do.
I wouldnâ€™t want to diminish their efforts in any way but I believe there are so many truths that we can find as members of the church that can help us understand these principles in a more significant way. I believe that training begins very young. I remember as a child singing one of my favorite songs, â€œI Have Two Little Handsâ€. When I think of this song I think of my grandchildren.
I Have Two Little Hands
I have two little hands, folded snugly and tight.
They are tiny and weak, yet they know what is right.
During all the long hours till daylight is through,
There is plenty indeed for my two hands to do.
Kind Father, I thank thee for two little hands
And ask thee to bless them till each understands
That children can only be happy all day
When two little hands have learned how to obey.
(â€œI Have Two Little Hands,â€ Childrenâ€™s Songbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 272)
As I became older I noticed themes in the scriptures around happiness and kindness. I remember trying to understand the meaning that Nephi shared about the Saviorâ€™s kindness when he said,
â€œAnd the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of menâ€ (1 Nephi 19:9).
I tried to imagine how a suffering Savior could be showing me how to have happiness by being kind. I suppose it is part of our learning in life to watch others to really understand how someoneâ€™s sacrifice can truly bring happiness to oneself. I have seen it most clearly in my family as a parent. I thank my Heavenly Father that he has allowed me to be a parent so that I can see and understand what joy comes from helping children grow and overcome challenges that life presents.
As a young missionary I read Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and was so impressed by his insights into happiness and our desires to obtain it. He taught the following;
1) Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 255-56).
2) Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 240).
3) If a man fails in kindness, justice, and mercy, he will be damned (Words of Joseph Smith, 206).
4) A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race (History of the Church 4:277).
Elder Hugh B. Brown taught that kindness is part of the gold that God refines from each of us:
â€œEvery human life has within it more or less gold which usually is not readily apparent to the casual observer. Kindness is part of the gold of the spirit-that part which is known to others because it has lessened their burdens and made their pathways lovelier. But there is other gold which cannot be seen until the human life has been crushed by adversity, melted in the fires of fate. Then it is that, in the ashes that remain, the gold of true character glistens and inspiresâ€ (Brown, Hugh B. Continuing the Quest. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1961. 516).
Lloyd Newell shared this insight from one of my favorite stories, Les Miserables.
â€œThe main character, Jean Valjean, steals some food for his hungry family in a moment of desperation and is thrown into prison and forced into almost twenty years of hard labor. This experience leaves him hardened and bitter, and though a bishop treats him well after his release, Jean â€˜repaysâ€™ his kindness by stealing the bishop's silver. It does not take long for the police to capture him, find him in possession of the bishop's silver, and haul him back to the bishop's home to confess his thievery. With Jean Valjean fully expecting to be severely punished and subjected to another even longer prison term, the police bring him before the bishop, with the silver in his hand. The bishop looks at the silver, smiles, and treats the traitor like a friend. He explains to the police that he gave the silver to Jean Valjean, and then he dumbfounds the prisoner by â€˜remindingâ€™ him that he forgot to take the silver candlesticks as well. He says that they were also intended for him. This act of forgiveness and charity deeply moves Jean Valjean, melting away his bitterness and causing him to literally transform his lifeâ€ (Newell, Lloyd D. The Divine Connection: Understanding Your Inherent Worth. 204).
He shared these golden nuggets from others who have thought deeply on this subject:
"Do small things with great love" (Mother Teresa).
"That best portion of a good man's life / [Is] his little, nameless, unremembered, acts / Of kindness and love" (William Wordsworth).
â€œOften small and almost habitual acts of service can bring us more fulfillment than many of the more visible and celebrated contributionsâ€ (Newell).
Elder Hunter explains the relationship between happiness and kindness.
â€œKindness and love predominate in all their actions. Constantly they do unto others as they desire other people to do unto them. In fact, the measure of a people's happiness comes in proportion to the amount of love they have in their hearts for their fellowmenâ€ (Milton R. Hunter, Conference Report, October 1966, Afternoon Meeting, 39).
Again referring to the 1st Presidency, each has shared a message of support and encouragement to use our hands to serve our brothers and sisters, and in so doing we will be filled with happiness and joy.
President Eyring shared these words:
â€œHeavenly Father has assigned us to a great variety of stations to strengthen and, when needed, to lead travelers to safety. Our most important and powerful assignments are in the family. They are important because the family has the opportunity at the start of a childâ€™s life to put feet firmly on the path home. Parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles are made more powerful guides and rescuers by the bonds of love that are the very nature of a familyâ€ (Henry B. Eyring, â€œHelp Them on Their Way Home,â€ Ensign, May 2010, 22-25).
I especially enjoyed the story that President Uchtdorf taught about kindness and love;
â€œAn old Jewish legend tells of two brothers, Abram and Zimri, who owned a field and worked it together. They agreed to divide both the labor and the harvest equally. One night as the harvest came to a close, Zimri could not sleep, for it didnâ€™t seem right that Abram, who had a wife and seven sons to feed, should receive only half of the harvest, while he, with only himself to support, had so much.
So Zimri dressed and quietly went into the field, where he took a third of his harvest and put it in his brotherâ€™s pile. He then returned to his bed, satisfied that he had done the right thing.
Meanwhile, Abram could not sleep either. He thought of his poor brother, Zimri, who was all alone and had no sons to help him with the work. It did not seem right that Zimri, who worked so hard by himself, should get only half of the harvest. Surely this was not pleasing to God. And so Abram quietly went to the fields, where he took a third of his harvest and placed it in the pile of his beloved brother.
The next morning, the brothers went to the field and were both astonished that the piles still looked to be the same size. That night both brothers slipped out of their houses to repeat their efforts of the previous night. But this time they discovered each other, and when they did, they wept and embraced. Neither could speak, for their hearts were overcome with love and gratitudeâ€ (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, â€œYou Are My Handsâ€, Ensign, May 2010, 68-70).
One of the special insights I have learned here in Hawaii is that things donâ€™t matter. Most things are made of metal wood or fabric. Metal rusts, wood get eaten by termites, and the fabric gets moldy. This pictures show how some in the world spend their lives trying to accumulate hoping it will bring happiness when it really only brings greater selfishness as they spend their effort to horde and protect what they claim to be their stuff.
Consider the feelings that Donna and I have with the kindnesses shown from our children grandchildren and others as represented by the thoughts expressed on this bulletin board.
President Thomas S. Monson has invited all of us to serve. He has said,
â€œMy brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindnessâ€”be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lordâ€™s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of usâ€ (Thomas S. Monson, â€œWhat Have I Done for Someone Today?,â€ Ensign, Nov 2009, 84-87).
We are the Lordâ€™s hands here on earth. We can pray; that is good, but we need to use our hands to help be the Saviorâ€™s hands. I hope we can find ways to make our lives more meaningful and filled with happiness as we follow the council from this poem.
I Knelt To Pray
I knelt to pray as day began
And prayed, â€œO God, bless every man.
Lift from each weary heart some pain
And let the sick be well again.â€
And then I rose to meet the day
And thoughtlessly went on my way;
I didnâ€™t try to dry a tear
Or take the time a grief to hear.
I took no steps to ease the load
Of hard-pressed travelers on the road;
I didnâ€™t even go to see
The sick friend who lives next door to me.
But then again when day was done
I prayed, â€œO God, bless everyone.â€
But as I prayed a voice rang clear
Instructing me to think and hear.
â€œConsult your own heart ere you pray:
What good have you performed today?
Godâ€™s choicest blessings are bestowed
On those who help him bear the load.â€
And then I hid my face and cried,
â€œForgive me, Lord, for I have lied.
Let me but live another day
And I will live it as I pray.
As I close I have asked Sisters Duerden and Catahan to sing the song â€œHis Handsâ€. Listen for the phrases sermons of kindness, filled with selflessness, His hands would serve His whole life through, and then because of Love.