Clarity and Charity

I don’t know how many times I told Colby to put his coat on. Probably a dozen at least. It didn’t take long to realize he hadn’t listened. After less than five minutes on the playground, he started to shiver in the cold November air.

With six children, two pizza boxes, a bag of water bottles and a bag of toys, I wasn’t eager to take the journey back to the van and search for a coat. We had just gotten settled – finally – and my pregnant self was very exhausted.

So I promised that we would go back for the coat after everyone had finished eating. At least then I wouldn’t have so much to carry. Besides, I rationalized, the natural consequence of being cold would certainly help him remember his coat next time.

at the park

A few minutes later, a woman rushed up to us and held a jacket up to my son. She seemed to be estimating the size. When she noticed I was looking at her, she kindly asked, “Do you mind? He looked like he was freezing.”

“Not at all,” I responded cheerfully. “I was going to go get his coat from the car in a few minutes. He forgot it there. I’ll get this one back to you in just a few minutes.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” she said with a smile. “We’re getting ready to go. He can keep it.”

She smiled and rushed off as I shouted “Thank you!”

Not long ago, I would have interpreted this as a major judgment against my parenting. The fact that another mother had stepped in and intervened would have stung. For hours, the negative thought factory in my mind would be churning out thoughts like, ‘Clearly you’re not fit to be a mother. Even that mother could see that your child was cold! Why didn’t you just go get his coat? How did you not notice that he didn’t have his coat, anyway? You are so selfish and ridiculous that you’re not even doing your JOB.’

Not today.

I’ve been focusing my thoughts, prayers and reading on perspectives lately. It’s interesting what a little perspective can do. One situation can be interpreted completely differently based on the perspective of the person involved.

Instead of seeing her actions as a judgment against me, I realized they were a blessing. Whether or not she understood my full situation, I know my Heavenly Father did. He knew that I was at the park alone with six children (four of mine and two of their cousins). He knew that I was pregnant, exhausted, and a little overwhelmed after our trek through The Dollar Store and into Little Caesar’s. He knew that a simple gesture like this would make my burdens seem so much lighter.

I’ve often heard this quote by President Spencer W. Kimball:

“God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.”

I have been blessed to meet the needs of others on occasion and I cherish those experiences. I am less eager, however, to let others meet my needs. Serving others is so much more fun than being served.

Too often, accepting a well-intentioned act of service makes me feel somehow less self-reliant, less confident, less able. Basically, it just makes me feel less. In some cases, a well-intentioned act of service can even seem insulting, demeaning or judgmental. As I said before, in days not long ago I would have seen the simple act of giving my son a coat as a jab against my ability as a parent.

I’m certain that this is the influence of the adversary. Satan stands in ready opposition to all the good plans of God. Since God notices us, watches over us and meets our needs through others, Satan certainly wants to frustrate that plan. So he also notices us, watches us, and poisons our minds against accepting those acts of service.

I have certainly been guilty of that at times. The scene that played out at the park today could have very well ended differently. It wouldn’t be out of character for me to tell the kind and generous woman that I didn’t need her coat, that I would go get my son’s. I may have been bitter at her intervention and the judgment that I thought she’d made against me.

Not only would this self-reliant arrogance have denied me the blessing of not having to deal with this small struggle, it would also deny this sweet woman the opportunity to serve someone else – an opportunity that I know firsthand is sweet, wonderful and uplifting. I am never happier than when I have served someone else, so why do I feel so awful when I give someone the opportunity to feel that same charitable glow?

Although the gesture of giving a coat to a child may seem small, it was a profound experience of me. It brought to my attention how much my perspectives have changed and how grateful I am for that – and for her generosity and the tender watchful care of my Heavenly Father.

As I drove away from the park today, I found myself in deep thought and prayer. I prayed that Heavenly Father would bless this sweet person who had given me such a blessing. I also prayed that I could be more like her. After all, how many times have I prayed to be a blessing for someone else in need? Too many to count. How many times have I had the courage to act on it? Not nearly enough. I admire this woman not only for her generosity but the courage to act on that generosity, even when she wasn’t sure how it would be received. Not only did she give my son a jacket, she gave me a great example to follow.

Charity is the pure love of Christ. It is the love that Christ has for the children of men and that the children of men should have for one another. It is the highest, noblest, and strongest kind of love and the most joyous to the soul. {read more here}

Until next time,

nicole sig

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