Last week was the semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This story about a young woman’s sensitivity towards an older woman touched me, but perhaps not for the reason one might think. This was told by Sister Michelle D. Craig, of the Young Women’s Presidency
Seeing God’s Errand for Me
I recently learned a valuable lesson about seeing deeply from a young woman named Rozlyn.
The story was shared with me by my friend who was devastated when her husband of 20 years moved out. With her children splitting time between parents, the prospect of attending church alone seemed daunting. She recounts:
“In a church where the family is of paramount importance, sitting solo can be painful. That first Sunday I walked in praying no one would speak to me. I was barely holding it together, and tears were on the brink. I sat in my typical spot, hoping no one would notice how empty the bench seemed.
“A young woman in our ward turned and looked at me. I pretended to smile. She smiled back. I could see the concern in her face. I silently pleaded that she wouldn’t come to talk to me—I had nothing positive to say and knew I would cry. I looked back down at my lap and avoided eye contact.
“During the next hour, I noticed her looking back at me occasionally. As soon as the meeting ended, she made a beeline for me. ‘Hi, Rozlyn,’ I whispered. She wrapped me in her arms and said, ‘Sister Smith, I can tell today is a bad day for you. I’m so sorry. I love you.’ As predicted, the tears came as she hugged me again. But as I walked away, I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I can do this after all.’
“That sweet 16-year-old young woman, less than half my age, found me every Sunday for the rest of that year to give me a hug and ask, ‘How are you?’ It made such a difference in how I felt about coming to church. The truth is I started to rely on those hugs. Someone noticed me. Someone knew I was there. Someone cared.”“Eyes to See” By Michelle D. Craig, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, October 2020 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
This is really a moving story about the impact of this young woman upon an older woman.
But the story generated another memory for me. The impact of the above wasn’t just upon the older woman, but I’m sure caused changes in the younger woman because of her service, and perhaps the unexpected impact it had.
When I was a young man, I was assigned with my father to visit an elderly couple in our congregation, and help see to their needs, the Carrigans, Althea Starks Carrigan and her husband Irvin. The assignment for me mostly consisted of me giving a short message of encouragement in our monthly visits to the home, at the time called Home Teaching, but also at times looking after the home when my dad suggested something needed to be done, like shoveling side walks if they were out of town.
On Saturday, Sept. 13 1980 I recorded the following in my journal, “I got up and went over to see Sister Carrigan. Her Husband died last week and we are her home teachers, dad and I. When she came in she hugged me and started to cry. She really felt bad. I just told her if she needs anything, ever, to call us and we’ll be right over. She calmed down, and I went with dad to pick up a car.”
I had no idea I had made a difference in my visits with her. I had no idea I could make a difference in her life.
That experience created in me a deep desire to be worthy to be of service. It also created a friendship with Sister Carrigan, something a 16 or 17 year old boy did not know he could have with a 60 or 70 year old woman. We warmly greeted each other each Sunday after that, and certainly at each home teaching visit. It prompted me to reach out to the other widows in the congregation, and greet them each week as well.
It can be a powerful thing when we allow others to see the impact they have had upon us, no matter their age; when we express gratitude for their care and concern for us.
I’m grateful for Sister Carrigan’s response that day. It blessed me deeply, and has generated numerous times of being similarly blessed in my interactions with others, both as a recipient of kindness, and someone attempting to give it.