Want to Be Happy? Try an Act of Kindness
Okay, here we go. Deep breath. I can’t really say that talking at devotional was on my bucket list. But since I have the opportunity today, I’m now going to go home today and cross that off, and it will be done, and we’ll move on with life, right? But I’m honored to be here today, to share with you some thoughts and tears, and my testimony to the words that I hopefully have prepared that will touch your heart today.
Several years ago, I had to face a reality. That reality is, and I’m here to say, I am a “fabriholic.” I love fabric. I love to quilt, and I was prompted to bring a quilt today as show-and-tell, just to prove to you. This is not a brag on Sue, but there’s a quilt. I cannot say no to a fabric sale; in fact, the more the better. I lost my place. I love selecting new fabrics, I love looking at quilt patterns, I love the cutting, I love the sewing, I love going to quilt shows to see what other people have made and that I can “ooo,” and “ahhh” and wish. Not jealous, I just wish. What can I say? I’m addicted. I’m a fabriholic. But one of the best parts of being a fabriholic, and that’s a part of me, is that I love being able to give one away. It’s a part of me that I love to share. I love to see the look and the smile the receiver gives, and it brings contentment to my own heart. It’s a moment that I cherish dearly. But because of this addiction there’s a favorite children’s story book that I’ve grown to love, and I want to share with you today. It’s called, “The Quiltmaker’s Gift,” (by Jeff Brumbeauy and Gail de Marcken), that will help illustrate my topic today.
There once was a quilt maker that lived high up in the mountains. No one could ever recall a time when she wasn’t quilting. Some said that she made the prettiest quilts in all the world. Others said that there was magic in her fingers and that her quilts fell to the earth from the angels above. Many people climbed the mountain high with gold filled in their pockets, hoping to just buy one of these beautiful quilts. But the woman would not sell them.
“I give my quilts to the poor and to the homeless,” she said. “They are not for the rich.”
On the darkest and coldest of nights, she would take her quilts and go down to the town below. There she would wander the streets, looking for someone who was poor or homeless sleeping outside in the cold. And she would take her quilt from her bag and wrap it around the shivering shoulders, then tiptoe away. The next morning, she would begin a new quilt.
Now, at this time there also lived a very greedy king; very powerful king, who loved nothing better than to receive presents. Yet there were never enough presents. So he passed a law that he would celebrate his birthday twice a year, just so he could get more birthday presents. But, yet again, it still wasn’t enough. So he ordered his soldiers to search the kingdom for someone who had not given him a gift.
Over the years, the king had come to own many beautiful things from around the world. There were so many he kept an inventory. And yet, with all these marvelous treasures he owned, the king never smiled. “There must be one beautiful thing that will make me happy,” he said.
One day a soldier rushed in with news about this magical quilt maker. “How is it that she’s never given me one of her quilts?” He said. The soldier replied, “She only makes them for the poor.”
“I want one of those quilts, and I shall have one,” he demanded. “It might be the thing that will finally make me happy.”
So the king and his soldiers arrived at her home and demanded to buy one of her quilts. The quilt maker just smiled and thought for a moment, and she said, “Make presents of everything you own, and I will give you a quilt.”
“Give away all my wonderful treasures?” he said. “Not. I don’t give them away, I take them.” And with that, the king ordered them to seize the quilt maker, and he threw her in the den with the sleeping bear; wherein the quilt maker made him a great big pillow to sleep on. Next, the king dragged her from the cave and put her on a tiny island, so she could only stand on her tiptoes. But here, she gave the weary traveling birds a shoulder to rest on.
The king tried other drastic attempts to get the quilt maker to give him a quilt, but failed. Giving up, he finally asked, “What must I do to get a quilt?”
“As I said, give away all the things you own,” she replied.
“But I can’t do that. I love all my beautiful things,” cried the king.
“But if they don’t make you happy,” the woman replied, “What good are they?”
The king went to his castle and searched for something he could give away. He finally came up with a single marble. The boy who received it smiled so brightly in return that the king said, “How can this be? How can I feel so happy about giving things away?” So he went back into the castle and brought out more things. “Bring everything out! Bring it all out at once!”
When at last there was no one left in town who had not received something from the king, he decided to go out into the world and find others. His wagons were loaded and he promised the quilt maker that he would return when all was given away. For years and years the king traveled and emptied his wagons, trading his treasures for smiles around the world. The king’s royal clothes were now tattered, and his shoes poked out of his boots. Yet, his eyes glistened with joy and his laugh was wondrous and thunderous.
When the quilt maker heard of his return, she put in the final stitch of the quilt and went out to search for him. When she found him she unfolded this beautiful quilt before him.
“As promised long ago, I told you the day I would make you a quilt only when you were poor.”
“But I am not poor,” he said. “I may look poor, but in truth my heart is full to bursting, filled with memories of all the happiness I have given and received. I am the richest man I know. I have searched out the poor and the downhearted, and I’m never happier than when I was giving something away.”
In October 2009 General Conference, President Eyring shared this statement with us, “We share a desire to become better than we are. The message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can and must become better, as long as we live. Our way of life, hour by hour, must be filled with the love of God and for others.” (“Our Perfect Example,” October 2009 General Conference)
In Mark 8:23 it reads, “And he,” meaning Christ, “took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town.” Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley made this comment on that scripture, “How simple it really is to extend a kindness when we see a need.” Christ set the example on so many occasions. Here, he led the blind man out of town; just a small kindness but what a wonderful example. God helps us to recognize the opportunities we have every day to touch lives in small and simple ways.
The primary song that we probably are all familiar with says “Kindness begins with me,” (“Kindness Begins with Me,” LDS Children’s Songbook, page 145). To fully understand and comprehend that phrase, ponder for a moment while I ask you some questions, and write down some impressions that come to your mind:
1. How powerful is kindness?
2. What kind of a difference can I make?
3. Have I touched someone’s life today?
4. Is my life being transformed by the acts of kindness and the good deeds that I do?
Now, take a moment—this is where we’ll extend the talk—I want you to write something down that you’ve done today or that you could do today as an act of kindness. Moroni states it very clearly for us in the Book of Mormon: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren,” and we’ll add sisters, “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons,” and again we’ll add daughters, “of God,” (Moroni 7:48).
Now I can hear you saying, “Um, Sister Hepworth, quilting’s not my thing. I’m not a quilt maker.” But I’m here to tell you that you can be, because you have your own gift of kindness to share. Maybe it’s not so much in using fabric and a needle, but you have something to share, something that is a part of you, a part of your everyday life. Let me ask you some more questions about random acts of kindness.
Could I share a smile with someone? Could I give a compliment or say a kind word? Could I extend a helping hand without being asked? When I was at Ricks College many years ago it was a tradition that you said “hello” to everyone you passed by. And I thought, “I don’t know these people.” So, can you say hello to a passing stranger? Can you offer up your seat on a busy truck on a busy bus or Trax station, or open a door for someone? Here’s a good one—how patient are you while driving on the freeway? We won’t go there, right? Have you helped mentor someone who’s having difficulty in class? Have you told someone you’re so glad you know them? Could I show more respect and admiration by using my manners, and saying “please” and “thank you” more? Have you made a comment in class to help out that instructor that’s kind of struggling to get the class moving? Have you made someone laugh today? Have you made someone’s birthday just a little more fun? Have you delivered or sent a surprise to someone? And my favorite of all, did you return your shopping cart to the designated area?
There are so many things that each of us can do that no one else can. If we will let our Father in Heaven guide us He will walk with us, inspire us, to know what to do. He knows us; He knows what we’re capable of. He knows how we can use our own characteristics for our own good, and for the good of those we come in contact with. Every day, there is an opportunity. If you’re not sure where to start, try this: just smile at everyone you meet today. It’s great because they’re going to think you’re up to something.
In President Monson’s biography To the Rescue, he states, “Opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless. But they are also perishable. There are hearts to gladden; there are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given, there are deeds to be done, there are souls to be saved.”
President Hinckley says it like this, “Love is the very essence of life. It is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yet, it is more than the end of the rainbow” (“And the Greatest of These is Love,” March 1984Ensign). Love, like faith, is a gift from God. This principle of love is the basic essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without love of God and love of neighbor, there is little else to commend the gospel as a way of life to us. Each of us can, with effort, successfully root the principle of love deep in our being so that we may be nourished by this great power.
I challenge you to go and look for opportunities today to do as Christ did, and to love as He loves. The promise is there that He’ll make us His disciples. He trusts us to succeed because He knows of the divine spark within us.
Elder Dean L. Larson said this clear back in 1981: “The Lord has made it clear that each of us has a responsibility to exert an influence for good in the lives of those who share this mortal experience with us. Our actions, our words, our thoughts and our values will inevitably effect the souls that we brush up against. When we contemplate the power we have for both good and ill in the lives of others, we have good reason to search for careful understanding of this power” (“Let Your Light So Shine,” September 1981 Ensign).
So ask yourself this question: How can I exert this kind of influence upon others so that their lives and my life is enriched and blessed? What do I need to do right now, today? Our opportunities are limitless. At the end of each day, may we say, as the king learned, “I am not poor. I may look poor, but in truth my heart is full to bursting, filled with memories of all the happiness I’ve given and received. I am the richest man I know. I have searched out the poor and the downhearted, and I’m never happier than when I was giving something away.”
Now, there’s no prescription for acts of kindness. It comes from your heart. The greatest reason to participate in kindness is that it brings contentment to your life. It rewards you with positive feelings and reminds you of the important things in life. If we all do our part, pretty soon we’ll live in a much nicer world.
So to close I want to quote Elder Richard J. Maynes in his address to BYU-Idaho graduates this past April when he said, “We have the power to choose to live a big, kindhearted, good-natured, compassionate and unselfish life” (“Living a Benevolent Life,” BYU-Idaho graduation, April 2014).
Brothers and sisters, it becomes a part of us. I share you my testimony. As President Kimball used to say, “Just do it.” As we leave today, I have a small treat for you. Now, you’re going to be busted big-time if you leave the wrappers on Temple Square grounds. So please put them in the trash can, and enjoy this small treat from me today as a little act of kindness from me to you. I leave you my testimony, my love of the Savior, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.