How can I see?

This past Sunday, one of the sisters in my ward got up to share her testimony. She and I work together as fellow writing minions and are casual friends (we may become better friends in time; it takes me a while to get close to people), so I know a bit about some struggles she is going through right now, which made her testimony even more touching to me.

In the midst of her testimony, her toddler son wandered up to the stand (she is a newly-single mom, so no husband was available to wrangle the youngsters) to be with her. He wanted to be held so she picked him up. Then he wanted to speak in the microphone and grab it, and she tried to keep him away. He wanted to be put down, then he wanted to be picked up, and that mic was still oh so interesting. In other words, she was having a hard time sharing her testimony and keeping control of her son.

After a couple minutes of this, another sister walked up to the stand to hold her son so she could finish her testimony. It was a simple, kind gesture, and something that was needed. And it never even dawned on me to do that. This bugs me. Sometimes I’ll see where a small kindness is needed, but far too often I’m blind to it until others act and then I think, “Oh… yeah. I should have done that,†or else no one else sees it, and I think of it too late to do anything about it. I desire to do good, but I lack awareness.

What can I do to see these opportunities and needs before they are missed?

12 thoughts on “How can I see?

  1. I have this same problem. Afterwards, I feel like an insensitive jerk for not having thought of the action or gesture when it was needed. I look forward to reading the suggestions on this topic so I, too, can improve this problem.

  2. A suggestion is to look at how you can lighten the burden of the person involved no matter what they are doing. For example, a couple was asked to speak in Sacrament mtg and both needed to sit on the stand, but the problem was that they have 3 little ones under 5, and so they had some people help them in the congregation by watching them while they sat on the stand, but that didn’t stop the oldest with autism wanting to come to the front and so what we did was to have the boy sith with us as a Bishopric and keep him occupied while the parents spoke — it worked like a charm, but then again perhaps we were lucky that day and on another day, it might not have worked. I looked after the child while he sat with us for the simple reason that I knew it was going to alleviate the burden of the individuals involved. Parents both spoke, child was well taken care of, and burdens were lifted, and in fact I received quite a number of compliments for that ‘good work’ afterwards.

    In other words, are we doing as Mosiah 8:8-10 tells us is part of our baptismal covenants?

  3. Tanya, I do what you describe all the time. In the building where I work (on the 46th floor) there is a nice custom of the men always allowing the women to go first into the elevator. At least once a week, I forget all about this custom and go barging into the elevator while all the people give me dirty looks and then I remember, “oh, yeah, I should have let the women go first.” I always forget to open the car door for my wife when she is carrying five things, including our toddler son. When I look back at my days, it seems I spend the whole time being inconsiderate and thoughtless. I’m not sure what to do to about this. I really try hard to remember to be more considerate, but then something gets on my mind and before I know it I’m doing a “could of had a V8″ head slap as I forget to hold a door open once again. I guess the point is that we all have those moments — don’t beat yourself up about it too much. At least you care enough to think about it.

  4. There are many times I’ve realized that I was just not as good a person as I needed to be. The only success I’ve ever had in genuinely becoming better, even in the smallest ways, is through prayer – directly asking God to bless me with grace and lift me up. My efforts alone never seem to get me anywhere. I should ask more often, because there are so many ways I could be better, more generous, more giving, and more aware, as you describe in your post.

  5. Tanya,

    When I have taken the advice to “Follow Every Prompting” I have seen marvelous results. It is a simple thing, but tonight I felt an urge to call a daughter who is away from home. As usual as soon as the impression came, quickly came the thoughts of being too busy or whatever. However, the conversation was wonderful and we both needed it.

    I am no one to give you or anyone else advice, but I would suggest writing in your planner or on a sticky note, two things that you will do that day to be courteous. Your list may grow to ten and beyond and then will perhaps have become a good habit that will require no list at all.

    One day many years ago, I dropped off all three of my children who were attending the same elementary school. On my way home about a mile away from the school, I received the impression to go back and view my children as playing safely on the playground that was visible through a chain-link fence. They were fine and that among other reasons is why this story never made the Ensign (it was of course never submitted). But I learned something that day. God checks to see if we are paying attention from time to time even when there is no impending doom.

    Following our heart and practicing through a few written exercises, works.

  6. This is a good question, Tanya. I used to be much better at this than I am now, for some reason. Perhaps it is that my attention, when it is not entirely self-centered, is primarily directed towards my children. While this is not a bad thing, I think there is probably an imbalance in my life that needs addressing.

  7. Gina, I like your idea of praying for the insight. I shall do that.

    Pemble, good advice. I am a sticky note person, so that will work for me. I will also try to be more attentive to any promptings.

  8. My father-in-law, who does a lot of driving around north central New Mexico, had a goal one year to allow more time to get to his destinations so that he would feel more free to render aid if he came upon someone in trouble at the side of the road. Just-in-time processing of our lives can make stopping to help feel too costly, so we’ll only do it if another’s situation seems urgent.

  9. John (#8),

    Your father-in-law’s plan is a great suggestion.

    Somewhat similarly, several years back I made a concerted effort, if there was any doubt whatsoever as to whom arrived first at a four-way stop, to wave the other car ahead. It is amazing the look of relief and happiness that finds its way on to the faces of those motorists. Some of the new Liberty Mutual commercials show the long-reach of initial acts of kindness, like a pebble into a pool. And Tanya’s post is evidence of how simple acts of kindness can focus our minds on things that matter most.

    John, thanks for your email a few weeks ago.

  10. Tanya, as you are a hard-science person and a tech writer, I would assume you are good at pattern-recognition, and that are a good learner. But, human relations, as in recognizing these little service opportunities, and knowing what to do, is a “soft” science, and not easily reduced to a flowchart or checklist of situation/response or stimulus/reaction as the hard sciences.

    But as you are a probably a “patty-ducker” (pattern recognition through deductive and inductive reasoning), your repeated observations of how others react to those little service opportunities will eventually sink in, and you will learn how to be more automatic in your response. It also takes practice in addition to observation. And don’t forget that you won’t be perfect in your responses either.

    Social skills come naturally to many people, but usually don’t to science/math-nerds like me. For me, it’s a learned skill. If that describes you too, then don’t worry. We all have our natural gifts, and other things we have to strive for. But in the end, the things we strive for probably have greater meaning for us because we had to work for them.

    The Holy Ghost is a great on-the-job teacher. My book placement project has been a confluence where my gifts and flaws combine with on-the-spot teachings of the Spirit. And after I learn to recognize a pattern (often with the help of the Spirit via promptings), I believe I’m then responsible to do it without a prompting in the future. I’m sometimes slow on the uptake, and often it takes several repetitions for this old dog to learn a new trick. And I get a feeling of satisfaction when I can take something the Spirit taught me and then teach it verbally to others. (Which may be congruent to how a tech-writer has to first learn the subject before translating it to an organized textual form.)

    There’s an excellent science-fiction short-story, probably by either Heinlein or Asimov about a society where everyone learns by having machines program their mind by “tapes”. The protagonist is someone who was rejected as being unable to be programmed/taped, and he proves them wrong by teaching himself things on his own, and by doing so, he learns the secret of the tapes. Have you read that story?

  11. Tanya, we all have different gifts where we are in our element in serving others. I think that you desire to have such a mindful awareness of others’ needs will increase your ability to be of service in that capacity. Sometimes the obvious is not so obvious making a kind gesture seem so timely.

    I do think you are a nice person and would expect that the manner in which you relate to others would reflect that part of yourself.

  12. Bookslinger, I have not read that story. I’ll look for it, though; it sounds good (and I love Asimov and early Heinlein). As for the rest of your post, spot on!

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