A while back I had the blessing and opportunity to visit the bedside of a dear member of our congregation as she lay in the hospital battling cancer. During my visit, I found a positive woman with a smile on her face who lifted my spirits. Although I went to “minister” to her, in her usual manner she uplifted me. Whenever I have had the opportunity to visit her at home during this illness, she has always been there to minister to someone else – as sick as she was. One time I left with a plate of food prepared by her for me to deliver to someone else in the church who was sick and in need of such loving service. I thought to myself, she gets it. She is a true “minister” to those around her and is grateful and giving in ALL her circumstances. She has a thankful heart.
Each of us has challenges. The Thanksgiving season gives us the opportunity to give THANKS for all of our blessing and challenges. Challenges help us grow here on our earthly soujourn.
The trick to these challenges seems to be to set aside our own problems and “minister” or give of ourselves to someone else. That could be a much needed phone call to a family member or friend, a hand extended in forgiveness — to forgive and be forgiven, a plate of food for someone in need, a visit to the home of an elderly person, an invitation to dinner to that person who lives alone or that new family that has moved into your neighborhood. There is also the need for a warm embrace with very little said to one who mourns. The list goes on.
Thomas S. Monson, a leader of our church, shared an experience as he visited one of 85 widows in his congregation years ago as he served as a Bishop. He said, “I visited one late one night. It was midnight, and I went to the nursing home, and the receptionist said, ‘I’m sure she’s asleep, but she told me to be sure to awaken her, for she said, “I know he’ll come.” I held her hand; she called my name. She was wide awake. She pressed my hand to her lips and said, “I knew you’d come.” How could I not have come?”
At this time of Thanksgiving, our thoughts turn to Him who showed us the way to live and how to pray, and who demonstrated by His own actions the blessings of service, even Jesus Christ.
Let us reach out and lift up those around us. Let us forget our problems and find a way to help another. I promise you that your burdens will be made lighter. If we do not step out from the four walls of our homes or pick up that phone to make a call to help another, we can become overwhelmed and so focused on “me” and “my” problems that we miss wonderful opportunities to minister.
May we look around ourselves and pray to know who we might serve — despite difficulty. The great example of one suffering with cancer in our congregation has given me a wonderful glimpse into this. Yes, it can be done. And this world we live in needs more of it.
A blessed Thanksgiving to each of you!
Bishop David John Cook
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Bainbridge Island Congregation
Also printed in the Bainbridge Review