The idea came to me one afternoon in late December. I had just completed a six-week challenge suggested by a magazine article on doing good deeds daily. Some of the author’s activities had included writing letters, calling people he had intended to telephone for a long time, taking someone a pie, a plant, or a small remembrance, praying for others, and sharing the joy of living. It was such a joyful experience that he challenged his readers to emulate his experience.
At the end of my six weeks I was absolutely ecstatic about all the good things that had happened. Then it hit me—why not make it a year-long adventure and commit myself to doing something good for someone every day? It intrigued me to think that at the end of the year I could have touched the lives of 365 people. And I could keep track of my successes or failures in my personal journal.
As the year began I could hardly wait for each new day. It seemed so easy to think of good things to do. For example, I could catch up on my correspondence and lend a helping hand to neighbors with small children.
I was doing well through February until one night, after a particularly exhausting day, I suddenly realized that I had not done one good deed. I couldn’t bring myself to record a failure, so I crawled out of bed and wrote a letter to a long-forgotten friend.
Not all of my good deeds were preplanned; some just happened. I recorded in my journal the following example:
“We had an early dinner and looked forward to an evening together with not one meeting scheduled. We decided to relax and watch a favorite television show. I had just popped some corn when the doorbell rang. I groaned, ‘Now who could that be?’ and opened the door to see three of my Mutual girls grinning at me.
“My heart sank as they scattered their bodies in the entrance way, but I hid my feelings as they began to talk. After two hours of just listening I was really a part of their lives. At that exact moment, they had needed someone to listen to them. Although I had missed my television show, I thanked my Father in Heaven for the opportunity he had sent that night to touch the lives of three young girls.”
I was able to touch other lives, too, through my Church callings. I had never before realized how tuned out I had been to the needs of those around me. I began to see those who were lonely, those who needed an arm around their shoulder, and those who needed something to spark a dull day.
April and May found me making little spring treats to take to “new” friends. My activities were developing a new dimension: not only was I touching those around me, but now I was reaching out to people I never knew before. I still felt the excitement of my resolution, but added to it now was a deeper, spiritual feeling that made me feel much closer to my Father in Heaven.
I came closer to my children, too, with another unplanned good deed.
School had let out for the summer. My seven-year-old son reminded me, “Hey, mom, you promised to take us all hiking.”
“Oh dear,” I muttered, “why do I make such outlandish promises in weak moments?” But I hadn’t done my good deed, and here was a chance.
We all climbed into the car and headed for the hills. I gave them some basic instructions for hiking in that area, and then we set forth. The sun was shining, the lizards were running and I was hoping that we wouldn’t be joined by a rattlesnake. My five-year-old stumbled over rocks and fell into crevices and kept thanking me for taking him hiking. My six-year-old daughter grabbed my hand and said, “This sure is fun just being in the dirt with you.” I felt so full that I could only respond by squeezing her hand.
When we returned home, my children’s wide smiles thanked me again for the time I had taken to be with them. “That was a lot of fun,” I thought, “and I was able to touch four lives very special to me.”
As the summer days lengthened, I wanted my family to experience some of the joy I was finding in my “journey of love.” We set aside Thursday for making treats or doing something nice for others. The children did the baking and delivering with me at their side, and they delighted in the joy that they brought others.
By September and October my resolution had become a daily habit. Oh, I was still human. Sometimes my heart was not fully in tune when I started out to visit someone ill or down, but I always came away with a strengthened testimony of doing good.
For example, on the first day of school my youngest child and I stood on the doorstep waving good-bye to my other children as they left for classes. I had intended to do some long-delayed house cleaning, but I also had a strong urge to visit a new acquaintance, a bedridden twelve-year-old girl. When we arrived at her home and walked into her bedroom, I noticed big, black circles around her eyes and sadness in her face. “Hi,” I greeted. “Thought we’d come and see our favorite person.”
Her face lit up a little. “Now tell me,” I said, “what’s the best thing that’s happened to you since we were last here?” She looked at me with her tired eyes, smiled faintly, and said, “The only good thing is having you come again.”
Tears filled my eyes, and I hugged her tightly. So that she wouldn’t see the tears, I talked of a youth fireside the previous Sunday at which President Kimball was the special guest.
As my little son and I left her home, I took hold of his hand. “Oh, Danny—” But that was all I could say as the tears streamed down my cheeks. Once again, I was coming away from a visit with much more than I had taken.
As the year has progressed, I have come to realize that charity is not always convenient, and that it sometimes takes much thought and planning. At first, I was proud of all the “good” I was doing, but as the year comes to an end, I am humbled to realize how selfish I have been all my life. As I left the home of the bedridden, or listened to frustrated teenagers, or climbed the hills with my children, I often thought of all the lives I could have touched in previous years if only I had taken the time. My one consolation is knowing that I can make a similar journey in this coming year, and in all the years ahead.