I was twelve years old when my grandfather died. To me he was the epitome of a saint—kindly, gentle, purely good. Though I lived in California and he in Utah, distance did not dim my adulation. Love can wing the friendly skies just as adeptly as the airlines.
His death hit me with disbelief, as well as grief. I had not only lost a friend but was convinced that somehow the eternal timing of his departure was incredibly off. In my youthful (though enthusiastic) grasp of the gospel, I had been sure that he was destined to be a great leader in the Church before he left this world. He was a man of great charity, was he not, who had literally given his shoes to a beggar knocking at the door, his coat to another colder than he? His leaving had to be premature, I reasoned.
He had too much more to give.
As I look back now with the eyes of one who has grown not only in inches but in understanding, I see that I equated ability with visibility. So many of the Saints have a basic goodness, a charity that qualifies them for discipleship. But serving is not synonymous with position. Whether serving in a visible example of goodness or in quiet corners, disciples follow the example of the Christ. A calling may help formalize our work for him, but serving is a blessing available to all of us, whether officially through the Church organization or in our daily association with others.
The way to become great by the Lord’s measuring stick is simply to serve. Chauncey Riddle, dean of Brigham Young University Graduate School, has dealt with the issue of the least and the greatest thusly: “Whereas people of the world concern themselves with those who have more wealth, talent, prestige, or athletic ability, true servants of Christ care about those who have less. … For the lesser to help the greater is not really help but servitude. … The person who has the superiority must place himself in a position of inferiority; he must become the servant of the one being helped” (“A B.Y.U. for Zion,” Speeches at the 100th Summer Commencement Exercises, Brigham Young University, 15 Aug. 1975, p. 4).
How do we become the servant of others? Through genuinely caring about them, through praying for the pure love of Christ to motivate us to serve (see Moro. 7:47–48), and by taking the initiative to bless the lives of others. That constant of discipleship will wrap our own lives and the lives of those we meet in the soft, warm mantle of Christ’s love.
As an echo of the Savior’s life, my grandfather’s example was not lost. I was deeply affected by it, as I’m sure were countless others whose lives he touched. I will tell my own children about the patterns of goodness that emerged in his life in simple yet powerful ways. To tap that heritage of goodness to which he was heir—as all of us are—is to find our way to discipleship.