In my years of service as a Relief Society visiting teacher, I have had many spiritual experiences. One of them, several years ago, continues to be gratifying.
My companion and I were assigned to visit the widow Anderson (the name is fictitious) and her two children who were grown but who were both at home because of mental retardation. After several months of pleasant visits with the widow, we had met her son but not her daughter, Laura, who we learned was very shy. We were told that whenever Laura would see or hear anyone coming, she would go to her room.
One Saturday afternoon, after attending a Relief Society seminar, I decided I would stop by the Anderson home for our monthly visit, since earlier calls had not found anyone home. I had been touched deeply by one comment in the seminar. One of the speakers had said, “When you do your visiting teaching, do you make a real effort to serve your sisters or are you just eager to check their name off your list each month after you have been in their home?” That struck me forcefully because after several months of visiting the Anderson family, we had made no real effort to get to know Laura. I had a prayer in my heart that I might find Laura at home that afternoon and have a chance to talk with her.
When I rang the doorbell, Sister Anderson answered and invited me into the living room. Then she quickly excused herself to check something on the stove. There was Laura! She was sitting in a rocking chair with her leg on a footstool.
At first she seemed startled by my presence, but after I stooped down and inquired about her foot, she was calmed.
I felt the Holy Spirit touch me in a quiet, humbling way, and as thoughts came to my mind, I would speak them to Laura. “I wish you would come to Relief Society,” I said. “It would be special for all of us to feel your beautiful spirit.”
“I would love to come,” she replied, “but I have a large growth on my foot. I have hardly been able to wear shoes for months, and I have real pain when I try to walk.”
I looked at her foot again. Yes, there was a large growth. I could see it now, and I could see the difficulty of her going to church or anywhere else without a great deal of help.
Then the Spirit prompted, “Her foot problem is your problem now. What are you going to do about it?”
“Should I take her to the doctor?” I thought, and the Spirit urged, “Yes; now.”
“This moment?” I thought.
“Yes,” was the prompting.
“Laura,” I said, “can I help you with your foot? My husband’s uncle is a doctor. He’s off today, and he lives just across the street from our house. Will you go with me to his home so we can ask him if he can help you?”
Laura looked at me for a few moments with a trust shining from her eyes.
“Yes,” she said. “It will take me a few moments to get ready. Will you help me?”
I helped her get up and walked with her into her room. I was touched by the simple beauty I saw there. How many hours and how many years had Laura sat on that bed, alone with her thoughts and feelings? As I stood in the doorway watching her gather some things together, I felt the power of the Holy Ghost more powerfully than before. I felt as if the Master were standing by me.
Tears came. The Spirit was actually aware of this act on behalf of Laura! In a flash, the Savior’s life and teachings took on a great simplicity. “Feed my sheep,” he had said. “Love one another.”
I checked with Laura’s mother, who was pleased that I would take such an interest in Laura. She had thought the growth an inalterable result of the polio Laura had when she was thirteen.
We went to the doctor. Yes, Laura’s foot ailment was a consequence of her polio, but it could be resolved. He put me in touch with a foot doctor, a member of the Church, who agreed to see Laura in a few days.
After the specialist examined Laura’s foot, he came out to the waiting room. “Are you Laura’s sister?” he asked.
“Well, she calls me Sister Hinze. I’m her sister in the gospel,” I said.
He smiled, understanding. “She told me to come and talk to her sister who was waiting here for her.
“She needs immediate surgery,” he continued. “With that done, Laura should walk almost perfectly for the first time in twenty-five years.
“And by the way, Sister Hinze—if there’s any problem with finances, I’ll gladly do the surgery free.” He smiled again, and I knew the Spirit had touched him as well.
Laura had the surgery. Everything went well. My visiting teaching companion and I went to see her the next day in the hospital. Laura looked radiant. She was up and walking around and thrilled at the new prospect of mobility.
Her foot healed rapidly. It wasn’t very long until all the bandages were off and she was free to go anywhere she wanted. By this time we were making almost weekly trips to Laura’s home to check on her progress. One morning as I was visiting with her, the Spirit prompted, “Now that her foot is better and she is able to walk properly, you need to help her find something meaningful to do with her time.”
I wasn’t surprised by that prompting, but I was a little overwhelmed, realizing as I never had before how the Lord desires us to strengthen one another and care for one another.
I talked about Laura with her mother. She seemed grateful for my concern and asked for my help. After praying, I shared the promptings I received with my visiting teaching companion and with my husband. Then we did our homework on this assignment.
There was a special school for the handicapped in a nearby community, and my psychologist husband suggested we ask a friend of his there for help. This friend made an appointment for Laura and me at the school.
When I picked up Laura that afternoon, her mother had bought her a new outfit. It was simple and humble, but Laura looked beautiful. She was also nervous. This was a special day for her, a day of new adventure. She wasn’t sure she could cope with school, yet she wanted with all her heart to succeed.
The school administrators treated Laura royally. She was thrilled as they escorted us around the school and told us of their twofold program: classes part of the day and a work opportunity the other part. Laura would actually earn money! Something beyond her furthest dreams just a few months earlier.
As we sat at the desk to fill out the papers, the director said, “Mrs. Hinze, we are thrilled that Laura can join us here at our school. May I put your name and address on the form to keep you informed of her progress? However, I don’t know what to call you on the form—friend? supporter? advocate? Yes, I think I’ll call you advocate. Laura’s advocate. Is that all right with you?”
Tears of gratitude filled my eyes. “Advocate would be just fine.”