“Love your enemies,” challenged my Sunday School teacher one morning. “Do good to those that hate you. Then just watch what happens.”
At the time I received this challenge, my testimony was not yet firm, and I was skeptical about the practicality of this biblical teaching. It couldn’t possibly apply to my life. But I halfheartedly thought I might try it—that is, if I could think of an enemy.
After some thought, I concluded that I had no real enemies, so that took care of that. Then, suddenly, I remembered an incident. When we had moved into the end apartment of a string of four company-owned apartments, our outdoor water faucet wasn’t working. I asked the woman in the next apartment if I could hook my hose to her faucet to water my lawn. (There was no charge for the water.) She informed me that I certainly could not use her faucet and that, if mine was broken, I had better get it fixed and not bother her again!
Well! I would have no more to do with her! I was relieved some time later when she moved to the far end of our string of apartments. It would be just as well not to be next door to her anymore.
Now, here was the challenge to love my enemies. She was the nearest person I could think of who would fill the bill. Everyone else I knew was a friend. “Here goes!” I thought.
Each day I hung out my baby’s diapers on the clotheslines at the end of the building, next to this woman’s apartment. She was always sitting on the porch alone. I had usually ignored her, but now I decided to prove whether or not loving my enemies would indeed work.
The next morning when I went to hang out the wash, the woman was sitting on her porch as usual, drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette. I gave her a smile and said with a gay lilt, “Hi, there!” She glared at me and deliberately turned her head.
“No skin off my nose,” I thought. “I’m just proving a point.” When I finished hanging out my clothes she had gone inside.
Each day after that, I merrily called out, “Hi!” as I passed her and never once got a smile or an answer. One morning, after about two weeks, much to my surprise, she walked over to where I was hanging wet baby linen, and we exchanged a few remarks about the weather.
After that, each day when I came to hang out clothes, she came over and we said a few words—never anything personal. Sometimes we talked about the company both of our husbands worked for, sometimes the weather or a sale at a local store. I certainly never felt that we were friends in any sense of the word. She always seemed cold and distant.
Then one day my husband and I received word that we were to be transferred to a different locality. When I went out the next morning to hang my washing, the woman came to the clothesline as usual to talk. I told her that we were moving away. We passed a few comments about it, and I went back to my apartment.
About an hour after I had gone home, the woman appeared at my door. I was very surprised to see her. Neither of us had ever been in the other’s apartment. She had an odd, strained expression on her face. I invited her to sit down, and we tried to chat a little. But there really seemed to be nothing to talk about.
Then, to my astonishment, she burst into tears, sobbing as if her heart would break. She said she couldn’t stand to have me move away. “You are the only friend I have in the whole world,” she said.
Me! Why, I didn’t even know her first name!
I couldn’t think of anything to say to my friend. I only knew that we weren’t enemies any more.
“Oh, Father,” I thought. “Forgive me for doubting your word. I didn’t really do anything for her. I only said hello and visited with her a little. What a flood of proof you’ve given me!”
I have found for myself—not only then, but many times since—that living the principles of the gospel in even the smallest way always proves them to be true.