Driven by the Spirit
For years, I drove my taxicab solely for the money I could make. I drove for the mortgage, the car payment, the groceries, and the doctor bills. Then came a hot, dry day in July when hundreds of people needed cabs to the airport after a convention. I worked as fast as I could, and I made good money. Worn out, I stopped at a convenience store to get some ice water.
On my way inside, I passed a man who was sitting against the wall. He looked young, but his hair was long and dirty and his clothes were filthy and tattered. When his eyes met mine, they looked hollow and empty.
The Spirit prompted me to help him. I paused, thinking that any money I gave him would probably go toward tobacco or liquor. I gave him a coin.
The prompting came even more strongly, however, so on my way out I gave him a more sizable donation from my day’s profits. That was the beginning of the softening of my heart.
On a subsequent cold night, I picked up a young couple at a grocery store. “Take us as far as three dollars will go, and we’ll walk from there,” the man said. “I don’t get my unemployment check for another week.”
When the meter hit $2.95, I reached over and turned it off. Would the Lord have left them to walk the other half of their way home with heavy groceries? After I helped the husband carry in the groceries, the wife brought me a sandwich, my most delicious tip ever.
Another night a young woman at a convenience store gave me a faint wave as I cruised by. I made a U-turn and pulled up beside her. “Taxi?” I asked.
She told me the address, then said, “I need to get home, but I don’t even have money to call my dad.” Her voice was quavering. She was very young, perhaps fourteen or fifteen.
I felt the prompting. “Get in,” I told her. “You’re right on my way. No charge.”
As we drove to her home, she told me that she had been out with some friends. Some of the boys started getting out of hand, so she insisted that they let her off at the corner. “I prayed for help,” she said, “and then you stopped.”
Nephi said, “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Ne. 4:6).
When I apply that scripture to myself, I interpret it to read, “And I was driven by the Spirit …”
We Had a Promise
Usually when I see a California Highway Patrol vehicle, I quickly check my speed and make sure I haven’t forgotten to buckle my seat belt. But on occasion tears fill my eyes as I remember a very special seminary teacher, a CHP officer, who saved my life and influenced me forever.
My teenaged peers in church were a rebellious lot, and unfortunately we demonstrated a lack of respect for our teachers. We were blessed with many great teachers, but even the best had trouble with us. We wore the label of a problem class, year after year.
In the ninth grade, I started my first year of seminary at the insistence of my goodly parents. My friends and I made the best of having to get up at such unreasonable hours to study religion. Since we were all pretty good friends, we kept ourselves entertained with gossip, jokes, and any topic unrelated to the lessons.
Our teacher that year had been recently baptized, with his beautiful wife and his young family. His zest and zeal for life were evident, and we felt he had been called by inspiration to teach our class. I had no idea until years later that my father, a stake missionary, helped bring the gospel to him and his wife.
The first couple of days, we thought he was just another teacher, but then we noticed a difference. When our class was rude, when our class ignored his well-prepared lessons, he showed no sign of frustration.
He knew how to handle us. He didn’t become upset but stayed in control. He was different—so different, in fact, that he was able to persuade a number of youth who never even came to church to attend seminary that year.
He told us stories about his life. He had grown up in New York City, and in his part of town, a guy had to beat someone up in order to be accepted by the others. That was a far cry from what was expected in our middle-class neighborhood. But he related well with us, because he understood the effects of peer pressure.
One lesson I will never forget is when he began talking to the wall. We were being rude and loud until we all noticed that he was quietly giving the wall our lesson. He was even giving the wall compliments on how reverent it was being. For many of us, it was our first moment of realizing just how rude we’d been.
His stories were exciting, and he had a rich sense of humor. He had class parties and even seemed to like being with us. The thing I remember most vividly was that he loved us. He told us somewhere in the course of that year that if any of us ever decided to run away from home, we must promise to come and talk to him first. He assured us he wouldn’t try to stop us, but he told us that his knowledge of the dangers runaways face would likely enable him to talk us out of leaving.
That wonderful man has no idea how many times in life I have felt like escaping from my challenges. But I haven’t run. Many times as I have faced something that seemed impossible to overcome, I’ve tried to go on, to not give up, because I promised this great teacher that I would talk to him first.
I haven’t seen my former seminary teacher now for more than a decade. He moved away soon after our class ended. I’ve always wanted to thank him, but I’ve lost contact with him. I know that for the good he did in our lives, Heavenly Father has surely blessed him.
“Remove My Bitterness”
Soon after I introduced the gospel to the man who would later become my husband, he experienced a marvelous conversion. A few days before we were married in the Washington Temple, however, he received a note from his mother that read: “If you do this thing, you are no longer my son.” My mother-in-law made good on her threat. For years, the monthly letters I wrote to her went unanswered and unacknowledged.
One day, however, a letter came, and then a phone call. My husband was very happy to have his family back. As our contact increased, my in-laws never mentioned anything about the past hurt. They acted as though nothing had ever happened.
My mother-in-law’s contact with us became more frequent after the birth of our daughter, but each tense visit left me filled with tears and anger. When our son was born, I decided I could not continue walking on eggshells. My husband’s parents came for the baby’s blessing, and I confronted my mother-in-law. I shed bitter tears, and she spoke harsh words.
A few months went by with no communication. Then we were invited to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday. No, I won’t go, I thought. I had resolved to teach my mother-in-law a lesson by keeping her grandchildren from her.
Meanwhile, we moved into a new ward. When we met with our new bishop, he perceived that my in-law situation was a thorn in our marriage. He asked my husband if I had just cause for my bitter feelings, and my husband said yes. Nevertheless, the bishop looked me in the eye and said, “You need to let go of the bitterness. Ask the Lord to remove it from your heart.”
I remembered the bishop’s words as I came across 3 Nephi 12:44–45 [3 Ne. 12:44–45] that night:
“But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;
“That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven.”
I knew that the Lord wanted me to love my mother-in-law, yet how could I love her after all that had happened? I thought of the perfect example of Jesus Christ, who had suffered far more than I could imagine and yet still loved his enemies. I dropped to my knees and asked the Lord to remove my long-held bitterness.
When we went to the birthday party the next day, I felt a lightness and peace I hadn’t known for years. It was a healing as real as when the Lord caused the blind to see. I had been blinded by grudges and self-pity, but now I could see more clearly into my soul and the soul of my mother-in-law.
I fully recognized that we were both children of God. She is my sister, I decided, and she needs my love as much as I need hers.
One More Week
As I edged my way through bumper-to-bumper traffic, I stared at the foothills draped in yellow haze. Rather than focus on the stop-and-go routine in front of me, I conjured up the image of a cool mountain forest and pine-scented air, crisp and clean. Work and worry had dulled my senses, and I knew nothing could revive them like a weekend of camping.
I touched the folded check in my shirt pocket to assure myself that it was still there. This overdue payment from a completed job would relieve some of the financial tension I’d been feeling and provide a way for a much-needed rest.
For the past few years my small landscape company had reminded me of a roller coaster ride: the ups and downs of contract disputes, slow-paying clients, and fluctuating economic cycles had challenged my ability to provide for my family.
I was still one year from my goal of earning a bachelor’s degree and making a career change. As I had attended afternoon and night classes at a nearby college, it had become increasingly difficult to balance family, classes, study time, and business deadlines. My wife, Patty, worried about the stress I was experiencing daily, but I assured her, “All I need is a weekend in the mountains with you and the kids. When I get paid for that last job, we can afford a short trip.”
So as I inched my way along the freeway, I resolved to take my family hundreds of miles from the nearest traffic tie-up.
On Friday evening, after my last class, we would head for the hills.
But our plans unraveled on Friday when the bank notified us that my client had cancelled payment on the check right after giving it to me. Not only did I have to cancel our trip for lack of money, but my own payments to suppliers were at risk. I needed to stay home to bid new jobs in order to solve our present dilemma.
After doing poorly on a midterm exam that night, I drove home feeling beaten and discouraged. “Can I take this pressure one more week?” I muttered.
But I had not counted on the love and support a spouse can give in times of true need. As I rounded the bend in the road leading to our home, I saw Patty standing next to the tent she had set up in the yard. She didn’t need to say a thing—it was there in her smile. The potatoes were peeled, the dutch oven was nestled in hot coals, and the picnic table was spread for dinner. All I needed to do was cook. She knew that was my favorite part.
I found it hard to speak through the lump in my throat. Though she couldn’t make all our financial worries disappear with this supportive gesture, Patty had magically brought me the peace of camping in the mountains. She had followed the Lord’s counsel to “lift up the hands which hang down” (D&C 81:5). At that moment I realized that no matter how hard the work, I could do anything for one more week—and even longer.
“What’s So Good About Today?”
As I prepared to go on a mission, I was apprehensive about leaving my family and friends and entering a world of strangers and uncertainty. I prayed for calm assurance that I would be able to handle any challenge that might come my way.
My mission call came while I was working as a nurse’s aide in a convalescent center. My favorite patient there was Emma. Although she was not seriously ill, her sight had failed, and she needed assistance with basic tasks. Nevertheless, she was always positive and happy.
On many nights, she would be kneeling by her bed saying her prayers when I came to help her prepare for sleep.
Emma couldn’t remember names very well, so whenever I approached her, I identified myself as the nurse who was soon to go on a mission. Often, she would grasp my hand and ask again when I was leaving. Then she would remind me to make sure I said good-bye to her on my final day at the center, because she had something to give me.
When my last day arrived, I made my rounds to all the wonderful people who had given me so much. I realized that many of them would probably not live through the year and a half of my mission. When I came to Emma’s room, I identified myself in the usual manner and told her I had come to say good-bye.
Emma reached into the black purse she always had at her side and pulled out a shiny silver dollar. She explained that before she started losing her sight two years ago and moved to the care center, she had taken the bus every Monday morning to the senior citizen recreation center for a day of socializing and activities. A few stops down the road from her house, an acquaintance named Bill would customarily get on the bus.
“Good day, Bill,” she would always say, smiling.
“What’s so good about today?” he would grumpily reply.
One day, Bill asked Emma if she had a dollar bill to exchange for a silver dollar. Bill didn’t explain the need for the exchange, but Emma traded money with him.
The following week, someone at Bill’s stop informed the bus driver that Bill had died of a heart attack. Emma had not spent Bill’s silver dollar, and as she reflected on this cynical man’s life, she decided to keep the coin as a reminder of what Bill had routinely said. Whenever she got depressed or discouraged, she would take out the shiny coin and think about what was good about today. She would count up her blessings, and suddenly life wouldn’t seem so terrible.
After telling me about Bill and the silver dollar, Emma pressed the dollar into my hand and said, “I want you to use this coin in the same manner. Take the dollar out often and contemplate all that’s good in your life. If you’ll do this, my dear, you too will find the sun shining brighter.”
As I hugged Emma and promised to follow her advice, I realized that although she was blind, her vision was clear. I never saw her again, because she died during the last six months of my mission. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve clutched that silver dollar with a heart full of pain and despair. Each time, I’ve been strongly reminded of what’s so good about today.