As I experienced several hardships within a nine-month period, my spirits began to flag considerably. In January my grandmother whom I was close to passed away. During the summer, my engagement to a fine man fell through. To top things off, that autumn I wondered whether I would need to make a career change.
Under the emotional strain of my trials, I started thinking I had nothing to offer others and there was no place where I quite fit. After all, where does a single woman fit in a church that emphasizes the blessings of family life? I found that I was withdrawing in spirit from ward members and activities.
Even though I didn’t share much with my friend Rhonda about my situation, she knew I was troubled. During the course of our friendship, she and her husband, Ken, had invited me for dinner and family activities a couple times a month. Their three daughters gave me spontaneous hugs, and the family saved a place for me to sit with them during sacrament meeting. Rhonda always had time to talk and often went the second and third miles for me. I had a busy work schedule, but she persisted in inviting me to enjoy some fun with her family and attend ward activities.
One Sunday Rhonda greeted me enthusiastically at Relief Society and asked if I would like to share a Saturday evening in November with her. I readily assented even though a gleam in Rhonda’s eye told me there was something I didn’t know.
On the appointed evening, I drove to Rhonda’s house still wondering what we were going to do. Rhonda had told me to wear casual clothes, but she had not elaborated on what our activities would be. As I walked in the front door, I noticed that the dining room table and an extra table in the living room had been set for dinner.
We sat and talked for a while, but Rhonda still offered no clues about her plans for the evening. At one point she asked, “Didn’t we have fun at homemaking on Wednesday night?” After I agreed, she said, “When I mentioned that you and I were going to have an evening together tonight, some of the sisters thought they might join us.” She paused to see what I would say. When I said nothing, she continued, “We’re going to have dinner here.”
It sounded fun to me, but I could tell by Rhonda’s expression that she still wasn’t telling me everything. We continued our conversation until a knock sounded at the door.
A sister from the ward entered carrying a salad and a single carnation, and she followed Rhonda into the kitchen. When I saw the salad, I wondered if Rhonda had forgotten to tell me I needed to bring something.
I never got a chance to ask, because sisters kept arriving bearing dishes and flowers. I was embarrassed about my lack of preparedness, but I figured I could slip out unobtrusively and run to the store before the festivities were in full swing. In the meantime, I enjoyed visiting with the sisters gathered in the living room.
When Rhonda came in from the kitchen, everyone fell silent. “Do you know what’s going on?” she asked me. I shook my head. “We’re having a party for you tonight. We know you’ve had a hard time lately, and we’ve all been concerned about you. We wanted to show you how much we love you and care about you.”
As I looked around at those smiling, shining faces of old and new friends from the ward, tears came to my eyes. I’m not usually at a loss for words, but I could not express my deep gratitude at that moment.
“Let’s eat. You go first,” Rhonda said, gesturing to me.
We spent the evening eating delicious food and playing games. Occasionally a knock sounded at the door and another sister or two would arrive to express their love and support.
At the end of a wonderful evening of fun and friendship, Rhonda presented me with a lovely bouquet made up of the single flowers that each sister had brought me as a symbol of love and concern. Each sister had also signed a booklet of poems about friendship for me. I was deeply touched, realizing that I really did have a place in the ward.
Those loving, smiling faces are forever etched in my mind. The flowers are long gone, but their aroma and beauty live on in my memory. Despite my personal challenges, I had a feeling of warmth, belonging, and acceptance because my sisters were responding in the truest sense to their baptismal covenant to “bear one another’s burdens” (see Mosiah 18:8–10), including mine.