After experiencing some unexpected financial obligations as a single woman, I knew I needed to find a second job. Soon afterward, Marty, a sister in my ward, approached me and asked for my help. She and her husband were going on a mission, so she had to give up her job. She explained that every Saturday she helped an elderly woman, Ruth, who lived in an assisted-living complex. Marty offered me her job and told me that Ruth would pay me for my work.
The following Monday, Marty and Ruth explained my tasks, and I began my work a few days later. I started by gathering Ruth’s laundry and carrying it upstairs to the laundry room. Soon after I began, Ruth rushed in and shouted at me. She told me that I was never to wash her clothes without first asking.
I was doing only what she and Marty had asked me to do. Frustrated and hurt, I fought back the tears. I told myself that I didn’t need any more stress or problems in my life. I would have walked out that very moment had I not promised Marty that I would care for Ruth while she was away.
Week after week Ruth shouted angrily at me over everything I did. It seemed that I could never please her no matter how hard I tried.
I started praying for strength to endure Ruth and her harsh words, but nothing changed. I continued to resent having to help her.
Then one day I changed my prayers. I stopped praying for myself and started praying for Ruth. I asked Heavenly Father to help me understand her needs and how I could help her.
From that day forward everything changed. My heart softened, and my love for Ruth grew. Ruth changed as well. She opened up and shared her life, her joys, and her sorrows. She told me she missed her family. She told me of the wonderful things she had done in her past but could no longer do. She told me she was lonely and sad.
I began to look forward to seeing Ruth each week, and she looked forward to seeing me.
My experience with Ruth taught me a valuable lesson. When I truly served with my whole heart, I came to understand President Spencer W. Kimball’s (1895–1985) teaching that “in the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus, that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves” (“Small Acts of Service,” Ensign, Dec. 1974, 2).