At each step of our lives, the Lord provides us with an environment that is right for us. Sometimes this process is hard to understand at first because it involves trials or adversity. It may include an unexpected assignment. Sometimes it brings us a friend with a special need, and we are on the giving side for a short season. Then the season changes, and we are on the receiving end.
In my own life, I have been largely on the receiving end. Just the right people have always blessed my life at just the right time. They have obeyed the Lord’s command for the strong to help the weak: “And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also” (D&C 84:106).
These strong helpers are often family members, but they may also be friends, teachers, or priesthood leaders. I learned a lot from a wonderful mission president. He was exceptional. I also learned a lot from outstanding priesthood advisers and a bishop, all of them always willing to listen and to teach by their examples. My parents also steadily taught gospel principles with love and understanding.
A great leader once told me that true leadership is raising the sights of those you lead so that they can discover their own strengths and feel the power of accomplishments.
As a young boy, I went on a rafting trip on the Colorado River. A wonderful adviser said, “On this rapid, I want you to be the ‘tiller’ (the one who steers the raft).” The adviser, whom I admired because of his physical strength and spiritual integrity, took a much less significant position in the raft, handed me the oar, and said, “Now it’s your turn.”
We calculated how we would run the rapid, and then we ran it. I broke two paddles in the rapid, but with the help of a well-prepared crew, we met the challenge safely. I thought, There’s an adviser who understands. It was a remarkable example of a trusting priesthood adviser raising a young man’s potential for service. He was there to hand us the oar, not just steer for us. It helped me gain self-confidence.
Neighbors are a blessing because they help us and also because we can help them. As a young man preparing for a mission, I had a neighbor who was a wonderful missionary. I shoveled his walks in the winter and mowed his lawns in the summer. Each time I finished, he invited me into his home and shared some of the finest Dutch chocolate in the form of an orange ball. It was sent to him by a person he had baptized as a missionary.
When he shared that chocolate, he also shared his mission and the love he felt for those great people of Holland he taught. Our conversations and his love for missionary work were an important part of my decision to serve a mission.
Our son Scott, who is disabled, has taught us love, understanding, compassion, and absolute dependency on the Savior as no one else could have. Many trainers (people who teach him to do things by himself), leaders, and friends have reached out along the way and provided him with a feeling of worth. One of those was a missionary we met in Brazil and who is now one of Scott’s trainers. Scott and his brothers and sister are especially close and share a wonderful loyalty. All who have blessed Scott’s life have been blessed in return as he touches their hearts and expands their vision. I really believe that you children today are more aware of handicaps and are kinder to disabled people than we adults were when we were children. You can be as loving and as gifted in teaching as anyone!
Third Nephi 26:14 is a favorite scripture of mine: “And it came to pass that he did teach and minister unto the children of the multitude of whom hath been spoken, and he did loose their tongues, and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things, even greater than he had revealed unto the people; and he loosed their tongues that they could utter.”
The children taught their parents things beyond what the Savior Himself had taught them! I think a disabled child can be like those Nephite children. When we learn from a child, we grow greatly ourselves and can later teach others.
You Primary children enjoy special gifts that no one else could possibly have, and there will be moments in your lives when those gifts are needed to bless others. When you hug a child or read to him or her or do other simple things that reflect love and respect, you receive even more than you give. You grow, and that child is catapulted in confidence and trust.
Disabled children can help each other too. In fact, we all have things that we can’t do, and we are all blessed by others who reach out and help us, whatever those things may be. Even as we are being served, the wheel turns, and we have the opportunity to serve others. We are all better because we are able to associate together and help one another.
No one is truly independent. We all need each other. Most of all, we need our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our family frequently reviews the supreme sacrifice of the Atonement and the wonderful gifts it brings, because we feel so richly blessed and so totally dependent.
We cannot fully repay Him, but we can accept His gift with love and gratitude. And we can follow His example by serving one another with trust and love.