I will never forget the day my mother taught me how to love a mean lady.
She was my neighbor, and I was afraid of her. She had long white hair that stuck out everywhere, and she was missing some teeth. Her name was Maggie.
We lived in a yard of seven little cottages. (In England, a yard is a tiny street.) Because there was only one way out of the yard, we had to pass Maggie’s cottage every day on the way to school. If she saw us, she would come to her door and shake her fists and shout. We couldn’t understand a word she said, but she seemed angry and scary. Everyone ran past Maggie’s house or tried to avoid it.
Everyone, that is, except my mother. She seemed to be the bravest person in the world because she wasn’t afraid of Maggie one bit. She even went into her cottage! If Maggie was sick, Mum took her dinner. If Maggie was lonely, Mum went and talked with her. Mum said that sometimes she even understood what Maggie was saying.
One day I was walking home from school when I saw Mum in the yard with Maggie. Maggie’s clothes were hanging on our washing line. As usual, Maggie was pointing and shouting. Then she stomped off.
“What’s wrong?” I asked Mother. “What was she saying?”
“Oh, I’ve done her washing for her, and she says it isn’t clean,” Mum said.
I gasped. Mother’s washing was always very clean. “How could she say that? She’s so ungrateful! You should never help her again!”
Mum turned to look at me, and I could tell that she was thinking carefully about what to say. Finally, she said something that I will always remember.
“Love, I don’t do things for her so that she’ll be grateful. I do them because she needs me to do them.”
Mum went on to explain that Maggie hadn’t enjoyed the same good things in life that we had. Sad things had happened to her that made it hard for her to think and act properly. She needed people to show her love and care, and not pay attention to how different she was.
I realized that Maggie was a very important person. She was one of the “least” that Jesus spoke about when He said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these … ye have done it unto me.”* Not only did Maggie need us to help her with everyday work, Heavenly Father also needed us to show her that she was loved. When we unselfishly served Maggie, we served Heavenly Father too. My mother understood this, and I’m glad she took the time to teach me.