Instant Messages

By Janessa Rose Cloward


Salt and Snow

Ring! Ring! sang my cell phone.

“Yeah?” I answered.

“You want to hit the library?” my friend Andrea asked.

I glanced up at the clock and then at the pile of homework on my desk. With finals lurking around the corner, I desperately needed a chance to study, and I couldn’t focus in my college apartment.

“Yeah, let’s go,” I said, gathering my books. I bundled myself in several layers before braving the frigid air and wading through four inches of fresh snow to Andrea’s car.

We set off for the library, grumbling about our mountains of homework. Just thinking about the next week made me nervous.

As we passed an intersection, I noticed an elderly woman shoveling snow from her sidewalks.

“Look at that!” I exclaimed. “Why is that little old lady shoveling snow all by herself?”

“We should turn around and help her,” Andrea suggested. Moments later, we pulled into her driveway.

“Can we help you with that?” Andrea asked, reaching for the shovel.

“Oh, no, I’m all right, but thank you,” she said in surprise.

“No, really,” I insisted. “At least let us finish for you. You must be freezing.”

She hesitated, but then gratefully consented to let us salt down the sidewalks.

We collected the salt and chatted with her as we sprinkled the sidewalks. The salt melted away the ice almost as quickly as our disgruntled moods.

After we finished, we went inside to meet her husband, who was unable to shovel the snow because he was recovering from surgery. We enjoyed some eggnog, admired family photos, and told her about our families. Then out of the blue she stopped and smiled at us.

“I’m so glad you stopped by,” she confided. “It’s just so good to visit.”

We stayed with her for about an hour, then hugged her good-bye and continued our trek to the library.

“I don’t think she really needed someone to salt her sidewalks,” Andrea said as we drove away.

“No,” I said. “She needed a friend.”

As I glanced at my pile of books, I realized I had needed her, too. The stress I’d felt just an hour before was nearly gone, replaced by blissful relief. I had been so focused on my tests that I couldn’t see how others struggled with bigger problems like loneliness, growing older, and even shoveling snow. I will always be grateful for that reminder to watch for opportunities to serve.

[illustrations] Illustrations by Sam Lawlor

Scripture Study on the Bus

When I went on an overnight field trip with my school, I decided I would still have scripture study. I even invited three friends to join me. One was a member of the Church, but my other two friends were Baptist and had never read the Book of Mormon.

Although we had our scripture study in the back of a moving bus, I could feel the Spirit. Each of us picked out a few verses to share with the group. I chose many from the Bible but also some from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.

After we finished, my friends asked to look at the Book of Mormon. I showed them the Articles of Faith as well and told them about Joseph Smith. I also took the time to look at their Bibles, which were a different version from the one we use.

I feel so blessed to know that we have both the Book of Mormon and the Bible. And I can’t wait for the day when I will be able to share them both as a full-time missionary.

Unto the Least

I was determined to have a bad attitude as my mom picked my brother and me up from school and drove us downtown. It was Christmastime, and I was supposed to be shopping with my friends. Instead, I was headed to a homeless shelter in our city to help fulfill an assignment that our stake had been given to clean the shelter and serve food to the people there.

When we arrived, my mood darkened as I was assigned to clean out the industrial-size refrigerator, which had recently been left open and now had all sorts of mold growing inside. I rolled my eyes and sighed in disgust at the green mess before me. With rubber gloves up to my elbows, I started scrubbing halfheartedly.

As I worked, a small boy in worn clothes stepped out of the food line to watch my progress. He stood at the door and simply smiled at me. And then without a word, he walked away. I was touched as I watched him go, and a scripture came to my mind: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

“How well would I clean if I were doing this for Christ?” I thought to myself. “How hard would I work for Him?”

A smile spread across my face, and I turned back to my task. And with new perspective, I scrubbed the fridge until it shined.

[illustration] Painting by Heinrich Hofmann, courtesy C. Harrison Conroy Co. Inc.

A Blessing Away from Home

During my freshman year of college, I had an amazing experience with the priesthood. I was having the worst day possible—I had heard some bad news about a few friends from home and was waiting to hear more of the details. I was stressed with school and with life in general. I needed comfort.

One of the girls in my dorm suggested that I ask for a priesthood blessing. I hadn’t even thought of it because all my life my dad had been the one to give me blessings. I asked one of my good friends if he would give me a blessing, which he and another young man from my ward did. Afterward, I felt calm and peaceful. Things started to fall into place.

This experience helped me to see that the priesthood is the same wherever you go, and its power can help us no matter where we are.