Because I have been given much, I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live
I shall divide my gifts from thee
With every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.
(From Hymns page 219, Text by Grace Noll Crowell, Music by Phillip Landgrave)
For many people around the world, the sentiments of this hymn reflect the sincere desires of their hearts. Most of us recognize how much our Lord has blessed us and we yearn to do what we can for our brothers and sisters who are in need. Compassion transcends all barriers; racial, cultural, and religion.
As Mormons, we make covenants with God when we are baptized and become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We promise that we will “bear one another’s burdens…mourn with those who mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places.” (Mosiah 18:8-9) Mormons truly believe that we have a responsibility to extend whatever help we can to those in need. Many Church programs are in place to serve those who find themselves in need of a helping hand. For example, one of the main objectives of the Relief Society (women’s organization of the Church) is to “exercise charity and nurture those in need.”
Mormons as well as many other Christians around the world remember the many lessons on compassion and kindness from the Scriptures. In Zechariah 7:9-10 we read, “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother, And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.” One of my favorite stories about compassion is the parable of the Good Samaritan. We are told that of the three men (a Priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan) who saw a severely injured man lying on the road to Jericho, only one had compassion. “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.” (Luke 10:33)
As the end of 2007 approaches I find myself reflecting on my conduct this past year. Was I a Good Samaritan, or was I more of a Priest and a Levite in my relationships with my fellowmen? Do I live what I preach everyday or only when it is convenient and comfortable for me to do so? Do I say I believe one thing but I do another? Do I extend the hand of compassion and fellowship to all men or do I only care for those who share my interests, my background, my religion? In a beautiful message titled “The Gift of Compassion,” President Thomas S. Monson (First counselor in the First Presidency) taught, “We have no way of knowing when our privilege to extend a helping hand will unfold before us. The road to Jericho that each of us travels bears no name, and the weary traveler who needs our help may be one unknown.”
The Christmas season is a wonderful time for a lot of reasons. There is something about it that brings out the best in us. We are kinder, more patient, more loving. This season reminds all of us about our common bond as children of a loving God. Many of us seek out ways to help lighten the loads of others, to be of service, to give of ourselves. In short, it brings out deep feelings of compassion in all of us.
When we seek to lighten the loads of others, we can’t help but be fulfilled and happy ourselves. Let me share a recent example: A group of us from our Ward (local Church unit) went caroling at a nursing home last Sunday. I’m pretty sure we weren’t the best choir they’ve ever heard there. In fact, we were actually quite off key with one song in particular but the residents applauded and thanked us as if we were the best thing they’d ever heard. We stayed and visited for awhile and every single resident that attended expressed sincere thanks for our time and talents. We went to perform a service, but we were the ones who were blessed instead. We received love, appreciation, kindness, and gratitude. Our hearts were full and our spirits were lifted.
Many opportunities exist in our communities where we can serve and lend a hand. As you look around your communities for ways to share your blessings and talents, consider a couple of these other ones also:
Marine Toys for Tots Foundation – This nationally recognized program has blessed the lives of thousands of children and made Christmas a little more special for them since 1947.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – An international leader in children’s medicine and care, this hospital treats all admitted patients without regard to the family’s ability to pay.
Covenant House – “Covenant House International is the largest privately-funded agency in the Americas providing shelter and other services to homeless, runaway and throwaway youth.”
America Supports You – This nationwide program sponsored by the Department of Defense supports our military men and women at home and abroad.
Humanitarian Services – “For millions of people in need around the world, the humanitarian outreach program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers hope and the potential for a life that transcends disease, poverty, and despair.”
On the contrary, we realize that even with our trials and challenges, we are still blessed in so many other ways. In fact, we might even see that sometimes our trials are blessings in disguise.
Because I’ve been given much, I will try to give in return. Because I’ve been so blessed in my life, I will try to be a blessing in someone else’s life. As I look around for ways to give back this season, I am also going to look for ways to give throughout the year for true compassion is practiced throughout one’s lifetime and not just one month a year.