I have a favorite quote that I heard as a kid. I don’t know where it came from, or who said it. But it goes like this: “Teach the Gospel every day. And when necessary use words.” It was a nice quote until one day I realized it needed to be more of a life philosophy. It was an edict to become a living testimony.
My husband and I were fresh out of college, and he accepted his first job. It was in Philadelphia. Not a big deal to most but I was a small town girl so it was a pretty scary change for me. I was overwhelmed by the size of the city, and the number of people. I was often scared. But I tried to put on a brave face because I had been taught to “bloom where you are planted.” And I knew God had a work for us in this new place.
Our neighborhood was typical of Philadelphia. We had a block full of old brick row houses. Each house was about 15 feet wide, and there was little privacy outside. We lived on a corner and were blessed with a little garden area on the side of the house.
The side of our house faced another street full of houses, so we were literally in a fishbowl. I went to sleep every night praying for safety and found myself hiding in the house afraid to be outside for more than the time it took to check the mail.
After a few months of adjusting, I realized I needed to change the way I was approaching things. I had been hiding and feeling depressed and displaced. But if I was really going to “bloom” I’d have to let in the sunshine. So I started searching for inspiration. One Sunday I found what I was looking for. We were singing a hymn at church and the words went like this:
‘In a world where sorrow ever will be known… how much care and sorrow you can help remove when you scatter sunshine, sympathy, and love. Scatter sunshine all along your way, cheer and bless and brighten every passing day.’
I felt peace and an assurance that if I tried to share the light I was given I wouldn’t be afraid in the city any longer. So I started…
I find a lot of peace in gardening. So I set aside my intimidation and fear of being outside and went to work in my yard. Slowly that barren area became a beautiful place. People would stop as they walked past to admire the flowers and chat for a minute. And as I worked, a small miracle happened. Instead of feeling scared and overwhelmed by this huge city I began to see its beauty.
It was in the little things- the corner of a stoop with flower pots on it; the architecture of the old buildings; the smile on the face of a neighbor; the flowers blooming in the spring. And instead of somber faces passing by I started to see smiles. Neighbors were coming outside to chat with each other.
As I improved my yard, so did other people. And our grey and boring boxy neighborhood became a green and growing place. We would sit outside to enjoy the fruits of our labors and so would others. Soon we were chatting and befriending others. It became a time in my life I cherish. I learned that my life and my actions- the Sunshine I spread- would be reflected in everything I did. And I started looking forward to being out and about.
I’ll never forget the day we moved away from that corner house with the beautiful garden. We had moved in with not much fanfare. One wonderful neighbor had come out to welcome us. But on the day we left we had a small crowd to see us off. It was a moment where I realized that in following the Savior, and in trying to live a Christ-like life, things had turned around.
I was sorry to go. We had met and learned to love so many people. And it was all because I decided to scatter sunshine, and follow that saying from my youth, and teach the gospel through my actions.
The friends we left behind may or may not have known our religious affiliation. I doubt they knew where we went to church. But I know they felt the love of God. I’m so grateful for the Lord and His love that helped turn what could have been a hermit experience into one of love and open acceptance. I loved sharing my testimony without words.
Patty thrives on all things creative. You’ll often find her in the garden pretending she is a suburban farmer. She loves meeting new people, and is devoted to her friends and family. In her heart she is a Midwesterner even though life has moved her all over the country. She believes in “blooming where you’re planted” and has found purpose in every place she has been. She has a deep and abiding love for the Savior and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And she loves editing LDS Blogs because it is a constant spiritual uplift. Not many people can say their job builds their witness of the Savior.