We all think of anecdotes or experiences others have shared when we have big decisions to make or find ourselves at crossroads in life. It boosts our courage. They needn’t be long and are often simple, but in their subtle way, these stories give guidance, direction and in reality change our lives for the better.
Below are a few treasures, which I reference frequently in my life and have tucked away for easy access to lift, inspire, and motivate me when needed:
Saving the Ship
Grandpa used to tell me a story about a sailor in the navy who was ridiculed because he knelt by his bunk each day and offered prayer. Nevertheless, this young man was undeterred. He had been taught in his youth to pray daily.
Later in one particularly heated battle, the ship was struck mortally, and the men on deck fell to their knees in droves pleading for heaven’s help, hopeless as it looked. This particular cadet, however, did not cry for help but continued trying to save the ship. After the incident, when the battalion had returned to normalcy, his comrades gathered around him and asked of all people why didn’t he pray on the deck of the ship at that time when they needed heaven’s help so badly, like many of the other sailors did.
He replied “I had already said my morning prayers. God knew of my needs. Then was time for me to do everything I could do given the situation at hand.”
I appreciate that sentiment and feel strength, security, and confidence instead of fear when I ask for his help. If I stand with him, he will stand by me, especially in the heat of battle. This story frequently helps when I take on momentous tasks, because it applies in many aspects of our lives and every situation we may find ourselves. It’s a matter of confidence and priority, starting the day by soliciting God’s direction and blessing.
And that makes all the difference!
While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young boy, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The boy paused and replied matter-of-factly, “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the elderly observer considered the boy’s words and responded, “But, young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach, and starfish are all along every mile? Further, there are countless beaches throughout the world. You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The boy listened politely and considered his words. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said “I made a difference to that one.”
Over my life on occasion, I have wondered if my contributions have made a significant difference in the lives and happiness of others. This usually occurs in the midst of some struggle or while overcoming some particularly challenging obstacle. But it is then when focusing on the one—the child in need of help, the downtrodden who needs a lift, or choosing forgiveness instead of revenge—makes our contributions meaningful.
You can make a significant difference!
Acquainted with Him
One of the best-known and best-loved stories of the Mormon pioneers is the testimony of Francis Webster, a member of the hapless Martin Handcart Company. Although his name has increasingly become associated with his statement, he is still better known as the unnamed old man in the corner of a Sunday School class who arose to silence criticism directed toward those who allowed that company to come West:
“It was in an adult Sunday School class of over fifty men and women. Nathan T. Porter was the teacher and the subject under discussion was the ill-fated handcart company [Martin Handcart Company] that suffered so terribly in the snow of 1856. Some sharp criticism of the Church and its leader was being indulged in for permitting any company of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded. One old man in the corner sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget.
His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity. He said in substance, “I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes! But I was in that Company and my wife was in it… We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that Company utter a word of criticism? Every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities!
“I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull the load through it. I have gone to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began
pushing me! I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the Angels of God were there. “Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No! Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.”
And when he sat down there was not a dry eye in the room. We were a subdued and chastened lot. Charles Mabey who later became Governor of Utah, arose and voiced the sentiment of all when he said, “I would gladly pay the same price for the same assurance of the eternal verities that Brother Webster has.”
– Writings of William R. Palmer.
Appreciation, awe, and wonder are common reactions to these stories, every time I read them. You have stories that affect you, too. Share them frequently with those you love.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.