I live in the suburbs around Philadelphia, or “Philly”, as we locals refer to our beloved city. This means that I have strongly held opinions about where to get the absolutely best Philly Cheesesteak—Pudge’s, is our family’s favorite! Living near Philly also means that we have been able to see our temple rise up from a former parking lot. (The temple is due to be finished late next summer, and I am sooo excited!) And living anywhere near Philly this last week has meant that we had to deal with the a-Pope-calypse that descended on our area: closed roads, security, and insane traffic. The traffic was so bad that the city set up port-o-potties on the side of the main highways. If you’re stuck in traffic so long that you have time to get out of your car, walk over to the Potty Queen, use it, and get back into your car …that’s some seriously intense gridlock.
However, despite the inconvenience, being in Philly has also meant that we have had a front seat to the news coverage of Pope Francis’s visit. Some of my friends bought hotel rooms for their families and stayed in Philly the entire weekend Pope Francis was in town; however, as we are not Catholic and my husband really, really hates crowds, this was not something we considered. Instead, we enjoyed watching the visit from the comfort of our home. I loved it. I loved watching when the Pope-mobile would stop and he would step out and walk over to someone’s baby and place his blessing on the baby. Funny behind-the-scenes story: it was so crowded and everyone wanted to see the Pope up close that the crowds started chanting, “Baby. Baby. Baby.” If you were a new mother with a baby in tow, you were quickly moved to the front of the crowd, in the hopes that your little one would tempt the Pope to stop.
Of all the scenes of the Pope stopping to personally greet individuals in the crowds, the scene that touched my heart the most was when Pope Francis walked over to a young man in a wheelchair and gave the youth his blessing. Following this, the Pope reached up to the young man’s mother and his hand lovingly cupped the side of her face, as he looked right in her eyes. She clutched his hand with both of hers, pressed her face into his hand, beaming at him, as tears streamed down her face. Perhaps this image struck me so forcibly because I have a special needs child of my own. I understand the lonely, hard days of raising a child with unique struggles. This mother needed to feel acknowledged for her struggles, she needed to be seen as someone of worth, she needed that moment of gentle love that he showed her.
Whether you are Catholic or not, each of us can appreciate the message behind Pope Francis’s stops—love one another. Uplift one another. See each person where they are and bless each other.
Last week, I shared how I have been learning to follow the Savior’s example. This week, my personal journey of learning to be like the Good Samaritan continued, as I realized how much fear of rejection holds each of us back from reaching out to those around us.
In an address given to BYU-Idaho students and faculty, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, counseled,
“Act in accordance with your true beliefs by spending your time on those things that will build and develop your character and help you become more Christlike. I hope none of you see life as primarily fun and games but rather as a time “to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32) …I am not talking about wearing your religion on your sleeve or being superficially faithful. That can be embarrassing to you and the Church. I am talking about you becoming what you ought to be.”
As I continued to pray for opportunities to serve those around me and to see those in need as I go through each day’s activities, I came face-to-face with the reality that I am afraid of other people’s opinions. This fear holds me back, keeping me from reaching out, which means it will prevent me from being able to serve the Lord—from becoming who I ought to be!
The Good Samaritan came upon the wounded traveler on Jericho’s road, “as he journeyed,” … he didn’t set out to find the wounded man, he just came upon him. This has been something that has been very important for me as I am striving to better understand the Savior’s teaching by applying it to my life—it has to be helping someone in need as I am living my life, NOT as a result of a scheduled appointment.
Part of my life is running. I run a lot. Currently, I am training for my 6th or 7th half-marathon. I am NOT fast, but I enjoy the time on trails to clear my mind and to ponder life. Also, I really, really love to eat and running helps me be able to fit into my clothes! ☺ As I ran the main 5 mile loop around Valley Forge National Park this week, I made a goal to really look each person in the eye as we passed each other & call out a greeting. Nothing fancy, just eye contact, quick smile, and a, “Good Morning!” or “Hi!”
… I am a chicken! As I tried to keep my goal to greet everyone, I noticed that my eyes would glance at theirs, then quickly slide to the side—looking at their child in the stroller, or their dog … anywhere but remaining in eye contact. Why is this? Luckily, since I’m such a slow runner, I had time to ponder, and I realized that I feared their reaction, “What if they reject me?” … which as I continued to ponder made me realize exactly how foolish I was acting. I was afraid that a random stranger would reject my friendly greeting. So what if they did? I wasn’t doing this for ME to receive validation, I was doing this to affirm to each person I met of THEIR importance, of THEIR innate worth as a child of God.
As I stuck with it, I received various responses. Usually a quick smile in return and a dip of the head. Sometimes eye avoidance. Sometimes a startled look. Then I began my second time around the loop … and I began to see and greet people I had already passed on my first time around. The smiles were bigger and one woman even greeted me with cheers and raised hands as I came up the hill towards her—which made both of us gasp with laughter. It was incredible! Just looking people in the eye, smiling, and greeting them made SUCH a difference.
I am so grateful for this journey as I am learning how to become who I ought to be.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.