Last week was my birthday—yeah! I’m now 41 years old!!! I used to complain about getting older, until a good friend bluntly (I prefer my friends to be the blunt kind!) told me, “Why are you complaining, it’s better than the alternative!” She’s right, so I enjoyed celebrating another year of life—of learning, of joy, of tears, and of growth
This last week was a time of celebration, and also a time of reflection—so many wonderful family and friends showed their love for me in many different ways … yet it was the unsought surprises that touched my heart and made me reflect.
You know those free cheaply made cards that some foundations hand out? The ones that are greeting cards, with advertisements for the foundation on the back of them? Well, one of my birthday cards was one of those—made by the League of Saint Anthony. My friend wrote inside the card in a difficult-to-read, jerky print, “To E (which is crossed out) Hey” and it was signed “Karen Ann.”
Do you remember when I first began this journey to live as the Good Samaritan for a year? I shared how humbled I was when a woman I’ve visited and helped for more than a decade taught me how little I had really loved her prior to this experiment. I had served, yes—faithfully so. However, I had not loved her then as I do now, nor seen her as the incredible woman I now know her to be.
Here’s what I wrote back in October about sweet Karen:
Someone I once would have dismissed as ‘quirky’ or ‘odd’, I have come to realize is incredibly strong and has overcome hardships that ought to grant them a life’s pardon for ANY quirky-ness they may carry.
One quick example, a lady I have visit taught for YEARS, faithfully going every month and bringing her to an occasional ward activity is definitively quirky. She is in her late sixties, dyes her hair midnight black, and wears an odd assortment of clothing—usually very brightly hued. She is almost illiterate and has worked much of her life as a dishwasher. Aren’t I just so wonderful, taking time out of my busy life to visit her?
Then, I learned to listen—and I realized that her life journey has been one of abandonment to a mental asylum when she was only 11 because her mother didn’t want to care for a slightly mentally challenged young girl. She never saw any of her family again, ever. The abuses she suffered in the asylum caused her to have a baby, which the system then promptly took from her, because she was a minor. She has searched for her lost daughter for years. She wasn’t able to go to school because of her life in the asylum and when she became old enough, she had to fend for herself, with no education, no family, and no understanding.
This woman is now a cherished friend who likes to teasingly flirt with my husband. She took the time to remember my birthday and send me a card. As I sat on the couch after opening her card, my heart filled with gratitude for the privilege of being her friend.
The next day’s post brought another unexpected card, this time from a woman in my congregation who is rough around the edges and, prior to this experiment, I would sometimes go out of my way to avoid. Because of trying to live as the Good Samaritan, I’ve made an effort to stop at her seat every week and greet her and learn about her—and the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve loved! She’s another incredible woman who has faced hardships that most of us only read about. Yet she greets me with a smile and a lopsided hug as she leans on her cane.
She genuinely loves me, with no expectation—just because I took the time to first love her. Receiving a card signed, “Love Ginny & Family” again made me reflect on the increased love I have in my life because of first learning to love others as my Savior would have me to do.
When I first began this journey—I did it to challenge myself to learn to love more like the Savior commanded us to do. Love one another. I was hopeful that if I just really focused on doing this for a year, I would learn to be a better disciple. Somehow, I’d be more useful to Him. Little did I expect to receive so much more love in my own life—filling the empty parts of my own heart with genuine love from others.
Just like so many of His commands, they are for us—to bless us, to help us to be happier and to help us be more at peace in this world. These women are friends, because I first loved them. There is a truth in that. Think about why we love our Savior—because He first loved us.
I love my Savior because He knows the nitty-gritty, nasty darkness my heart has hidden in its recesses, yet He still reaches out to me and says, “Be still.” He knows me, loves me, and promises me a better way forward as I rely upon Him. He gently sifts out the wheat within me and blows away the chaff, as I diligently follow Him. I have lived 41 years and have seen how much He can make of me as I let Him. I love my Savior and I trust His commands … why? Because I know that He loves me.
Jesus Christ has asked me and you to do the same for those around us—to love them. He has shown us how by how He loves us. With kindness, with forbearance, with mercy, and with knowledge that who someone is today isn’t who they truly are within.
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.