Several months ago, a sister who I had never seen at church before was seated a few rows in front and to the side of me. What was special about this woman was she had brought her dog. It was a big dog — a really big dog. Okay, I know you’re thinking what I was: this dog must be a service animal of some kind. As the meeting went on, however, I noticed that this dog was not as well-behaved as most of the service dogs I have seen. He probably was not a service dog, yet he was sitting in the chapel with this sister.
I tried to concentrate on the speakers, but the dog was just too distracting, so I watched how this sister held the dog in her lap and held on to the leash very tightly. At least the dog didn’t bark. That would have been interesting. “Amen”—bark.
Anyway, this dog was actually a really sweet dog and reminded me of the saying “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”—only he was a sheep in wolf’s clothing. He was totally harmless.
There is a lesson in this: I started to think about how we all prejudge others. Prejudice for most of us probably isn’t a dog in church, but maybe someone’s comments in Sunday School or someone’s screaming child at the grocery store.
We shouldn’t be “judging a book by its cover,” as all people are loved by our Father in Heaven.
It’s all in our perspective. That reminds me of the story President Thomas S. Monson told in the general women’s session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints back in October of 2010. His talk was called “Charity Never Faileth” about a woman and her perspective.
“A young couple, Lisa and John, moved into a new neighborhood. One morning while they were eating breakfast, Lisa looked out the window and watched her next-door neighbor hanging out her wash.
“That laundry’s not clean!” Lisa exclaimed. “Our neighbor doesn’t know how to get clothes clean!”
John looked on but remained silent.
Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, Lisa would make the same comments.
A few weeks later Lisa was surprised to glance out her window and see a nice, clean wash hanging in her neighbor’s yard. She said to her husband, “Look, John—she’s finally learned how to wash correctly! I wonder how she did it.”
John replied, “Well, dear, I have the answer for you. You’ll be interested to know that I got up early this morning and washed our windows!”
We see through the eyes of our own perspective until there is a shift (as there was in Lisa’s understanding). We can be very self-centered sometimes in our own little world until we change our perspective with gratitude and recognize that the whole world doesn’t revolve around ourselves. It is humbling when we get outside our comfort zone and see how the rest of the world lives.
Just like the young men and women who leave their homes to serve church missions are humbled when they see how the people of the area they serve live in such poverty and are happy where they are.
A missionary serving in my old ward in Alabama years ago spoke in church one day and told the story of how he lived in Tonga as a child and youth, and was so happy. He ran around barefoot and was never in want of anything. Then his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a teenager and he became very unhappy. He saw the possessions the others had and wanted them. The whole congregation was touched by his message. It’s all in our perspective.
I for one need a gentle reminder to be a little more kind to the mother in the grocery store with the screaming child, or the guy making an unusual remark in Sunday School. Everyone has a different perspective. The best perspective is the one from above.
Valerie Steimle has been writing as a family advocate for over 25 years. As a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she promotes Christian living in her writings and is the mother of nine children and grandmother to twelve. Mrs. Steimle authored six books and is a contributing writer to several online websites. To her, time is the most precious commodity we have and knows we should spend it wisely. To read more of Valerie's work, visit her at her website, The Blessings of Family Life.