Thursday, 5 March 2009

Exercise Charity and Nurture Those in Need

The third objective of the Relief Society is to "exercise charity and nurture those in need."

Firstly, I have to tell you about synchronicity. My life has been positively full of it lately. It began a couple weeks ago when I had some interesting and lovely connections with a longtime but far-away friend. I mentioned it to some people and was led to reading Consider the Butterfly by Carol Lynn Pearson. I have been noticing these meaningful coincidences all over the place, and now here I have another. Often I think synchronicity is God's way of speaking to us, and those meaningful coincidences can give us a boost-- they are the tender mercies (to use a cliched term) God grants us. And this is where the Relief Society objectives come in. My Relief Society lesson on Sunday was on Elder Holland's talk "The Ministry of Angels" from General Conference, and there was much discussion about how we, as sisters, can act as angels on errand from God to help others. I have been thinking so much about our lesson and how I need to be more in tune with God to be that messenger of charity and love. And, now, I finally get around to writing this post and I see that the next objective is to "exercise charity and nurture those in need." Synchronicity in deed!

The well-known scripture in Matthew tells us what will save us in the end: charity. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these . . . ye have done it unto me." The ultimate judgment comes down to how we have treated one another, how we have cared for one another. As sisters in Relief Society, we have the responsibility to care for one another as women. I think I have mentioned visiting teaching in my other posts, but it is the easiest place to start. Looking around the room at church can be particularly daunting to know where to start with nurturing those in need, but in our visiting teaching assignments, we have (usually) two women we can start with. Whether or not a woman's needs are visible or dramatic, every woman needs to be nurtured. Every woman can benefit from another friend, from another caring person.

Charity can be a very vague term. "The pure love of Christ" is a wonderful defining term, but it doesn't do much for practical application. Whenever I think of serving those around me and being truly charitable, all I can think to do for people is to bake them something. This is a start. But I'm well aware it's nowhere near enough. I think this is where being truly in tune with God comes into play. Also, we need to be willing to completely throw our inhibitions out the window. When we see an opportunity to reach out to someone, it is so easy to reason our way out of it, but we must get in the habit of acting quickly when it comes to service. (99 times out of 100 I give in to my inhibitions instead of acting charitably. I must remedy this!)

Ultimately what I want to stress in this post is the importance of this objective. One line in Elder Holland's talk is "God never leaves us alone, never leaves us unaided in the challenges that we face." I truly think it is our responsibility to be God's emissaries, to be charitable and to nurture our fellow sisters so that they feel God's love through us. (Go read Elder Holland's talk again. Seriously.)

But the question I have for you is how to apply this practically. What do you think are the most important ways to show charity? How have others been meaningfully charitable to you? In what other ways is "exercising charity and nurturing those in need" important? Please tell me all your other thoughts about exercising charity and nurturing those in need.


Amanda said...

This makes me think of the little conundrum about how on one hand, the better we know someone the better we can serve her, while on the other hand, the best way to get to know someone is to serve her.

Thinking back, I find that the most meaningful acts of charity I have been on the receiving end of tend to fall into one of two categories:
1) A very close friend or family member anticipates a need and reaches out at the perfect moment.
2) A stranger or acquaintance does something seemingly small and random that ends up having a big impact.

I think a lot of the good I am able to do in others' lives falls into these two categories as well. And I think you're right, Courtney, that a lot of it comes down to inspiration. So part of me thinks that just doing our best to stay close to the Spirit throughout the day is the surest way to know how to help others.

On a more practical level, one thing I have been doing lately is writing letters. I decided in December (during that RS lesson about Joseph and Emma's letters to each other) that I would write at least one letter a week to someone because, while in emails I tend to be super casual and even sarcastic, when I write letters I am much more likely to share positive experiences, offer encouragement, relate good memories, and share my testimony. I have a stack of cards, envelopes, and stamps that I sometimes take to church or to work, where I then browse through the ward directory or through my Facebook friends list to find people to write to. As soon as a name or face sticks, I write them a letter. Some weeks I forget to write a letter, while other weeks I write several, so I think it has averaged out to about a letter per week. And so far I have had several people tell me that my letter came just when they needed it most. And besides, who doesn't love getting snal mail, right?

Anyway, I love that you're thinking through this whole charity thing, Courtney, because I have been learning over the past few years from experience just how right you are when you say that our experience on this earth really comes down to charity and how we treat others and whether we do our best to help them. So, thanks for your insights!

Lindsay said...

Okay. I've decided to stop being intimidated and to just post my unedited, raw thoughts.

There's an old saying that I don't like. It says, "you can't lift someone unless you stand on higher ground". The problem with this is that sometimes people need our help but we perceive them to be on higher ground than us. They seem more 'put-together' or they seem happier or them seem better off ... so we do nothing thinking, because we're not on 'higher ground', we can do nothing to help.
I think it's critical to remember that we are all fallen: we are all on desperately low ground without the Savior. When we are charitable it doesn't mean that WE have done something wonderful to lift someone else, it means that we have opened the door for a friend to find the ultimate HIGHER GROUND: the Savior of mankind. We have provided an opportunity for someone else to get closer to the ultimate healing balm: Jesus Christ.

I think if we remember this, the intimidation and potential fear goes away. We can envision that we are just standing in for the Savior.
I know that sometimes I think of nice things to do for others, and then I think "but how will they receive it??" If you imagine that you're doing it for the Savior, it helps a bunch.

:) There's one of my many thoughts.