It’s Christmastime again, when post offices around the world fill with crowds, eager to mail off boxes of gifts to loved ones. It’s also the time when we make an exciting discovery on our doorstep—a present someone has sent to us. And, on occasion, the box bears a red stamp, saying, FRAGILE. We always hope shipping handlers are careful with these boxes as we wrap their contents with packing peanuts and bubble wrap, so that they’ll arrive in one piece.
We do the same thing with our children and loved ones, but we stop short of stamping their foreheads with a red warning label. We give them affection and support, we “arm” them for battle in the world they’ll face each day, we pray for them, we bundle them up for winter weather, and then we send them off.
And, like packages, most fare well. But all of us have tender souls in our lives, people “at risk” emotionally (especially at this time of year!), friends who need extra attention and the extra squeeze of a hand. Some of us have sensitive children and spouses (and selves). Some of us work with people who have no confidence, but plenty of self doubt. We are actually surrounded by a sea of individuals who should be marked “Fragile” and treated with gentle care.
They’re in the aisles of the market, on the lanes of the road, in the shopping malls—everywhere. But they aren’t marked, so how can we know which people are shivering inside, feeling lost and unloved, uncertain of their own value? Last time you were at church, you saw them. But they forced a smile and a hearty handshake, went through all the motions, and maintained the appearance of having it all together.
They’re in disguise, aren’t they? I’ve lately come to know of several acquaintances whose testimonies were faltering behind a counterfeit appearance. Over my lifetime I’ve seen dozens of people I could have sworn were solidly committed to Christ’s gospel, who then fell away.
And, despite our efforts to reach out to those we know need help, there will be many who are struggling quietly, whom we cannot possibly guess without a crystal ball. But I have two ideas that can help us be better package handlers:
First, instead of a crystal ball, we need the Holy Ghost. Only he can see the truth despite its glittery wrapping. He can prompt us about people in our lives who might need extra friendship, extra help. When you feel the urge to reach out to someone completely active, don’t brush it off as a wild notion. Follow that nudge. And think about it: Can’t we all use more love in our lives? Wouldn’t it warm your heart to know that someone was thinking of you and took special effort to let you know you’re cared about?
Second, let’s just assume that every last one of us has a “Fragile” stamp on us. Maybe the ink is invisible, but why take a chance? Why take for granted that someone else is calling your aged aunt, or inviting lonely Brother Smith to Christmas dinner? Maybe we need to tread more carefully with other people’s feelings and take extra care not to offend, not to be rude when bustling through our hurried schedule, our Christmas shopping list. Maybe we need to take a few extra minutes to chat with a clerk or a single person sitting on a bench.
If you picture everyone around you as wearing a “Fragile” stamp, you’ll treat them with greater kindness. And many times, your assumption will be right. Maybe they are feeling neglected by their grown children, taken for granted by their young spouse, unappreciated at their workplace, or as if life is somehow passing them by. Maybe they’re slipping into a “what’s the use” mindset, discouragement over unfulfilled dreams, or feelings of despair about the future. They may not show it, but these hopeless thoughts could be swirling through anyone’s mind. If we all took better care of one another’s hearts, there would be so much less breakage. This Christmas and always, let’s Handle with Care.
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books are available on her website, here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.