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A few years ago I went on ten-city tours, appearing on morning TV talk shows to demonstrate products for various corporations. It was a grueling schedule, in a new town every day, and often a new time zone. By the end of the trip you feel like collapsing (and then you come home, and do), glad to be on familiar turf again.
And, in so many unfamiliar places, you have to learn to navigate the taxis, the roads, and the traffic. Even with GPS, maps, and an organized schedule, there are things you can’t anticipate. In downtown New York City, I was watching the crosswalk sign for permission to cross, along with about 15 other pedestrians, all crowded and waiting.
Finally the “walk” sign blinked, and I stepped off the curb. But in an instant, a crazy driver who evidently planned to run the light, was roaring up to the intersection. Just as fast, a man behind me grabbed my arm, pulled me back into the crowd, and literally saved my life. Everyone else, probably all locals, knew to wait a few seconds before trying to cross. Or, at least they knew to look.
I was so shocked by how quickly it had all happened that I was still on the sidewalk when everyone else had started across the street, and even though I turned to thank my rescuer, he had disappeared into the crowd. Someone had made all the difference for me that day, in just a split second.
How many moments in life are like this? How many times do angels rescue us, keep our car from starting for just an instant, or delay us in a line (when we are so irritated), saving us from a calamity we don’t even know is around the corner? I’m sure we’ll get to learn of dozens of such moments when our life was extended through heavenly intervention, once we’re “on the other side.”
But it also makes me think of times when we can rescue one another from spiritual disaster. Do you have a friend whose testimony is wavering, whose “get up and go, got up and went?” Every ward has members who are discouraged, questioning, or even mired in deep despair. Sometimes it’s us!
Years ago something happened in my family that plunged me into a downward spiral where I even wondered why Heavenly Father hadn’t taken me home. I questioned my value, my contribution, my mothering, my very existence. Thank goodness I had a dear friend I could open up to, and share my darkest fears. And thank goodness she set me straight. She jumped into my emergency and reminded me of the truths I knew deep in my heart.
She let me know I was loved, calling and writing from another state. She centered me again and strengthened my testimony and my resolve. She gave me hope. She helped me allow the Savior to enter my wall of pity, and heal me. I see her as an angel upon the earth, and whenever I waver I think of her words, the scriptures she quoted, the truths she waved like a rescue light.
We can do this for each other. We can deliberately look for those who need rescuing, and be the one to pull them by the sleeve, out of oncoming traffic. The first step is to feel that all-encompassing charity for others. When we genuinely love those around us, we start doing as President Monson did, ministering to The One.
We stop judging. We stop deciding that someone is just too disagreeable to visit, or too set in their ways, or too beyond hope. No one is beyond hope. Even in our own families there are those who struggle and we can extend the kind of caring that doesn’t check a box, but continues. We can Home and Visit Teach as if these people are our actual family members. We can stop by the home of someone in our ward—not someone we are assigned—just to let them know we were thinking of them. My bishop asks us to pray each morning, “Who needs my help?” and then contact them.
Satan has quadrupled his smorgasbord of options. He entices us to pull from the path in hundreds of ways, customized to each of us, disguised as “good” choices, or at least neutral choices. He is patient. He is clever. He is always ready with a distraction and a discouraging word.
And he also whispers to those who are wavering that they shouldn’t burden others with their problems. Keep it private. It’s nobody’s business, anyway. You’re strong enough to solve this on your own. Don’t whine to God—he’s got better things to do. That’s why we need to pray about those around us, because we don’t always know when someone holds a secret hurt within their heart.
Some time ago I wrote a Meridian Magazine article about an inspired moment when my Relief Society counselors and I went to visit a less-active sister just as she was about to take her own life. If we make ourselves available to whisperings of the Spirit, we can all be receptive to times when we can make a huge difference to someone else.
And when we are the one in peril, let’s open up and allow those around us to rush in, pull us out of danger, and onto safe ground. Being there, and being vulnerable, at the right split second really can make all the difference.