I stirred at the now-familiar sound of a baby crying plaintively. Behind the partitioning curtain, I could hear his mother’s despondent, weary voice trying to soothe him. I was fifteen, and I was in the children’s ward of the hospital after having undergone a tonsillectomy the day before. Contrary to expectations, there had been some complications, and now the pain in my throat and ears made it impossible for me to sleep deeply. I pressed the ice pack more tightly to my throat and face while I watched this exhausted, careworn mother pacing the narrow aisle as she rocked her tiny, weeping son.
I was reading the familiar story of the Good Samaritan1 from a well-illustrated cartoon Bible to a group of eight- to nine-year-old Sunday school students. It ended with the question Jesus asked: “‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”2
God alone is aware of the vast quantity of heroic deeds taking place each day. If plaques were given for each, there wouldn’t be enough space on all the walls in the world! Perhaps this was on my husband Michael’s mind when he wrote this song in appreciation of the many unsung heroes.
Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you—not because they are nice, but because you are.
Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)
My grandmother Sabina was a saint that I had the privilege to meet personally. She had no birth certificate, but went to school long enough to learn how to read well. She read her Bible daily and never missed a Sunday mass. She was kind and gentle, yet never missed an opportunity to teach us something to build our character, like the time my sister, my cousins, and I stole fruit from the neighbors. She only had to look at us when we got home to know we’d been up to mischief. After we admitted what we’d done, she had us go back and apologize.
Have you ever wanted to do something to help someone or longed to make a difference in the world, only to have your good intentions sidetracked by thoughts of why your efforts wouldn’t work?
One such occasion happened last summer when my wife and I stopped to eat at a fast food restaurant that serves fried chicken. After placing our order, we brought our trays of food to a table in the middle of the dining area.
One winter some years ago, a group of friends and I were traveling on a mountain road in a passenger van in the southern United States. It was past dusk on a Friday evening, and we were heading to a ski resort a few hours away. We were nearly there when someone pulled up next to us at a stop sign and motioned to the driver to roll the window down.
“Pretty sure your back tire’s losing air,” he said. “I can take a look if you’d like.”
I teach you how to have love through My own example. For every great miracle I do for you and all those who love Me, I do countless tiny things that you may barely notice. Those steady demonstrations of My care, My unconditional love, My touches of hope, strength, mercy, and forgiveness, day in and day out, continually manifest My love for you. This multitude of little things that I do for you increases your peace and faith. These things nurture the conviction in your heart that I am real and active in your life, and that I will be forever.
The small cafeteria at our workplace was abuzz with chatter. Colleagues sat in groups and the room was humming with conversation. That morning I felt I had little to contribute and opted to sit alone. Staring out the window, I was lost in troubled contemplation of recent loss, rough edges in my working relationships, and a nagging health issue, and I wondered when I would finally reach the proverbial end of the tunnel where the sun shines again.
Good listening takes effort. Notice the traits of the people whom you enjoy talking to, the good listeners. They show their interest with their eyes, posture, and the ways they react. It’s a sort of indescribable mood that says, I enjoy listening to you. You’re important to me. A calmness and patience about them tells you, Take your time. I have nothing more vital to do at the moment than to hear what you have to say.