This story took place about 16 or 17 years ago. I was still living in Hawai’i at the time. That year, Honolulu was taking part in First Night festivities. This is a HUGE block party (that really encompasses several city blocks and venues) on New Years Eve. It’s an alcohol-free event. There are a ton of bands that play music, food vendors, and other types of entertainment. It’s really fun to go to and it’s nice to take kids to because it’s pretty safe. My friend, L, and I decided to head down there. We caught the bus (we lived very, very close to downtown at the time), hopped off, and got caught up in the festivities. As I recall, the entertainment was really good! As we were walking down one dark street, a dirty-looking homeless man approached us and asked, “Excuse me but do you have any spare change?” We kind of hurriedly brushed him off and said “No” and kept on walking. But then something happened that is difficult to describe. As we continued to walk, it was as though all the sounds of the music and the atmosphere began to be muffled. I liken this to a scene in a movie where someone is fainting and the sound effect they use to sort of drown out and muffle the surrounding sounds. My whole body became heavy... very heavy... so heavy that it was difficult to walk and my legs felt like they had become weighted-down sandbags. In my head, I kept hearing a voice saying, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my bretheren, ye have done it unto me.” I simply could not go on. I stopped and turned to L and looked at her. At the exact same moment, she stopped and looked at me and we both said at the same time, “We have to go back. This was a test and we failed.” She then shared with me that she was having a similar experience. In her head, she kept hearing, “Because I have been given much, I too much give.” So we quickly turned around and began looking for this man in a sea of First Night party-goers. It actually didn’t take us very long to find him. We didn’t have a lot of money on us. But we emptied our pockets and gathered up what we had and approached him. He turned around and I will never forget the look in his eyes. It was as though I was staring at Christ himself... I no longer saw the dirty man or the tattered clothes. I saw the Savior. We said, “Here. This is for you.” He took the money so graciously and with a tear in his eyes and a most humble spirit, he said, “Oh thank you. God Bless you.” And then we turned and left.
I will never forget that experience as long as I live. We walked away feeling so light and so blessed... WE felt blessed! When we give, even just a little, we get so much in return! The song we sang in Relief Society today was “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”. It is my absolute FAVORITE hymn. I have yet to ever make it through the song without crying. I have rarely been able to sing the final verse because my voice simply gives way to tears. Today was no different. After singing about all of the selfless acts of service in the first six verses, the seventh is so triumphant:
Then in a moment to my view
The stranger started from disguise.
The tokens in his hands I knew;
The Savior stood before mine eyes.
He spake, and my poor name he named,
“Of me thou hast not been ashamed.
These deeds shall thy memorial be;
Fear not, thou didst them unto me.”
THIS is what I experienced that night with that homeless man... THIS IS IT. “Then in a moment to my view, The stranger started from disguise. The tokens in his hands I knew; The Savior stood before my eyes.”
Tonight, some friends stopped by with a cake for my husband. No, there was no special occasion. There was nothing to celebrate. It was not a “thank you” gift. It was simply an act of kindness, meant to make him smile... and it did. But it was so much more than that. It was a gift that said, “We are so lucky to have friends. Life would be so lonely without them. Friends add so much happiness and joy to our lives and make us feel loved.” I’m so thankful for friends and for acts of kindness such as this! These are the little things that buoy us up in life when things threaten to pull us down!
I am grateful for the all of the kind, selfless acts of service that I have been the blessed recipient of in my life. And I am thankful to be able to give as well. I only pray that I will continue to hear the Spirit’s still, small voice, prompting me to give to others in need!