Today was Fast Sunday. And I was reminded of a valuable lesson by an eleven-year-old boy.
He’s a very sweet kid. One that frequently needs a little more love and attention than the other kids his age. He’s energetic, funny, affectionate, and sometimes loud, unruly, and invasive. But he has a heart of pure and solid gold, and a smile that will melt your soul.
We share a bench with his family, and a few weeks ago, he leaned over and said, “I’m sorry we always sit next to you guys.” I was caught off guard, as we’ve never had any incident with them. Why did he feel like he needed to apologize? I still don’t know.
But today he stood at the pulpit and expressed gratitude for “the people who sit next to us,” and used the words “patient, compassionate, kind, and friendly” as descriptors. I thought, “What a loving, sweet, heart-felt thing to say.” He continued sharing his thoughts, including a story of something that happened at school recently. Then he concluded with the words, “I love you all. Even the Jepsons.”
I have to say that we all thought it was pretty funny. And we’re telling ourselves that what he meant was “especially the Jepsons.”
Several years ago, when my kids were just toddlers, I was granted the rare and welcome occasion of being able to run errands by myself. As I was meandering through the toy aisles of Target, I noticed another young mother. Younger than I was. She had her little baby in the child seat of her cart. Both mother and child were dressed to the nines. As all moms know, going to Target can be as exciting as going to a party, and this mom had obviously thought just that. She was lovely, and her clothes were very stylish. I was impressed that she’d even decided that this event required stilettos. I must admit that I was jealous of her. I thought, “Wow. How can she be a mom and have the time to look like that?”
And then, taking a closer look at her high, high heels, I noticed that there was a piece of steak stuck to her shoe. Her sharp heel had speared it and she’d been walking around for who-knows-how-long carrying a large piece of steak like a kabob.
I immediately stopped her and, not knowing how to put it gently, I lightly touched her arm, leaned in, and quietly said, “Excuse me...um...you have a piece of steak stuck to your shoe.” She gave me a strange look and asked, “What?” So I said it again, this time pointing to the pierced meat at her feet. “You have a piece of steak...stuck to your shoe...” She followed my gaze down to the floor, and immediately a look of horror mixed with embarrassment covered her face. Then she looked at me with grateful eyes and told me “thank you!” She wondered how it got there, how she hadn’t noticed it, and how long she’d been walking around with it. Again, she thanked me and then we went our separate ways.
I have thought of that experience many times since it happened. It’s often been a reminder that we never know exactly what’s going on with another person. That even when things look pretty darned perfect at first glance, we can’t really know what is going with a person until we take the time to actually stop and consider them.
The young boy’s testimony today made me remember this Target incident because they were both reminders of the love we should all have for each other. They are also reminders to me that no matter what imperfections we have, we are loved and are important to our Heavenly Father.
President Uchtdorf reminded us recently that:
It is good to remember that you are always a child of God. This knowledge will carry you through the most difficult times in your life and will inspire you to accomplish remarkable things. You are loved. You are dear to your heavenly parents. The infinite and eternal Creator of light and life knows you! He is mindful of you. Yes, God loves you this very day and always.
He is not waiting to love you until you have overcome your weaknesses and bad habits. He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles. He is aware that you reach up to Him in heartfelt and hopeful prayer. He knows of the times you have held onto the fading light and believed—even in the midst of growing darkness. He knows of your sufferings. He knows of your remorse for the times you have fallen short or failed. And still He loves you...
He knows everything about you. He sees you clearly—He knows you as you really are. And He loves you—today and always!
Do you suppose it matters to our Heavenly Father whether your makeup, clothes, hair, and nails are perfect? Do you think your value to Him changes based on how many followers you have on Instagram or Pinterest? Do you think He wants you to worry or get depressed if some un-friend or un-follow you on Facebook or Twitter? Do you think outward attractiveness, your dress size, or popularity make the slightest difference in your worth to the One who created the universe?
He loves you not only for who you are this very day but also for the person of glory and light you have the potential and the desire to become.
He loves every one of us, no matter what. Even the Jepsons.