Though his 40th birthday is little more than a memory, he still considers himself a young man. That is, he considers himself young until he envisions how others, particularly youth, see him, especially when he is jogging.
But he jogs anyway - enjoying not only the physical benefits, but also the mental rejuvenation.But running also brings the realization of how poor a runner he really is: short stride, labored breathing, profuse perspiration.
So he was feeling a little less than athletic when he jogged past the house of a 10-year-old boy playing broom hockey on the driveway. At first, he thought little of the encounter, but soon noticed that a 10-year-old boy was paying him attention. Then the man was self-conscious, imagining what the fit youth must be thinking about this trying-to-get-in-shape sweat-soaked man. But, when the man saw the bright anticipation in the boy's eyes, he realized the boy wasn't even looking at his less-than-world-class strides.
No, the boy was anxiously seeking recognition for his fine broom-hockey performance. He wanted an "attaboy," a pat on the back, an acknowledgment - even from a passing stranger - that his hockey prowess was laudable.
The runner took a deep breath (which he needed anyway) and smiled.
That was all the boy needed.
He smiled back and returned his attention to his youthful competitor, knowing - however so slightly - that his broom-hockey skills had not gone unnoticed.
"For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
"Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
"When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
"Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt. 25:35-40.)
Often in life's daily encounters, we think more of those who have pressing, perhaps even life-threatening, problems. But it is equally reasonable to believe that the Lord would have us, as circumstances dictate, spread kindness and goodwill to those whose problems, in the grand scheme of things, are not quite as pressing.
Thus we give of ourselves daily:
- A busy bishop stops - and stoops - to give an approving pat on the back to a junior Primary child walking to class with her arms folded.
- A Melchizedek Priesthood holder raises his hand and calls himself for a foul in a competitive Church basketball game.
- A missionary, not yet convinced that he has the greatest companion in the entire mission, stretches daily to find kind - and genuine - things to say to his companion.
- A harried - and late - commuter allows someone in line in front of her, missing her own train.
- A rushed fast-food server slows her pace, bends low and allows a 4-year-old to place his own order, despite the press of adults waiting in line.
- Two teenage girls - out for an afternoon stroll - stop to help a neighbor weeding the garden.
- An 18-year-old brother opens the car door for his 15-year-old sister.
- A 13-year-old boy, without being asked and while the rest of the family is otherwise engaged, sets the Thanksgiving table with the expertise of a veteran host.
The list, of course, is endless. The ramifications are most often immediate - and yet also eternal.
As our society continues to grow - and the pace of our lives increases seemingly exponentially, we must, in the words of President Howard W. Hunter "live with ever-more attention to the life and example of the Lord Jesus Christ - especially the love and hope and compassion He displayed." (October 1994 general conference.)
Even with thousands of things to do and hundreds of people to help, we should never forget that the Savior ministered with great love - one person at a time.