Each day, every hour, we are in the care of someone else. We have no idea how much we owe other people, watching out for us without our even knowing who they are.
They are society's care givers. If our well being depends upon them, we should ask ourselves who they are.The answer is surprising in its breadth.
They are health-care professionals: doctors using their skills, nurses working late shifts into the night, pharmacists double checking prescriptions, ambulance drivers awaiting the call to hurry out in emergencies.
They are the public safety workers: policemen on duty in our neighborhoods, firemen prepared to risk their lives, dispatchers taking our frantic calls, narcotics officers keeping an eye on our borders or working under cover in dangerous circumstances, air traffic controllers guiding our planes through crowded skies. They inspect our restaurants and the food we eat and make sure that the water we drink is pure.
They are the members of our military forces, sometimes standing guard in lonely outposts far from home, training constantly to keep their skills sharpened, flying on patrol or tossed by waves while on vigil.
They are the teachers into whose care we place our children, the foster-care workers who make critical decisions every day on the children in their trust, the day-care workers who watch out for our youngest, the social workers who care for our homeless and otherwise troubled populations.
Often the care givers are our own neighbors, volunteering their time so the burdens will be lighter on others. They are the bishops and Relief Society presidents, keeping careful track of the people entrusted to their care. They are home teachers and visiting teachers, calling monthly to make sure that our families are doing well, and the youth leaders who donate their vacation times to take our children on camping trips.
And many, many more. Society is so big and complex that we must delegate some of the most critical care decisions to others. We do so in trust, and for the most part that trust is honored. It's amazing, really, that everything works as well as it does, given the fact that we are so caught up in our own lives that we often don't give much attention to these other efforts.
Do we thank them enough for all they do? Probably not.
The gospel of Luke relates the story of Jesus entering a village and meeting 10 lepers, who stood apart from the crowd and lifted up their voices to ask Him to have mercy on their suffering. He healed them. "And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger." (Luke 17:15-18).
The unhappy fact that gratitude is not always associated with good works should not dissuade us from performing our own services for others.
Indeed, the opportunity to provide service is at the core of the gospel. From the very earliest days, when Cain asked the Lord, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:9) through modern times, our scriptures are full of reminders that we are obligated to care for one another.
As Alma baptized at the waters of Mormon, he set down the conditions of entrance into the Church: that those who approached it "are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places. . . . (Mosiah 18:8-9)
The chance to care for others is one of the noblest opportunities that the Lord has given us. Sometimes that can be a heavy burden indeed, especially for those who selflessly do their duty quietly, caring for family members and friends who have lost the ability to care for themselves.
Jesus Himself set the example for us, with both His life and His death. As His last hours approached, He told His disciples,
" . . . whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45.)
With Easter only three weeks away, that's a good thing to ponder. As President Ezra Taft Benson said: "To serve others willingly and unselfishly should be one of our greatest virtues. It is not even a matter of choice. It is an obligation, a sacred command." (New Era, Sept. 1979, pp. 43-44.)
Those who care for us, even though we don't know them all, are answering a higher call. They deserve our gratitude. They already have the Lord's.