My husband has been involved with the Light Up Puerto Rico initiative, and I have been inspired and envious of his efforts. He served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there (which also included the Virgin Islands), and was heartbroken to hear about the devastation that took place after the hurricanes hit.
Some close friends of his came together and began to think of ways they could help. Several meetings and almost $300,000 in raised funds later, the first group flew down to the tropical American island and are on their way now to help bring light — both literal and spiritual — to the people of Puerto Rico.
“You should come during our second round,” he said. “I would love to have you with me serving.”
I have ached to go, but the reality is because we have four small children at home, it just might not happen. I am also needed here.
I’ve always wanted to do something really big and make a positive impact on the world. I have followed the stories of friends who have traveled to Greece to help refugees and talked with others who have gone to Florida and Texas to serve. I have been envious of their life-changing experiences.
But I know there are many people who, for one reason or another, are not able to travel abroad to help out. Mothers with small children like me, or people with work obligations, physical disability or financial reasons. After listening to Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson’s general conference talk this October titled “The Needs Before Us,” I realized that the Lord is just as pleased with the big acts of service as he is with the small ones. All he wants is for us to be willing.
Sister Oscarson, the Young Women general president, said, “Sometimes it’s easy to miss some of the greatest opportunities to serve others because we are distracted or because we are looking for ambitious ways to change the world and we don’t see that some of the most significant needs we can meet are within our own families, among our friends, in our wards and in our communities.”
One of my very favorite quotes is from LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball: “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.”
I decided to take Sister Oscarson’s challenge of praying every morning and asking who the Lord wants me to serve that day. I’ve heard of people doing this before, but up until this point, I’ve been selfishly hesitant. What if I don’t know who the Lord wants me to serve? Or what if I don’t have time to do what he’s asking?
One morning a few days ago, I prayed to know who needed me that day. I went to a workout class and met my younger sister there with our combined four boys. She walked in the gym smiling and set her baby carrier down in front of us as we began the class. However, five minutes later she suddenly turned to me with tears streaming down her face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, worried.
“I just can’t be here right now,” she said. Her father-in-law, a loving and wonderful man, passed away last week, and her tender emotions were too raw for such a boisterous, loud class. I held my sister in the middle of the floor and stroked her hair as she wept. I felt her heartache was mine.
“Let’s go home,” I said.
We packed up the kids and drove to her house. Once inside, we silently went to work tidying up toys, washing dishes and taking out the trash while our boys played. A little while later, I gathered up my boys and told my sister I loved her before heading back to my house. As I knelt to say my prayers that night, I remembered my morning plea to find someone who I could serve, and my younger sister’s face instantly came to mind. She was the one who needed me that day.
I don’t know of any more beautiful feeling than knowing that God can trust you to be his angels on earth, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Big or small, at home or abroad, we can all serve in our capacity. And it is enough.
“Heavenly Father may have placed those who need us closest to us, knowing that we are best suited to meet their needs,” said Sister Oscarson.