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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Sunset through a wagon wheel on the second day of the Farmington Utah South Stake Pioneer Trek held near Evanston, Wyoming but on the Utah side of the border, June 26, 2008.

How many small and large acts of kindness have you engaged in that have resulted in blessings, opportunities and changed lives because of your service? The truth is each of us will never fully know the answer to this most important question.

However, one thing we can be sure of is that any act of kindness merits the gratitude of a loving Heavenly Father, often that of the individual served, as well as blesses the life of the individual who acted kindly.

I came across an example of kindness recently while doing family history. It involved Isaac John Wardle, a member of the ill-fated Martin Handcart Company that left on its journey west too late in the season. The pioneers encountered an early and brutal winter that caused immense suffering and left to one-fifth of the company lying in shallow graves along the trail.

Before the journey began, Isaac, a 21-year-old emigrant from Ravenstoke, England, was asked to not only pull a heavily laden handcart 1,200 to 1,300 miles across the plains but to add human cargo to his load in the form of 19-year-old Langley A. Bailey. Wardle, with Langley’s brother, John, willingly agreed to shoulder the task. All three survived the crossing and thrived thereafter, though they entered the valley ragged and physically debilitated.

And what were the long-term consequences of that act of kindness? Sixty years after the trek, Langley wrote Isaac (spelling and punctuation as written):

My Dear Most Respected Old Friend ….I was much disappointed because I did not meet you at our annual HandCart meeting.

I hope and pray that you are well in health in your old age. and prospering…. This time last year I was in California. I visited Los Angeles. thence to San Diego. thence to Old Mexico. thence to San Francisco….We met our son at Frisco who had been to Australia on a mission. we enjoyed our trip very much. I organized a H.C. (Handcart) Daughters in Nephi (Utah).

Well Isaac I have got me an automobile. We take much pleasure in it, visiting around amongst relations. You and me are in much better condissions than we were at this time 60 years ago. I can remember one morning, every tent was blowed down, but ours. You did stake our tent down strong and firm My dear Brother. I honor and respect you much more than I can explain. You and my brother John (he was a boy 15) hauled me on the hand cart for hundreds of miles. Can I forget you. Can I ever repay, you for your kindness. No, No, I have just made my will. I have 6 sons & 6 daughters. I am doing right by all of them. All receive equal….

You know I was on a mission in England. 4 of my sons been on foreign missions. Cross the deep sea. One of my sons has just gone on another mission. One of my sons is a Bishop. he seems to fill the bill well. I will now Close my dear old boy…. God bless you. May peace crown your latter days. Please let me hear from you.

Very Respectfully,

Langley A. Bailey

It is reasonable to assume that Langley — who was unable to walk at the beginning and throughout the trek — except for the kindness of Isaac and John, would have been left behind or died trying to walk the trail. Perhaps he might have ended up in another cart, but frequent illness and death left fewer and fewer to pull the carts and suggests, at best, a perilous crossing for Langley.

However, speculation is moot as the reality is that Isaac and John acted kindly and selflessly in agreeing to pull Langley across the plains. And the consequences? Marriage, family, a long life, devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the devotion of many of Langley’s progeny to the gospel, and, I suspect, their progeny, and their progeny. …

Isaac’s act of kindness was immense, but even small acts of kindness can have enormous effect: a smile bestowed upon a stranger, opening a door, a solicitous phone call, a meal, sitting by someone who is alone at church, mowing someone’s lawn, a visit, and the list goes on and on.

How do I know this?

8 comments on this story

My husband recently experienced severe health problems. In the hospital one Sunday, four BYU students randomly knocked on his door and asked if we would like them to sing a song for us. My granddaughter chose “I Am a Child of God.” As they began to sing, I cannot begin to describe the feeling of peace, comfort and joy that settled on my worried heart.

Those kind, young adults may forget their simple act of kindness. I never will.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are regularly encouraged to engage in acts of kindness and to look for ways to serve others. We may never fully know the consequences of our actions. But I, for one, know they often make a significant difference.