Friday, April 3, 2009

Dead by Midnight

"Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster. Your life will never be the same again."
Og Mandino, The Greatest Miracle in the World

I have heard many times to act as if today were my last day on earth, but I don’t think I’ve heard it put this way before. It has made me think about how I would treat someone differently. What would I do today if I knew a friend was going to die tomorrow? Or a neighbor I rarely speak to? Or a lady at church I visit teach? Or the new sister who just moved into the ward?

I don’t think that I am un-friendly, but I am a bit quiet and reserved by nature. Still, I make it a habit to go up to new people at church and introduce myself, sit next to them in Relief Society and especially to try to learn their names. I don’t have a good memory so I’ve had to work at that, but I’m getting better. One experience I had with a wonderful woman helped me to see how important learning people’s names is.

Many years ago (right before Elisa was born), I moved into a new apartment in a new neighborhood. We were only there for a couple of days and then attended church at our new ward on Sunday. The Relief Society President seemed like one of those fake-chipper ladies and came up to me and put her arm around me and introduced herself. Her face and even the tone of her voice seemed happy and enthusiastic. I didn’t think much of it and a day or two later, I took little Alex out for a walk, pushing him in his stroller. We were walking for a while when I heard a voice from somewhere across the street yell out, “Valerie!” I immediately thought, “I don’t know anyone around here. Who could that be yelling my name?” It was the Relief Society President. She came running up to me and asked how I was and if I needed anything. It was such a simple thing, but it made me feel so welcome and happy. I couldn’t believe that she remembered my name. The more I got to know that woman, the more I could see that she was completely genuine and really cared about others. She always put her arms around ladies and called them “girlfriend”. So cute.

(Sabrina with 2 of her friends at the park)

I have known (and still do) many people who have a wonderful talent of making others feel special and welcome in the group. I really admire those women who are bubbly and openly enthusiastic. I am not like that, but I have tried to learn from them and help others in my own quieter way to feel like they have a friend or to feel welcome into the group. Here are a few things I’ve learned from them. They aren’t anything you don’t know, but I’m including them just so we can try them out the next time we see someone new or someone sitting alone.

1. Look at the person’s eyes and say hello with a smile. No, don’t keep staring at their eyes. I just think if we take even a couple of seconds to look at someone’s eyes when they are looking at us greet them, it shows them we are actually paying attention. Your smile helps them feel at ease.
2. Learn their name and then say their name every time you see them. You’d be surprised how much people like hearing their name and are touched that someone remembered it.
3. Get to know them by asking questions and really try to remember their answers.
4. Try to remember what is going on in their life and ask them about specific events. Example: How was Gina’s party? Did your parents enjoy their vacation?
5. Compliment the person sincerely. Of course, you don’t have to compliment her every time you see her, but we all like to hear something nice about us.
6. Give them a little note or card on a birthday or any day. Not hard to do, but it really brightens most people’s day.

It is amazing how something so small as a card, candy, or a small gift can make someone smile. I have sometimes just taken a balloon and a candy bar or cookies I’ve made to someone and they have acted like I was suddenly their best friend. If we start each day with the thought that we want to make someone happy that day or to bless someone’s life, Heavenly Father will guide us. Unfortunately, there are times when I don’t do things for others that I am prompted to do, with excuses that I’m too busy or that it was just a silly thought I had. And there are times when I have followed the prompting and then felt completely unwelcome or unwanted by the very person I was trying to serve. At least I did my part. But there are some times when I have done something for someone and have felt how much they appreciated it and it makes me feel good too.

Not long ago, I was rushing around the grocery store (Does anyone else go into hyper-drive and not see anyone or anything around you except what’s on your list so you can get in and out and back home?). I always pass by the little flower/plant section without even thinking about it. This time though, a thought came to my head that I should buy a plant. I looked at them and put it in my cart, thinking I would decide who to take it to later. Later that day, I looked at the birthday list for the ladies in our Relief Society. I saw that the next day was a sister’s birthday so I decided I’d take it over to her, even though I didn’t know her. I had said hello to her, but never really talked to her and couldn’t even remember seeing her in Relief Society, only in sacrament meeting. Well, the next day I was busy running around until pretty late. I still had in my head that I’d go drop the plant off at her house, but then it started raining hard. “Oh, I just want to stay at home where it’s dry and warm. She probably is out celebrating anyway. Maybe I’ll just take it to her tomorrow as a belated birthday gift.” Then I felt lazy and got in the car and took it over. She wasn’t out celebrating. She and her husband were home relaxing. When I told her why I was there (just to drop off the birthday gift), she asked me to come in. Then we talked for almost an hour. She said that she didn’t know many people in the ward and no one has come to visit her. She said that she was so grateful that I came because she had just said to her husband, “No one remembered my birthday. My own family didn’t even call me.” I was so glad that I went that day.

So, let’s determine today to work on be the self-assigned welcomer wherever we are (church, our neighborhood, school). It doesn’t have to be limited to the new people since there are so many people who don’t feel like they fit in most places. I’d love to hear stories from you about a time when someone made you feel special or a time when you did something that made a difference for someone else.


  1. I totally agree with you. I know that I feel much better when someone genuinely treats me well. :)

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  4. When I was on bedrest with my triplets, there was a really nice woman in the neighborhood who brought me dinner. I didn't know her very well, but she just marched in my home like she knew what she was doing. She brought us a caserole, vegetables, and salad and even little tupperware containers with dressing in them. She was upbeat and friendly and she didn't overstay her welcome - but she didn't rush out the door either. Even now, six years later, I feel deep gratitude and appreciation for the love that she showed. It is the only bright spot I can remember in what was a dark and emotionally devastating time for me.
    Hope that's not TMI - your post just reminded me of what a significant impact we can make on others (often without even knowing it).

  5. It is true though but hard to do. I think that I will give it a try and just try to be better at treating others with the same amount of love I know H.F. does everyday.


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