Latter-day Saint Life

John Bytheway on how to find the ‘happy feeling nothing in the world can buy’

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The December pick for LDS Living Book Club is Born This Happy Morning by John Bytheway. Follow the LDS Living Book Club Instagram to join the conversation.

A number of years ago, I stopped to fill up my car with gas at a local Tesoro station. While I was leaning against my fender, watching the numbers on the pump, a woman approached me who was filling her car in the lane next to me. I tensed up a little, thinking she was going to ask me for money, but she didn’t. She said, “Excuse me, sir, do you know much about tires?” “A little,” I responded. She pointed at her tires and asked, “Do you think these tires can make it to Ogden?”

I looked, and my first thought was, Uh, I don’t think they can make it to I-15. I couldn’t believe the tires on her car were even holding air. The sides were so badly bulging and worn that the cords or strings or whatever tires are made of were sticking out. And that was just the sides! What did the tread look like? I shudder to think. I just knew I wouldn’t put anyone I cared about in a car with tires like that.

Now, she could not have known this little fact about me: I happen to be a bit crazy when it comes to tires. I bought some lousy tires in college, and after two or three trips back to the tire shop trying to get my car to stop pulling to the right or left and just go straight, I called my dad, who simply said, “John—don’t compromise on tires.” Good tires make a big difference. Today, one of my favorite sensations is driving on new tires. Aren’t I odd?

Anyway, I don’t know what came over me that fall afternoon, but I got in my car and told her to follow me. She did, and we drove a few blocks down Highland Drive until I pulled into a Firestone Tires service center. We walked inside, and, as I tugged at my wallet, I asked the manager, “What would it take to put some decent tires on that car? She needs to get to Ogden.” He looked at me, and then at the woman and her friend (who was starting to cry), then back at me. After a brief discussion about the cost, he also sensed the situation at hand. He gave us both a wink and said, “We’ll throw in a free oil change, too.”

As we were waiting, the woman told me that she and her traveling companion were going to see a sick friend in Ogden but they had started worrying about whether they could make it. As I heard her story, my heart softened even more, and while she stayed there to wait for her new tires, I made a quick trip to the ATM to give her a little insurance money.

I got back just in time to see the manager pull her car out and hand her the keys. Then something occurred that I don’t recall ever happening to me before. She thanked me, hugged me, and called me an angel. I still remember the feeling I had as she and her friend drove away.

Now, I may have just forfeited any blessing I received from that event by telling you all about it, but I’ll risk it, because I just have to say—I was filled to overflowing with a feeling of joy and satisfaction that I had rarely felt before. And the strange thing is, it lasted for days and days and days. I feel a portion of it again as I try to explain it now. I’ve heard the promise thousands of times, and so have you: it is more blessed to give than to receive. I must concur. I was blessed beyond anything I could have expected.

In fact, this experience reminds me of a song. We had dozens of Christmas records at my house when I was growing up, and, coincidentally, some of them were Firestone Christmas albums from the 1960s. (Does anyone out there remember those?) The Fire­stone Tire Company commissioned several Christmas albums (they’re all on YouTube now). One of our favorite Fire­stone Christmas albums has a delightful arrangement of the song “Sleigh Ride.” There is a line in the chorus that I probably heard a million times as a kid. It says, “There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy . . .”

I have thought about that phrase a lot. There really is a happy feeling out there that cannot be bought. Nothing in the world could have given me that feeling, that Christmas feeling. I could have hired a team of life coaches, or read a dozen self-help books, or disappeared into the desert to find myself, and never discovered that feeling. Nothing in the world can buy it, but the mysterious thing is, it can be received by giving.

This woman who drove away sporting new tires on a beat-up Ford Tempo called me an angel. Was I? No. Not even close. I was just a guy with a Visa card who loves new tires, but I have to tell you—playing the angel role sure felt good. Really good. The Tesoro station where my little story took place is now a vacant lot, and the Firestone Tire store is vacant as well, but whenever I pass by, the pleasant memory returns (and sometimes I hear the faint sound of jingle bells).

Today, there’s someone out there—a neighbor, a friend, a ward member—trying to move forward on really bad tires. They could have a blowout at any moment. Their tires could be emotional, spiritual, or physical (or they could actually be tires).

A sister at a Time Out for Women conference showed me a message on her phone that she had programmed to appear each day as she awoke: “Who needs me today?” Those words popped up every morning, and she would pause and ponder the question and wait for some inspiration. Notice, her reminder wasn’t to ask herself, Does anyone need me today? Her assumption was, For sure, someone does. There are a lot of bad tires out there. Her question was, Who needs me today? And every day, this awesome sister would act. That’s what honorary angels do. A note, a call, a text, a visit—she would find someone and give something. Perhaps we might discover the joy of spontaneous giving every day if we were to ask the same question.

I am reminded of how often Jesus stopped to bless people when He was actually heading somewhere else. When He was on His way to see the daughter of Jairus, another daughter who had struggled for twelve years with an issue of blood reached out and touched the hem of His garment. She wasn’t on Jesus’s to-do list. He was on His way to fulfill a different task, but ­suddenly, someone needed Him. He stopped, He looked, He listened, He stayed (see Mark 5:24–35). He healed, blessed, and encouraged this woman before going on His way. Such opportunities may come to us, interrupting the task at hand with another task—but both tasks are opportunities, and even the tasks not on our to-do lists are important!

A number of years ago, a reporter was visiting with President Thomas S. Monson just prior to his birthday, and at the conclusion of the interview, the reporter asked President Monson what he would consider the ideal gift that Church members worldwide could give to him. President Monson replied, “Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely, and do something for him or her.”

After his birthday had passed, President Monson said that he received hundreds of birthday cards and notes from members of the Church reporting how they had fulfilled his request. Even Primary children sent reports in various forms, including a jar full of “warm fuzzies,” each fuzzy representing an act of service.

When I remember the service of President Monson, I always think of the hymn “Have I Done Any Good?” And I must confess, it’s easy for me to pack my bags for a guilt trip when I sing that song and realize that most of what I do each day benefits only me and my family. That’s why I like the word today in the song.

There are chances for work all around just now,

Opportunities right in our way.

Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,”

But go and do something today.

Yesterday’s gone, and I can’t do anything about that. But even if I have regrets about yesterday and all the things I coulda shoulda and woulda done, I don’t have to let them stop me from thinking of something I can do today—even if it’s as simple as a text message containing an encouraging word or an expression of gratitude. We should never let regrets about yesterday stop us from doing something today!

The longer I live, the more I see the hand of the Lord in placing each of us in circles where we can bless and be there for one another. Somehow, the Lord arranged for the wise men not only to see a star but to know what it meant, and to travel some distance to inquire about “the child that is born, the Messiah of the Jews” (JST, Matthew 2:2). Elder Neal A. Maxwell observed:

The same God that placed that star in a precise orbit millennia before it appeared over Bethlehem in celebration of the birth of the Babe has given at least equal attention to placement of each of us in precise human orbits so that we may, if we will, illuminate the landscape of our individual lives, so that our light may not only lead others but warm them as well.

I believe the Lord may place us in “orbits” so that you and I may be a light, be a friend, and serve in such a way that we may capture that “happy feeling nothing in the world can buy.”

Lead image: Shutterstock

Although Christmas can feel over-commercialized and stressful, Born This Happy Morning helps readers recapture the magic of childhood Christmases by focusing on how we can give the joy of Christ's light to those around us, reminding us that the spirit of Christmas is multiplied in our hearts when we share the spirit of Christ with others. Available now at DeseretBook.com

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