Learning One Another's Stories with Taylor Ricks
We all crave being seen, known, and loved for who we are. But where does that need come from? And how do we become people who can fill that need for others? We’ll be exploring those all-important questions in today’s episode. If you’ve been wanting new ideas on how to build connections and strengthen your relationships, this powerful conversation is for you. Let’s learn to see others for who they are and become a safe place for everyone around us!
Instead of looking passed things in other people maybe we can see it and embrace it and meet them where they are in that thing
About Taylor Ricks:
Taylor Ricks has four amazing children: one daughter and three sons. Taylor has spent time as a foster parent and now volunteers with the Utah Down Syndrome Foundation to help children and families touched by Down syndrome in honor of her son Zane, whose bright spirit blesses their family in unimaginable ways. She enjoys writing, dabbling in woodworking, and going on walks. You can find Taylor on Facebook and Instagram @ToCheerAndToBless.
Top takeaways from this episode!
- We aren’t alone in feeling alone! Satan wants us to believe we are alone in our problems but this is never true.
- When we feel alone or left out we can ask “who needs me!?” to help inspire us to reach out. Reaching out and creating a new connection is a wonderful way to resolve our own struggles.
- When we feel judgment and criticism toward others we can stop and see what we can learn from them instead.
- Knowing how God sees us gives us the courage and confidence to be ourselves and share love with others.
- When we observe and listen to those around us we will be inspired and prepared to know how to connect with and serve them.
Something to think about: Have you taken the time to ask God how He sees you? Try it once a day this week!
Small and simple challenge: Pray to know who needs you this week and have the courage to offer that love!
Kathryn Davis 0:00
New York Times columnist David Brooks said, "there's one skill at the center of any healthy family, company, classroom, community, university or nation. The ability to see someone else deeply, to know another person profoundly, to make them feel heard and understood." Hello, and welcome to magnify, an LDS Living podcast where we talk about using our influence as followers of Jesus Christ to make a difference in the world. I'm your host, Catherine Davis, a mom, a seminary teacher, and a Traeger enthusiast who loves God. Today, we're gonna talk about how to see others deeply and how to create relationships in extended families in our wards in neighborhoods, so that people can feel actually seen and valued for who they are. And you are going to fall in love with my guest today. Taylor Ricks is a mom of four, a behavior analyst and the best cheerleader for those of us who feel ordinary and unexceptional. Growing up, Taylor didn't always feel like she was seen or that she fit in - in the gospel or anywhere else. So she turned to the scripture stories she loved and began looking for unnamed disciples in each story to figure out what she could learn from the seemingly quiet disciples in the scriptures. And she compiled what she learned into a book titled everyday disciples. Taylor, I'm so glad you're here with us today.
Taylor Ricks 1:30
Hi, thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Kathryn Davis 1:33
Taylor, I have loved your book. As I've been reading it the past couple of weeks, I've really learned a lot about people that I haven't really noticed or paid attention to in the Scriptures before, and you've been able to bring them to life.
Well, thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it. And that's always my goal is just to see things maybe from a different angle. So we can learn a new lesson. So I'm happy to hear that that's what it did for you.
Kathryn Davis 1:56
What I really noticed in your book is in your book, you describe feeling like you didn't fit in, and I think other women can relate to this. I know I can. There have been so many times where I don't feel like I have fit in whether that's an a ward or in a neighborhood or a community. What has been your experience with feeling unseen?
Taylor Ricks 2:16
I think I feel unseen in a different way in different stages and ages of my life. It just felt like there was always something that I felt like I just didn't fit in or measure up and always thought like, I must be the only one that feels this way. Because it's easy to sit on the outside and be like, Oh, everyone else must just have a friend and feel like they fit in and think that that I separated myself even further by thinking that instead of looking maybe for someone who felt the same way or who was friendless, but I have realized over the years, I'm not alone in feeling alone. I think that some of us might feel more included in different stages of our lives or what we're going through and, and so as that started to stand out to me, I started to realize this is a big thing a lot of us face. And maybe there's some things we can do to kind of overcome that and work through that maybe together so we can feel alone together or just feel not alone at all.
Kathryn Davis 3:11
Right, then if we realize we're not the only ones that are feeling alone or unseen, then sometimes I think it's easier to reach out.
Taylor Ricks 3:19
Absolutely. And I have learned that sometimes you have to pretend to feel extroverted or outgoing and reach out to the people that seem alone and it makes a difference.
Kathryn Davis 3:31
How do you think that's made a difference? Has it made a difference in your life or in the people you're reaching out to?
Taylor Ricks 3:36
I think it's made a difference in my life Most definitely. Because I switch you switch from like, I don't want to say a victim mindset, but in a way kind of a lonely victim mindset to, okay, who can I reach out to who needs me instead of the other way around who needs me. And I think when I switched to that I have made friends. I think it was a ward I was in about 10 years ago. And I just felt really strongly I needed to kind of switch over to that mindset, and started reaching out to people that I was prayerful about or that maybe didn't seem like they had a big group around them. And now I have this group of friends, we've all moved away from that ward, but we are so close. And we have been through some really hard hard things together. And I just thought that small little inspiration to just focus on who needs me instead of what people could do for me or whatever, has really opened the doors to creating some really meaningful relationships. And so I would like to think that I maybe had an impact in their life, but I know for sure that they have had the greatest impact in mind and have been my greatest cheerleaders.
Kathryn Davis 4:38
Why do you think we have an innate need for us to feel seen?
Taylor Ricks 4:42
I've given this a lot of thought because I feel like everybody feels like they just want to be seen authentically for who they are maybe past imperfections. We all have grumpy days and things and we want to be seen beyond those moments. Right? And as I've thought about it, prayed about it, I came to this realization And that I believe we are heavenly beings sent here for an earthly experience. We've heard that a lot. And as I think about that, that means our spirits I feel like are used to being seen and known by our Heavenly Father and our heavenly parents and our Savior who see and know us perfectly. That's what we are accustomed to. That's what we're created for is to be seen and known and loved in a perfect way, by our Heavenly Father. And so I think that it's innate in us to be to want that to be seen and understood. And so of course, our spirits yearn for that kind of connection, because that's what we're created to have. Ultimately, that's the ultimate goal.
Kathryn Davis 5:39
That's such a beautiful thought that that's what we yearn for, because that's how we were created. In the book, you said this, and I loved this quote, our brothers and sisters are pleading with us to see them. They asked us to see beyond outward appearances, see beyond careers, see beyond intimate relationships and orientations. How do people want us to see them instead of through outward appearances, or careers or orientations? How do people want to be seen?
Taylor Ricks 6:08
I think it's part of seeing all of the person the good things and the bad things. And that quote, was kind of in relationship to, I was talking about being an African American in the church, I'm half African American and half white. And so that does impact how people initially see me, it's just part of it right. And growing up, I am adopted. And so I was the only person of color in my family and in my ward, in my school in my neighborhood. So I think it stood out even more. And so when I was writing that I was talking about how growing up all the time, I would hear, Oh, I don't see color. And we hear that a lot. And I think that's kind of been something that has been a topic of discussion the last couple of years, especially, but as a child that made me think that was something bad in me or a wrong thing, or something that we shouldn't see. And I remember, when my aunt's dog died, it was a white dog. And I remember saying to my mom, hope that dog is so lucky, because it gets to go to heaven. And it's already good enough, like it's already white, and it's good enough. And I thought that I would have to be changed or white or different to be good enough, and would try to like in the bathtub, wash my brown skin off because I thought everyone saying they didn't see color must mean it shouldn't be seen, or I shouldn't be seen or there's something wrong with it. I think that it's better to see all parts of a person and embrace all parts of them, because it's what makes them beautiful. It's what makes them unique. I think I was late 20s, before I finally was starting to feel a connection with that part of myself and feel like it's a good part of myself and a beautiful part of myself and something to embrace instead of something to not see. And so I think that we all have maybe parts of ourselves that people, Oh, I'll look past that. And instead of looking past things in other people, maybe we can see it and embrace it and meet them where they are in that thing. Whatever it is, obviously race is a different thing. But even personality traits, understanding that everyone's personality is created in a divine way. And their experiences shape who they are and how they see the world. And if instead of looking past it, let's just embrace it and be like that's a part of that person. And how can I love it? How can I embrace it? A few years ago, I was in a sacrament meeting and like you said, I have four little kids. And so sometimes it feels like well, I've done it. And so everyone can like you kind of get a little on your high horse sometimes. And I saw a mom dealing with a temper tantrum in sacrament meeting in a way that I would not. And it was kind of noisy and disruptive. And I was just like, good grief, why can't she handle it? And instantly, the spirit stopped me and was like, stop and watch and see what you can learn from that mom. And so I stopped and I watch. And I saw how gentle she was, how patient she was how loving she was. And it reminded me that it was as much her sacrament meeting as it was mine. And it was as much her child sacrament meeting as it was mine, and that they were as important and needed in that meeting as anyone else. And what they were going through was just as important and needed as everyone else. And I was able to appreciate what she was bringing to that situation instead of being the initial judgmental way that I felt. And so I think seeing each other's differences that way really can bring some unity and I spent time getting to know her a little bit more and getting to know her child and the needs of her child and the differences and I'd consider that sister friend now all from that simple reminder to stop and see what she was doing well instead of judging and I've tried to apply that in like leadership like different leadership styles in the church or at work or wherever and I've been able to learn from people instead of being frustrated. As much as I maybe used to be.
Kathryn Davis 10:05
I love seeing the whole person rather than just a specific instance. And I really am interested in what you've said that it took until you said your early 20s. Until you were able to see all parts of yourself and love all parts of yourself. What was some of the journey that led you to seen that part of yourself? And was there a story in the scriptures that helped you understand that God sees all of you?
Taylor Ricks 10:33
I think spending more time with the Savior, in prayer and in reflection and allowing the Holy Ghost to teach me what my Heavenly Father saw of me instead of allowing outside influences to be the main narrative in that I remember going through a particularly dark time, and it was a long, probably like a two or three year period of just like praying to not have to face another day. And I just, I would get so many bad influences about myself into my mind, I decided to just stop every time and PRAY and ASK Heavenly Father to remove the bad thought about myself and replace it with what he saw in me, and what he thought about me. And I think one day, it was like, over 60 times, I counted that I had to stop and ask for him to do that. But being mindful of that, and taking the time to really ask him to teach me and I have learned that he will take every opportunity we ask and we give him to teach us what he sees in us and who we are. And I think that as I did, that I was enabled to do things that I feel inadequate, that I shouldn't be able to do. But he opened that door for me and helped me see that like through him, those things were possible. And I think one scripture story that comes to mind is the woman at the well. She had been married five times, and I don't think felt comfortable being around other people because she was there at the wealth filling up her vessel in the heat of the day when everyone else would probably go in like, chat and do it in the morning. But that's when the Savior met her. And he taught her that he was living water. And she knew that he was the Messiah. And then this was my favorite part of the whole story is that she went into the town and she told all the men there about Christ and invited them to come and see him. And I'm like, There's no way she would have done that before. She wouldn't have had the courage to go to the men in the town when she was at the watering well, alone. But after spending time with him and having him teach her about her divinity and him teach her who she was and, and everything that she is, then she was able to go do something that she probably would not have been able to do before. That is been a huge lesson for me in recent years is allowing our Savior and our Heavenly Father to be the author of who we are and what we mean. And then we can do great things through them.
Kathryn Davis 13:05
Such a powerful reminder and lesson. And you even mentioned that in your books that are divinity and our understanding of ourselves comes from our relationship and our understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And I remember when President Nelson was first called as a prophet, one of the first things he challenged all of us to do was to ask God, how he feels about us. And it seems like such a simple thing. But I don't think we do that often enough. And the thought of what would change in my life. If I did that 60 times a day, like would I have a different understanding of myself. And I can imagine that as you've prayed and found out how he feels about you. It's influenced how you view others. And I think part of the power in your book comes that we see people and understand them more when we learn their stories. It just reminds me of a time I teach full time seminary a couple of years ago, I had a student who would come in and he was really belligerent and obviously didn't want to be there and wasn't very respectful to me or anybody else in the class. And he had been transferred into my class and I struggled with just trying to love him. And every time I did, he wasn't very kind back. And one day he came in and sat down and put his head right on the desk, and I knew something was going on. And my first thought was like, Oh, I can just kind of leave him and maybe he'll be quiet and not make fun of anybody else in the class and we can have a good a good discussion, but I just had this feeling to go over and I went over and talked to him and and I said hey bud, are you doing okay? And I said you just seem really tired and he said, Sister Davis I'm so tired. So I told him I said hey in my office I have a blanket and a pillow if you just want to go lay down for a little bit. You are totally okay. And he looked at me like he was in trouble. And I said, No, I promise like you are really tired if you just want to go lay down and take my pillow and my blanket. And he left, and he went into my office and had my pillow and blanket, and he came back halfway through class, and after class, he came up to me, and he said, Sister Davis, I have never had such a nice blanket. And I said, Really? And he said, Yeah, I'm actually in foster care, and I sleep on a couch. And I've never had a blanket. And just understanding a little bit more of his story changed the whole way I interacted with him. And the whole rest of that semester, because I never saw belligerent behavior. I saw his story. And I was able to see him, hopefully more how Christ loves him. And it changed everything for me. And I think that sometimes that's the power. And that's the power that you mentioned in that book is, is learning someone's story. And that can help us see them as Christ sees them. And I know you've had a couple of experiences with that of learning somebody's story and, and seeing them as Christ does. Would you share a couple of those experiences that you've had?
Taylor Ricks 16:19
Well, first, I love that story that you just shared, because I think it just reminds me of how, like following a promptings of the Spirit and then offering just small, little offerings can help open people up to share their stories. And so I love that you shared that, what a powerful example for all of us. So for me, I was a foster mom, kind of along the same vein. And my biggest concern with becoming a foster mom is having harsh feelings towards birth parents, because I just wondered if, as I had these kids placed into my home and fell in love with them, and I love kids, and I was just worried that then I would have these harsh feelings towards someone who maybe didn't treat them the way they needed to be treated, there's a reason you know that children come into care. And so that was a big concern. But as I prayed about that, and making the decision to be a foster parent, I just felt like I needed to proceed forward anyway. And so as kids were placed into my home, they would come with like a binder that would have their stories. And so it wasn't normally my priority to read the stories first, usually, you're like getting close, and getting a room situated and the whole thing, and it's a lot to assimilate children into your home. And so it honestly wasn't my first priority. But I remember with one placement, you kind of go through a honeymoon phase, and then it gets challenging. And so that's what was happening as we were entering into the challenging phase. And I was starting to feel those feelings of frustration towards the birth parent. And as I opened the binder, and I think I also went to a meeting that we had regularly to discuss the case, I learned more about that birth, mother's story. And it's not necessarily my story to tell to share all the details. But I realized that she had been through some really challenging things. And the more I learned her story, the more I realized, she grew up in the church as well. And then faced some really hard things that were almost impossible to overcome and just fell into this place where she was less capable to care for her kids. And I just realized how I could have been her different circumstances, different whatever my life could have been very similar to hers, this instant connection with this sister, and a love for her. And I was able to start seeing the things that she did, right and she did well for her kids. They were sweet, kind, well mannered kids who were just doing their best she was doing the best that she could with what she had. And it was such a powerful reminder to me that we meet people at like certain points in their story, always, I don't think there's very few people will ever, like have known them their whole story, maybe our children, but even then we're not with them all day, every day. And so we meet people at these different places. And it was just this powerful reminder to me to always remember there's something that came before. And also there's so much greatness to come, like their story's not over and our Heavenly Father's in it, and a part of it and aware of them, and so to see where they might go and be aware that things might change. And then another example with my sister in law. I have known my sister in law since she was a little girl and so she has been like my sister forever. Just a sweet bubbly girl absolutely adore her and hilarious and she would always play pranks on me and hide behind corners and scare me because I was easily scared that she thought that was so funny and just a cute girl and she was friends with my little brother and so they were always going between homes and everything. Just love her when she was early 20s All family events are usually at my house and so it was Christmas, and she asked if she could bring a friend to Christmas dinner. And I was like, of course, so you know, open door policy. But as I watched her with her friend, she was very gentle. And you know, like I just said she was more Riley's more of a prankster, you know. And so to watch her be very gentle and attentive, and I'm like, there's something more to this situation with her friend. And she was guiding her through the buffet line. And so the holiday ended and everyone went home, but it was very much on my mind. And so I was praying about it a lot. And I felt really strongly that that friend was probably her partner, not just her friend, but she had not divulged that. And so as I thought about how to handle that situation, first of all, my heart broke, because I was like, she must have been carrying some heavy things by herself. And I hate the thought of anyone having to carry anything by themselves that I love, you know, and how lonely she may be felt in her classes, or seminary or whatever. And so I was praying about what to do, and felt like I needed to just send her a text message and just say, Hey, I have a feeling that that person you brought is more than a friend. And I just wanted you to know, like, whoever is important to you is important to me, and I want you in my home and in my life and in my children's life. And you're an important part of that. And she just responded and said, Thank you so much, and I love you and whatever. And like I mentioned, she was best friends with my brother, and I guess right afterwards texted my brother. And she had come out to my brother months prior, and just said that she had been afraid to tell me. She wasn't like afraid to tell her siblings or her parents, but she was afraid to tell me because she thought maybe I wouldn't let her be around my kids. And that just like shattered my heart because I don't. Whatever I did, however, I carried myself to make her believe that she would ever be written off is devastating. And so I know that that prompting to send that text was meant to open a door. And so going forward, I've thought about her as she goes out into the world and like just as amazing person, but all the judgments, she probably has gotten instantly from people who don't know her. And I just thought, Man, I want people to see and know her the way we see and know her this fun, loving, amazing person. And instead, she's judged instantly by maybe what people see. And it made me think about the story of the Good Samaritan, and how at the time Samaritans and Jews were not friends. You know, they didn't interact at all, you know, they would cross the street so that they wouldn't walk by each other and walk around Samaria instead of through it just so that they didn't cross paths. So that story is even more significant if we know that background because it was a Samaritan who helped the Jewish man who was beaten on the side of the road, of course, and I don't think it's because the Samaritan didn't notice that he was a Jew. And then he was like, oh, no, I shouldn't have helped him. I don't think that was it. I think he knew that he was a Jewish man. And he saw him for all that he was and met him where he was and what he needed, and offered the help and the relief and the comfort that he needed, not because he overlooked that he was a Jewish man, I I think just because he was a man who needed help. And he saw the whole person, and did what needed to be done in that moment. And I love that example, that we don't need to look past something in someone, we can see all of them and love them and help them and meet them right there where they are. And I don't ever want to be in a position where someone would think I'm one of the people that would walk by ever again, that is such an awful thing. To think that she thought I would be one of the people that would cross the street and walk by in her time of need instead of loving and embracing her. So I think by being willing to see each other fully before the need arises, opens the doors to be able to meet each other and really warm and comfort and provide the support that we need when we need it.
Kathryn Davis 24:03
Taylor, as you tell that story, I want to be more like that. I want to be able to see people see their story and know their story. And I'm just wondering how I can get better at that. Like I noticed you observed your sister in law, and then you prayed and you asked questions. But how can we get better at seeing the story? What are some things that we can do?
Taylor Ricks 24:29
I think you bring up a good point about observing people. When I was younger, my mom was so good at like getting people to share their stories with her. We would be at the store and all of a sudden we would know like four people's life stories by the time we left. She's just a very like open person that people feel safe to just share that with. And I remember asking her how do you do that? How How does that happen? And I think part of it is it's a gift of the Spirit for her. I think some people just are drawn to certain people to be able to share. But what she said she also does is she does observe she kind of will watch like the sisters maybe that seem like they're struggling with their kids in the, in the pews or she watches for who isn't there who normally is. She says I always am observing and listening. So when people make comments in Relief Society and mentioned that they really enjoy something, she kind of makes a little mental note of like, okay, I know that this person really enjoys that or whatever. And so then when she says when she has moments to talk to them alone, she has all these things to draw from, that she can bring up. And then it makes them feel comfortable and seen and noticed. And then people open up and share more with her. I've tried to do that. And she's way better at it than me. But she's been a really good example of that. I think also, and you hit on this, as well as just being prayerful, and noticing people's countenance. And we can just say a quick prayer right there in the moment. And try and know what we can do right there in the moment. And then another way, I think that helps people open up and share their story is when we are a little more open. And we're a little more willing to share our stories, which can be a really scary thing. And we live in this world of like social media of like presenting all of this perfection and everything tied up in a nice little bow and beautiful and our houses need to be beautiful. And I am the best at like having the most unorganized cabinets and closets and then having the rest look good. You know. But if you open the cabinet, you're like, This girl's a hot mess, you know, based on that alone. And so I think that when we open up even just a little bit like even in a comment in a class or in our testimony meetings, or one on one, just we don't have to give all the details. And that's usually not an appropriate thing to do in every circumstance. But just a little bit showing a little bit of vulnerability, a little bit of imperfection, I think gives people room to be like, Oh, that's a safe person. That's somebody who gets it. I think we think that it's like this formal, like, well, if I go sit down with them, and I have this form of lunch, then maybe they'll feel open to sharing with me. But I think it's small little things over time that show like I really am a safe place for you. And then being prayerful about being in the right place at the right time. Whether that's feeling like you need to linger a little longer after an activity, or whether it's sending a text message and just being like, hey, you've been on my mind, just those little things can build up over time so that when there are bigger things like they know that you're a safe, open place.
Kathryn Davis 27:33
I think that's one reason maybe why your book resonated with me. And I really believe this podcast will resonate with so many is because you are so real. I love kind of what you've said that it starts with the desire to see people, right, like we have to desire to want to know their whole story. And it could look different if we could see people's whole stories. How do you think family life or our ward could change if we were able to see people for who they are and how God sees them?
Taylor Ricks 28:08
The truth is, we're not ever going to know everybody's stories. And there's going to be so many times people don't want to share them. Like, right, this life is full of really hard things that we just don't want to share. There are things... I try to be very open. But I I won't share you know, we all have those things. But what we can do is assume that everybody has a really unique and humbling story, whether they're ready to share it with us or not. And we can assume that they have been humbled to tears. And we can assume that they have been through really hard things. And we can assume they've overcome really hard things. And then we can just meet them in that, like, I know that this is a dynamic person has experienced a lot and maybe the way that they see the world or the way they handle situations is influenced by what they've experienced. And I don't even need to know what that thing is, I can just assume that they have walked a hard road too and I can just treat them with love and gentleness and kindness in that. Because that's how I want to be treated knowing I've I've walked a similar road without having to know that having to know the details. And then in time if we know them, then that's great too. And we can be more careful that way.
Kathryn Davis 29:19
I love that because even in that assumption, that assumption will be right, that everybody's walked a difficult path. And so if we can assume and meet them where they are such a beautiful thought. I want to share one last paragraph from your book because the idea is stated so beautifully and so powerfully for me. You write, "I believe we serve as everyday disciples as we look around and truly take the time to see and know the shepherds other sheep. If we truly know them and their stories we can notice when they become lost, reach them when they feel alone, and encourage them to stay close to our Master. To me a hero is someone who takes the time to know, see, and learn this rays of my loved ones, so they can love them too." That's such a powerful image to me of the shepherd's other sheep and reaching out. And that a hero really is someone who takes the time to know and to see. I think it's so easy to feel overwhelmed and inadequate. So on the Magnify podcast, we really want to end every episode with a small and simple thing that we can implement in our own lives. So Taylor, what is your small and simple thing that we can work on this week?
Taylor Ricks 30:31
My small and simple suggestion is just to pray to know who needs you this week. And it might be your child, or it might be a spouse, or it might be someone outside of your home, but just pray to know who needs you this week, and then have the courage to offer that love.
Kathryn Davis 30:50
I think that as we do that I know God will answer because there are a lot of people who need us and we can make a difference. Taylor, thank you so much for a great conversation.
Taylor Ricks 31:00
Thank you so much for having me. It was so fun to visit with you.
Kathryn Davis 31:05
And if you need a reminder that your contributions are needed, and that you matter to God, you will love Taylor's book, everyday disciples available at Desert Book stores. We would love to have you join us on Instagram at magnify community. And of course subscribe and listen to the Magnify podcast wherever you get your shows. And let's do this again next week. Thanks for being here.