Latter-day Saint Life

How can I love my neighbor when they’re a stranger? Here are 2 simple ideas

woman smiling at friend.jpg
It’s not as easy to show love to strangers, but it’s still a commandment to find space in our hearts to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

When someone we know is struggling, we often can find ways to show love based on their needs and likes. We might make them a favorite treat, sit with them, or simply give them a hug.

With strangers? It’s not as easy, but it’s still a commandment to find space in our hearts to love our neighbor as ourselves. How do we do this? A recent episode of the Magnify podcast inspired me with some simple ways to show up with more love in everyday circumstances.

Pull out the Good Plates

Former Young Women General President Elaine S. Dalton is an example of seeing everyone as God would, and then helping them feel His love through her actions.

When President Thomas S. Monson set apart Sister Dalton, he blessed her with many spiritual gifts. “One of those [gifts] was so precious, it astounded me,” she recalls. “It was the ability to see the women, and the young women of the Church the way our Heavenly Father sees them.”

Sister Dalton worried that this spiritual ability would leave upon being released from her calling. “But that one has stayed,” she explains. “It’s been magnified, actually. And so, I approach people differently because I know that they may have forgotten something, but I can see [their divine worth], and I try to remind them.”

Sister Dalton shared an example of how she has shown love to people she doesn’t know, treating them in a way that honors their divine identities. Recently, she had some construction work done on her home, and she asked the crew if she and her granddaughter could make them lunch.

But Sister Dalton took it one step further to make the meal more meaningful.

She said: “We took out some beautiful plates and some beautiful goblets. And [my granddaughter] said, ‘Nana, why are you putting all your best things out here for these men?’ And I said, ‘Because they’re helping us, and we want them to be treated like kings, because they are.’

“And she was really puzzled at that, but as I had her pour water for them when their glasses were empty, she came in at one point, and she said, ‘Nanna, they’re sitting up and they’re eating just like they are kings.’

“And I said, ‘They are. And don’t ever forget that. Maybe they’ve forgotten a little bit, but we have to constantly remind them of who they are by the way we treat them.’ And they are kings!”

We can show up with love by offering the best of what we have at the time. In some circumstances and timing, I could set a fancy table to show an extra measure of love and help point those I’m serving to God. Most times though, my best is probably paper plates and simple sandwiches.

But in following Sister Dalton’s example, service, no matter how it is given, can be a way to show others love and help remind them of their divine worth and of God’s love.

Open the Circle of Friendship

Another way to show love as God would involve a simple perspective shift. Author Brooke Romney suggested that we can turn our friendship circles into a more open concept: friendship horseshoes.

She said:

“I love the imagery of a horseshoe because it is like a circle, where everybody feels enveloped together. But then there’s an opening. ... where people can come in, [and] then ... also go out. And they can still feel like they belong. ...

“We all grow, and we all change. And sometimes we want to be with certain people, and then we want to leave for a little bit, and then we want to come back in.

“Even as we talk about the gospel or our wards or our classes, sometimes people feel really good inside that horseshoe, and sometimes they need to step away for a little bit. But there’s always got to be room for people to come back in.”

A year ago, I had the experience of being welcomed into one of these friendship horseshoes in an unexpected way.

When my daughter started playing high school lacrosse, I didn’t know any of the other parents at the games. But after going to cheer her on a couple of times, I ventured to talk with someone who I recognized as another mom on the sidelines.

The next game, I gave this woman a little wave as I climbed up the stands, and she kindly made space for me to sit next to her, even though she was surrounded by other friends. She and another woman welcomed me in with kind curiosity and generous hearts, making their friendship circle a horseshoe.

Though my life circumstances were different from theirs, I felt like I belonged on the bleachers with them—all fellow parents of the girls on the team, and all fellow daughters of God.

In his new book, The Law of Love in Action, Steve Young writes:

“The person next to you in line, the neighbor, even the stranger standing next to you in an elevator: the two of you are in a relationship. What do we do with our relationship in that awkward moment in the elevator? Do we say hi, or do we look at the floor and stay in the awkwardness? Each relationship is an opportunity for healing another person, making their day just a little brighter with a kind word or a welcoming smile.”

Sister Dalton serving lunch on her nicest plates and my new friends on the sidelines inviting me in are both examples of living the law of love, showing up with open hearts as Jesus would. These simple actions are a testament to how easy it can be to share love, even with strangers.

Listen to the rest of this week’s Magnify podcast for more inspiring examples of how to live in loving and Christlike ways from author Taylor Ricks, All In podcast host Morgan Jones Pearson, and author and actress Lisa Valentine Clark.

▶ You may also like: 5 game-changing realizations from Steve Young’s new book

The Law of Love in Action

The law of love: loving as God loves, seeking another’s healing, expecting nothing in return. It’s a lot to ask. How can we apply such a law to life’s challenges—from the smallest daily offenses to seemingly insurmountable sources of pain, like abuse, infidelity, or war? Building on his best-selling book The Law of Love, Steve Young explores the depth and breadth of how others practice living the law of love. This volume brings together a wide variety of insights and firsthand experiences. Stories include a grandpa at a family reunion, a journalist visiting a prison before a big football game, a father with a temper, a bride diagnosed with terminal cancer the day before her wedding, a broadcaster comforting survivors at a crime scene, and more. In every situation of life, the law of love is undefeated. Available at and Deseret Book stores.

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