I debated calling 911, but I called my mom instead.
It was my first official babysitting gig, and it wasn’t going well. Zach, an adorable, red-headed two-year-old, had somehow managed to wedge his deliciously chubby little leg in the spindles of a dining room chair. It was stuck, good and tight. And no matter how gently I tried to tug, that thigh only seemed to wedge in tighter.
After I caved and called my Mom to come rescue us, Zach’s older brother, Austin, ran outside to the curb to keep watch while I monitored him through the kitchen window. When the first responder arrived from, ahem, next door (thank you, Mom), Austin really came alive.
“Over here, over here, over here!” he hollered. He was yelping and galloping, all while whipping his right arm into a full 360-degree circle, to motion her over. Clearly, this kid had seen his share of rescues on TV. With the help of my Mom, and a tub of Crisco, we managed to separate the toddler from the chair, streaks of grease the only remnant of the excitement.
I thought of that comical memory as I listened to Sister Tamara Runia’s general conference talk this month. It was this paragraph, referencing Lehi’s Dream in 1 Nephi, that jumped out to me:
“You don’t chase after your loved ones who feel lost. You stay where you are and call them. You go to the tree, stay at the tree, keep eating the fruit and, with a smile on your face, continue to beckon to those you love and show by example that eating the fruit is a happy thing!”
The word “beckon” grabbed me. It’s an action word that produces an enthusiastic visual, doesn’t it? Someone who beckons is into it. They aren’t half-waving, or curling a pointer finger back and forth. When I think of beckoning, I think of someone with Austin’s energy. Happy and hopeful. It’s a kind of energy that pulls you in.
And it’s that energy Sister Runia encouraged us to exert on our own families. She challenged us to zoom out and see the bigger picture—to use an eye of faith and beckon to our family members with hope and joy.
So how can we beckon hopefully? I identified three ways loved ones have beckoned to me over the years, ways that I hope to beckon to those I care about, too.
I come from a very affectionate family. My people are the kind of people who have no problem bursting right through a personal bubble in pursuit of a connection. We’re a living, breathing cuddle puddle. And I’m so glad we are. Because as my single adult years dragged on, it was often those touchy moments when, even if I felt annoyed, embarrassed, or put out, I felt more loved. A tight hug from my Mom, a kiss on the cheek from my Dad, a grab-me-around-the-middle goodbye from my Grandma. That kind of physical outreach immediately communicates comfort and love, no matter how resistant the recipient.
Parents often observe that positive touch can start to feel awkward when kids become teenagers. And that awkwardness only increases when teenagers grow into young adults. But research tells us that a seven-second hug can melt away anxieties and help relieve burdens of loneliness, uncertainty, or depression. An arm squeeze, a hand squeeze, a side squeeze, a touch on the shoulder, a cheek-to-cheek press, an all-out embrace. I believe to touch is to beckon.
Our oldest daughter, Emme, was baptized this summer. In the weeks leading up to this special day, there were many conversations about the Holy Ghost. Her innocent curiosity and immature understanding of this spiritual concept were both endearing and entertaining.
“A ghost … but not like Halloween, right, Mom?”
“But does it float into my heart, or fly?”
During one memorable car ride conversation, she said something so sweet and so profound, I’ll never forget it. I was explaining how I personally feel the Holy Ghost. I told her that, for me, it’s like reverse goosebumps. Instead of the cold outside air making my skin rise and ripple, it’s a sensation that starts on the inside and works its way out, showing up like goosebumps on the surface of my skin. She thought about that for a minute and then burst out, “That’s so NEAT, Mom, that can you feel YOUR real spirit inside YOUR real body.”
Her interpretation made me recall a Young Women leader from my youth who once observed that those of us who physically feel the Spirit in our bodies are a lucky bunch because we get to experience a hug from heaven.
Think of that. Heaven’s hug. A physical testimony of a spiritual strength. There is power in that, just as we know there is power in physical touch.
So much of what we “feel” in this life is subject to interpretation by our mortal body. Let’s use that to our advantage as we try to beckon, and communicate heaven’s love, through touch.
Offer In-Between Support
When it comes to music, humans naturally gravitate toward the downbeat. But try to get someone to play, sing, or dance to the upbeat and you’re going to have a harder time. Our brains are wired toward the rhythmically predictable. I think that’s evident in how we often serve and show up for each other, as well.
It’s why food bank shelves are fully stocked at Thanksgiving. Charity donations go up at Christmas. But ask any non-profit director and they will tell you that real help is needed in the off-season. Be it food or materials, they are desperate for more support from February to August.
I believe an impactful time to beckon to those we love is in the off-beat personal moments, too. It’s taking a meal on a random Tuesday, or sending a text just because. It’s rising to the occasion in times when we are prompted but not knowingly needed. It's what Jesus did—turned an everyday visit or conversation into a powerful ministering opportunity. He served wherever he went and sought out needs along the way.
I went through a low and lonely patch in my mid-twenties. I would work late to help fill the evening hours, and grab takeout from one of two favorite restaurants on my way home. Wash, rinse, repeat. But one evening, my cousin randomly showed up in the parking lot of my apartment complex with a steaming container of taco soup and a paper bowl of freshly sliced strawberries. Whether she sensed or knew, she just was there, with vibrant red strawberries in hand, and I will never forget it. In fact, to this day, every time I slice up strawberries for my kids I think of that bright exchange in that dark parking lot and a feeling of deep gratitude washes over me.
It feels good to be seen and it feels good to be served, especially when you don’t have to ask for it. So when trying to demonstrate a bright hope and beckon to those we love, let’s be mindful of the gaps and the off-seasons, and offer in-between support wherever and whenever we can. And strawberries never hurt either.
Give the Standing Ovation
I love theater. I participated in musicals when I was younger, and (don’t tell a soul) I sometimes fantasize about moving to a teeny tiny town where no one knows who I am and showing up on a community stage to perform. Somewhere along the way, I became a bit of a snob about the whole thing. I’m embarrassed to say I started to get a little stingy with my standing ovations. Like, really? Do we have to rise and clap over every single performance? Is there not an ovation quality standard that should be met before we exert that kind of extra effort? (See? Snob.)
After a recent performance, I found myself begrudgingly caving to the peer pressure of everyone around me and standing to slow-clap along. Somewhere in between the cheers and bows, I was hit over the head with this piercing thought: Sometimes it’s not about the quality of the performance, but the energy of the effort.
Parenting experts preach it all the time: praise the effort, not the outcome. And while we try to take that approach with our kids, I’ve come to believe we should practice it with each other, as well. Let’s get on our feet!
In a world that is staccato with recognition, drag out the praise. Stretch compliments. Use effusive words. Show extra enthusiasm. Really pile it on. It’s one way to beckon to those we love and shower the love of heaven into this mortal world. As Sister Runia said, “We all need a cheerleader—someone who isn’t telling you ‘You’re not running fast enough’; they’re lovingly reminding you that you can.”
So, let’s beckon. One to another. Let’s beckon in what we do, in what we say, and in how we live our lives. And if we’re doing it right, according to Sister Runia, it’s a light that will linger.
I echo her testimony of hope and joy: “It’s the Savior’s work to bring our loved ones back. … It is our work to provide the hope and a heart they can come home to. … And when they pass to the other side of the veil… I believe it will feel familiar because of how they were loved here.”
Journals will begin shipping in November.