Editor's note: Our bi-weekly Friday column, “Found in the footnotes,” explores some of the footnotes from remarks given by General Authorities and General Officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I noticed something interesting this week as I was looking through headlines one day. Two news stories from two completely different organizations used the term, “random act of kindness.”
The repeated pairing of random and kindness caused me to pause. I went to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to look up the definition of “random” and found a meaning that said, “lacking a definite plan, purpose, or pattern.”
Certainly, random acts of kindness occur. There are times when people feel unexpectedly compelled to buy groceries for someone at the store, to call a neighbor out of the blue, or even to approach a stranger and start a conversation.
But wouldn’t the world be different if there was a plan, a purpose, or a pattern to our kindness? Just think about some of the antonyms to random: methodical kindness, organized kindness, or regular kindness.
On this week’s episode of All In, Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News, shares that in her 25 years of covering and talking to Church leaders, she has always noticed one trait in common among all of them. “It is amazing to me that the number one quality that I see in the leaders of our Church is kindness,” she says in the episode before sharing a touching story of a time when President Gordon B. Hinckley showed her kindness as a brand new reporter (you can listen to that full story here).
Later in the week, I listened to Sister Michelle D. Craig’s October general conference talk, “Eyes to See.” In the talk, she shares that she had received a prompting to put down her phone when she waited in lines. Doing so led her to start a conversation with a man, who unbeknownst to her, was celebrating his birthday but had not told anyone about it.
Had a stranger observed that moment between Sister Craig and the man in line, they may have thought it was a random act of kindness. But really, by acting on the prompting she received, Sister Craig had prepared herself to be ready for kindness.
I believe kindness is part of our divine heritage and that if we prepare ourselves in the right way, kindness becomes natural, not random. But how do we prepare? In her talk, Sister Craig touched on what I believe to be a foundation key in developing this kindness. She said, “Perhaps the most important things for us to see clearly are who God is and who we really are—sons and daughters of heavenly parents, with a ‘divine nature and eternal destiny.’”
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Sometimes I think seeing who God is and understanding who we are go hand in hand. The Prophet Joseph Smith once taught, “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.”
In the footnotes of Sister Craig’s talk, she shares this stunning quote from C.S. Lewis found in The Weight of Glory:
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest . . . most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. . . . There are no ordinary people.
Understanding who we are, understanding who God is, and understanding who we can each become may make kindness a little less random and a little more natural—but no matter what, I believe it never hurts to be kind.
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As we understand the love Jesus Christ has for us and our love for Him, and as we study and seek His precious gift of charity, we begin the daily process toward a better heart. If you are looking for a way to dive deeper into charity, A Better Heart by Tom Christofferson blends scripture stories, personal experiences, quotes, metaphors, and commentary to show that, like a doctor treating patients for diseases of the heart, the Master Physician cares for us and will change our spiritual hearts to work in rhythm with His. Available now at DeseretBook.com.