Love, Faith & Stewardship
The Way You Live Your Life
by Jesse W. Love
Copyright 2005 Corporation of the Regent of the Church of Celestine Light
All rights reserved.
When I was in my early 20’s and newly married, my wife and I were invited by some acquaintances, Stan & Carla, to travel from our home near Seattle, to Portland, Oregon to go water skiing on the Columbia River. Stan had a brother in Portland. We were going to stay at his house and were really looking forward to an early morning of sun, water and lots of fun.
We got a late start for the 3 ½ hour drive. By 11:30 at night when we stopped for gas, we were still 30 minutes out of Portland and anxious to arrive and get some sleep before our big day of recreation the coming morning. As we were piling back into the car after a pit stop, my wife came out of the bathroom with an elderly lady who was walking with a cane. My wife was supporting her under her other arm. She led her back to her car where the lady’s 95 year old mother was a passenger and explained to us that the lady had some type of epileptic fit in the bathroom but she seemed to be alright now.
I was feeling pretty content about the good deed she had done and was ready to get back on the road. But Stan had other ideas. He squatted down outside the open car door and asked the elderly lady who was sitting in the driver’s seat where they were going. She said they were on their way to a family reunion at a lodge near Mt. Hood. I figured that shouldn’t be a problem. It was 11:30 at night, the traffic on the roads was very light and she assured us she was completely recovered and able to drive.
But Stan didn’t seem to take any of that in. It went completely over his head. Without even consulting anyone else, he told the ladies that it was still an hour and a half drive to their lodge and he wanted to make sure they arrived safe and sound. He explained that we were headed to his brother’s house in Portland and he would like me to drive their car and follow us there. We would drop off our wives and then I would continue to drive them to their lodge while he followed in his car to give me a ride back.
I thought this was a bit overreacting to the situation, especially as we wouldn’t be getting back to his brothers house until well after 2 AM in the morning. But the elderly ladies both thought it was a blessing from heaven and readily agreed to the plan, which we followed through with to the delight of their worried family members who met the ladies with great joy when we arrived at the lodge in the mountains.
On the way back to his brothers house, I asked Stan about his unhesitant commitment to going the extra mile to help the elderly ladies and told him frankly that on my own I would have bid them adieu at the gas station and patted myself on the back for having helped them out.
Stan said he was sorry he hadn’t asked anyone else what they thought we should do. He said that in his mind the only option was bringing them safely to their destination and it didn’t even occur to him that anyone would have thought differently.
I told Stan that I really admired the example he set of doing good deeds, even when it wasn’t easy or convenient. He was quiet for a moment and then told me something profound that has stuck with me all of these years. He said, “Jesse, a lot of people at my church don’t think I’m a very good Christian because I’m not real good at following all the little rules for good Christians like showing up for church every Sunday. But I have always felt that the actions you do, like what we did tonight, are far more important than all the nitpicky things that you don’t do.”
Stan opened my mind that night to a concept I hadn’t really considered before. I had more opportunities to have that lesson driven home as the years went on. We moved to the other side of the country right after that trip. Though I only saw Stan a couple of times after that weekend, I have always remembered him and the example of nobility and selflessness he exhibited that night and I have been a better, more enlightened person because of it.
Another time, I was traveling by myself on a cross country trip when I ran out of gas in the middle-of-nowhere, New Mexico. I put the hood of my car up and stuck out my thumb to hitch a ride to the nearest gas station, but many cars passed me by. Finally, after about an hour in the hot sun, a dilapidated old truck that seemed to be held together with bailing wire, pulled to a stop behind me. A wrinkled, little man in jeans, a cowboy hat and boots, got out and walked over to me, introducing himself as Carlos. He asked me what the problem was and when I told him I was out of gas, he went back to his truck, returned with a 5 gallon can of gas and poured every last drop into my empty tank.
I was very grateful and happily offered Carlos $20.00 for his kindness. He was almost affronted that I should do such a thing and told me that I should just consider myself the latest link in a chain of helpfulness. As he had helped me, he hoped I would remember that and help someone else in need one day when I was in the right place at the right time as he had been for me.
A chain of reciprocating helpfulness; what a novel idea. Think of the possibilities! Though I never had contact with Carlos again, I have emulated the example he set many times, as I know numerous people I have helped have also done. So the chain of goodness he initiated that day has grown and blossomed.
Someone once said, “The only book of scripture someone may ever read is you.” That’s a powerful statement, but think about it. For many people whose lives you touch, that may literally be true. They may never open up a book of scripture other than the book of your life and the example they see in your actions. As they say, “actions speak louder than words.” As others see your faith, your enlightenment, your spirituality, manifested by the life you live, they will be more inspired to do better with their life, as I have been by Stan and Carlos.
Others will see your good light and be more inspired to follow your example, than they would be by reading 10,000 words written in a book. The words of sacred books only become meaningful after people have seen with their own eyes the goodness of the actions of people who live the words written in the books.
It’s not just big actions that can have a positive effect on observers of our life either. When I was 18, I joined the Coast Guard. My first job was to get through a torturous boot camp on Government Island, near Oakland, California. After all the new recruits off the bus were split into companies of about 60 men, I quickly surmised from observing the punishments being inflicted on members of earlier companies that the only people that had a chance not to have 8 weeks of hell were the Recruit Company Commander (RCC) and the Assistant Recruit Company Commander (ARCC).
They always chose the biggest guy to be the RCC. He was the enforcer of discipline and would knock as many heads as necessary to keep people in line. The ARCC was the person with organizational skills that actually ran the company, decided who did what jobs, called out the cadence while marching, made the nightly reports to the base office and all the other interesting things. This was the job I set my cap for.
I approached the Chief, the Coast Guard senior enlisted man in charge of our company, and made my case for why he should appoint me ARCC. As nobody else made a request for the job, he gave it to me.
I soon found that I was sinking into a hole where I didn’t recognize myself. I had to adopt the demeanor of all the other companies ARCC’s in order to get my men to tow the line and do exactly as they were ordered to do. Unfortunately, this involved swearing; a LOT of swearing. At least one swear word every sentence. Though I cringed a little at first when the words came out of my mouth, it soon became automatic and I didn’t think about it too much.
That was just one of the things necessary to shape a divergent group of young men of varying backgrounds, education levels and inclinations into a unified force. But as the weeks passed on, I found my own personality was changing to match my words. I was becoming more dictatorial, coarser, more open to condoning things like allowing a group of thugs to beat up misbehaving recruits than my normal self, illuminated by the light of Yeshua would have allowed.
I kept reminding myself that I was just doing what was necessary to get through these tough 8 weeks. Then after 6 weeks of boot camp, I read a simple quote from Spencer Kimball that changed my outlook completely. Mr. Kimball equated that, “swearing was the effort of a feeble mind to express itself forcibly”. At first, I was offended and scoffed at the accusation. Then I defended myself by asserting that swearing was the only common language everyone in my company understood. And besides, swear words were the best adjectives one could employ in certain situations.
Then I took a deep breath and admitted that Mr. Kimball was correct. In truth, swearing was just a rudimentary way of communicating something forcibly. Moreover, a person of quality could certainly find a more refined but equally effective way of expressing the same sentiments. The realization hit me so hard that I resolved to swear no more from that day on at any man in my company.
Unfortunately, I soon discovered that without swearing, people stopped obeying my commands! They thought I had gone soft. I went to the Chief and tried to resign as ARCC but he refused to let me. He told me I either better get my foul mouth back and keep my company in line or my life was going to get fouler than I could even imagine from the punishments that I would have for letting him down. But I couldn’t do it. I had come to a realization of a truth that now was a part of every fiber of my being. No matter what the consequences, I could not be false to myself.
That night I called a meeting just before our company retired. I told the men the whole story, told them I wasn’t going to swear at them any more, but for their own pride and the choice of better schools and duty stations when boot camp was over, everyone needed, by their own decision and commitment, to be part of the best company in camp. I challenged them to make our final 2 weeks outstanding. Though some laughed and made fun of me at first, by the end of my little speech, most seemed to appreciate my sincerity and agreed to push themselves, to work as a team and to be the best “darn” company in camp!
And we were! Our efforts included setting a new camp record for the 5 man team obstacle course. Years later I ran into one of those men and after reminiscing about old times, he told me I’d be proud of him because ever since that day he had consciously caught himself whenever he was about to gratuitously swear. He said he still did from time to time, but much less than before and then only when nothing but a swear word would do!
Yes, we are the only book of scripture many people will ever read. The example of our lives can and does have far more impact for better or worse on other people than the volumes of words we can write, preach or say. As I’ve looked at the many great people that have inspired me by their example, beginning with the wonderful examples of life and love given to me by my parents, I have realized that though big events can be momentous, it is the everyday little things of life, a kind word, a helpful act, a quiet stand for that which is right and good, that add up to make exemplary lives that are inspiring and worth emulating; lives that are worthy of the immense love given to us by our Father and Mother in heaven, and by Yeshua, their only begotten son, who has shown us by his life and teachings how to be Children of Light.
I heard a little poem once that still reminds me each day to reach for the best in myself. I don’t know who originally composed it but I hope it inspires you as much as it does me.
“You never know when someone may catch a dream from you.
You never know when a little word or something you may do,
may open up the windows of a mind that seeks the light.
The way you live may not matter at all,
but you never know-it might.”
I testify to you that the way you live does matter. It matters to your children, it matters to your parents, it matters to everyone whose life you touch, and it matters to God. And I hope and pray that it will always matter to you.