God does notice us, and He watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.
---Spencer W. Kimball
A few days ago, as I was arriving home after my morning run, I saw that someone had taped a bunch of hearts on the door of one of my neighbors and friends. I smiled inwardly, and remembered a story--two stories actually, that I feel inclined to share. They're kind of personal, and kind of long, but they are two of my favorites.
It was May of 1995. I had been off my LDS mission for less than a year, and I had jumped straight into graduate-level courses right off my mission. I was struggling with my studies, struggling with friendships, struggling with dating (or not dating, as the case generally was), struggling with what seemed like pretty much everything. My journal entry around this time sums it up pretty well:
"I've felt ugly duckling-ish and unloved. I've looked at my life with a rather gloomy perspective. Of course I've had periods of happiness intermingled with the frustrations, but I think it would be fair to say that I've been sad more than I've been happy lately."
One night I got to the point where I'd had all that I could stand. I felt so alone and so worried and so afraid that I'd always feel alone and worried that I knelt down and cried and prayed and pleaded and cried and cried some more. I asked my Father in Heaven to help me. When I was finished with my prayer, I felt a little bit better, but not too much better, really.
Two days later, I went to the mail, and found that my Grandmother and Grandfather had sent me a book. There was no letter or card attached, it was not my birthday or any other gift-receiving holiday of any kind. The book was inscribed in my grandmother's handwriting: "To a very sweet granddaughter, Love Grandma & Grandpa Willis". It was called The Simeon Solution: One Woman's Spiritual Odyssey by Anne Osbourne Poelman. Part memoir, part scriptural treatise, the book was just what I needed right then, as the overreaching message of it all was that God has an individual plan for each of us, that He hasn't forgotten us, that He is actively involved in our daily lives, even (and especially) when we can't see him there, and that if we will stay close to Him, all will work out for our good.
Now, I had been around a bit by then, and I actually knew all of that already. But, I think I'd forgotten some of it as I swam (sometimes nearly drowned) in the difficulties that seemed to be crashing down on me at the time. So, the combination of the timing of the book, coming out of the blue like that just when I needed it coupled with the message of the book buoyed me up immensely, and helped me turn my gloomy perspective around.
* * *
Fast forward eight years. Both of my grandparents have passed away. I am out of school, working for the opera company, volunteering here and there, sharing an apartment with a dear friend, and overall doing well. But, it's nearly Valentines Day, and (as is often the case), I have no Valentine. To make matters more difficult for me, that dear friend with whom I share the apartment with is out of town, which leaves me home alone, fighting the melancholy.
Again, my journal sums it up pretty well:
"Today was a hard day. Valentines Day is looming up this Friday, and while Valentine's Day is not historically a hard day for me, I've been thinking that if I end up spending it home alone, watching videos this year, that it might be kind of hard to deal with. So, I have been trying to see if I can find anyone who will play with me that night. So far I have had no luck. I don't think people are intentionally snubbing me, it's just that I have so few good friends, and I'm so shy and sensitive, that social situations are extremely hard for me to orchestrate, and people have their own lives to deal with after all."
(Incidentally--There are several adjectives that I would use to describe 2014 Charlotte before I would get to "shy and sensitive". Kind of nice to see where I've been and where I am, you know?)
As the day wore on, I got more and more discouraged, and during my lunch hour, I found myself on my knees, once again crying and pleading and praying for help and comfort. It took about thirty minutes to get myself back under control, at which point I put my make-up back on, put on a happy face, and went back to work. It was a long and busy day. After work I had a voice lesson to attend, and then it was back to the opera for our Valentines Party--which was really our Christmas Party that we hadn't been able to get scheduled until February. Once again I was a single in a room full of couples. Once again I felt different. Once again I felt like crying.
I made it through the evening and headed home. It was dark and I was exhausted. As I turned into the lane to get to my apartment, I thought back to that difficult time that I had endured during my first year in Logan. I thought of the book, how my grandmother had miraculously sent me just the book that I needed at just the time that I needed it. As I thought of that, I said to myself wearily, "Well, she can't be sending me a book today now, can she?"
A few seconds later I pulled into my parking space, and noticed that my door was covered with paper hearts--big ones, small ones, pink ones, purple ones, blue and yellow ones, all sizes, all colors. It was a rainbow of hearts all over my door. At the foot of the door was a small package. I opened it to find a small box of chocolate hearts, a note that said "You've been Heart-Attacked!", and . . . a book. A beautiful book full of good counsel and scriptural stories, and love. A beautiful book that was signed by fourteen of the most silly and most inspirational and most delightful teenage girls that I had ever had the pleasure to work with, girls that I knew and loved, girls that couldn't have possibly known what a difference their gift would make for me that day.
I'll never forget that miracle.
I would be completely surprised if any one of those girls or their youth leaders remembers that day eleven years ago, how they put hearts on my door, wrote notes in what was to be my book. Honestly, I'm pretty sure that many of them don't remember me at all. That's okay. Life is a sea of experiences, and it's impossible to hold all of them in our minds and hearts all the time.
They almost surely don't remember. But I will never ever ever forget.
"heart attack" image courtesy of ablogaboutlove.com