As a little girl I remember learning the parable of the good Samaritan and asking myself, “When will I ever find someone lying on the road robbed and wounded that would need my help?” In my protected world and literal understanding of this beautiful story, I felt that I never would see such a thing. Somehow it didn’t apply to me.
During my teen years my parents were separated and then divorced. This experience broke our home and shattered my world. I felt that I was different from everyone else. I had learned that families are forever, and now I no longer belonged with the community of Saints for whom that was true. Keeping the commandments no longer seemed as relevant. My faith in God and my belief about whether His gospel really works in our lives came into question. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had become emotionally and spiritually robbed and wounded.
Since that time, I have learned that my experience is actually no different than so many others who, for a variety of reasons, are clinging to their faith. Every week, sons and daughters of God come to church feeling wounded with overwhelming challenges—struggling children, overpowering temptations, damaged reputations, unintended offenses, insecurities, and a multitude of experiences, behaviors, and attitudes that cause them to feel removed from the mainstream members of the Church. They honestly feel like they do not belong, that there is no place for them in the gospel of Christ.
For many it is a leap of faith just to go to church on Sunday. Just to walk in the door often requires a great deal of courage. Perhaps they hold out hope that people will be kind and that they will come away feeling stronger and more able to cope with their challenges.
Can we understand why it is so important that members of the Church reach out to others in loving kindness?
I have spent some time thinking about the man who lay suffering along the road to Jericho. The ministry of the good Samaritan saved him. The Samaritan did not stop to consider whether he approved of the man’s actions or attitudes. He did not avoid or ignore the need. He did not judge the man or assume that his suffering was caused by his own foolish decisions. The Samaritan simply cared. He acted to preserve the well-being of a precious son of God who was in need, to lift and to nurture just as the Savior would have done. He exemplified the love of God and was a true disciple of Christ.
I was the recipient of many who reached out to me in Christlike love and who helped me feel that I had a place on the covenant path. The young women who invited me to join in their weekend activities; the bishop who reached out to help me and my family integrate into a new ward; the Young Women leader who taught the doctrine of eternal families with sensitivity, love, and pure testimony; and so many others were among those who walked with me as I rediscovered God’s plan for me and rekindled my hope for the future.
There is no mistake about the significance of our influence in the lives of those around us, wherever we are. Everyone is on a different part of the path to return to God, and we need to develop an awareness of the people who are around us. We can start by being deeply aware of what the purpose of coming to church on Sunday is and making sure that everyone who comes feels loved, needed, accepted, and lifted. When anyone walks out the door, they should be inspired to go and be better because they know the Lord loves them and because they have friends in their faith.
With sincere kindness and gentle concern, and often with a good dose of wholesome humor, we may help those who are struggling to feel the Savior’s love. I know personally that the capacity to be the good Samaritan in the heart of another is within us as we listen to the Spirit and learn to love as the Savior did.
Carol F. McConkie has traveled the world meeting with Saints and leaders as the First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency. She has a degree in English education from Arizona State University, where she met her husband. They are the parents of seven children and enjoy spending time with their grandchildren.