Go Help Jan

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“Go Help Jan,” Ensign, Feb. 1986, 41

“Go Help Jan”

Although she insisted she didn’t need my help, the Spirit kept telling me she did.

“Go help Jan,” the Spirit prompted. There were three Jans in my ward, but I knew immediately which one needed my help.

Jan was a faithful sister who had broken her leg about a month before. Because the break was serious and the leg had to be kept immobile, Jan was bedfast. When I arrived at her home, I just knocked and walked in, knowing that she couldn’t come to the door. As I called out to Jan and made my way to her room, my eyes fell on her sewing machine stacked high with mending.

I found her in bed reading a book. We visited awhile, then I asked if there was something I could do for her. She assured me there wasn’t. Her teenage daughters were very capable of taking care of everything, she insisted. I offered to take her mending or her laundry home with me, but she was adamant that this was not necessary.

As I left her home I felt confused. I knew that the Holy Ghost had instructed me to help her, yet she refused my help. When I reached her gate, I paused a moment in prayer. Why was I sent to help her? It was obvious she didn’t want my help.

The answer came quickly and plainly: “Help Jan.”

I retraced my footsteps to her door. This time I didn’t knock, but just walked in. Again upon entering her home, my eyes fell on the sewing machine. When I got to her bedroom door, I found Jan in tears. Embarrassed, she said, “I’m sorry. I guess I’m just feeling sorry for myself. I feel so useless laying here day after day. I’m just a burden to everyone.”

I assured her that she was not a burden to anyone, and that it was a comfort just to be around her and enjoy her company. Then I told Jan that the Spirit had sent me to help her. “You might as well tell me what I can do, because I don’t intend to leave until I find out,” I said.

Again she insisted she didn’t need help, adding that she would be embarrassed to have me see how untidy her home had become during her illness. I joked that I wouldn’t tell a soul that she had dust under her bed, if she wouldn’t tell that I had dust under mine too. This helped to relax her, and she seemed to feel better.

I started in the kitchen, doing the breakfast dishes her daughters hadn’t had time to do before school. I put in a load of laundry, all the while very much aware of the sewing machine and that big pile of mending. I began to wonder if it was the mending that she needed help with.

As I sorted through the mending, I noticed that most of the items needed only a little hand stitching. The thought came to me that this was something Jan could do. She had a broken leg, but she also had two good arms. I assembled a small box of sewing equipment and took it to her, along with the items that could be repaired by hand.

“Why don’t you make yourself useful, Jan,” I said as I laid the mending on her bed.

Her eyes brightened. “Oh yes, yes,” she said. “I can do that.”

All day as I worked around her home I looked for things Jan could do from her bed. She sorted and folded the clothes as I took them from the dryer. She straightened her smaller children’s dresser drawers one at a time as I brought them to her. She peeled potatoes and diced vegetables for dinner. At the end of the day, she was tired, but happy because she had accomplished something productive.

And I understood how the Holy Ghost had wanted me to help Jan.

Illustrated by Wilson Ong