“Caring for the Needy in Our Families,” Ensign, March 2016, 32–35
Those with crying needs surround us and we can help. If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we will be motivated to reach out to them in service. Those who serve come to know the joy of giving because service brings blessings that money cannot buy. There are many ways we can get involved in helping our families, extended families, and community.
These stories about caring for family members show how serving unselfishly can bring us closer to those we serve and to the Savior.
My mother came to live with my family after she was widowed. Though her health was poor, she retained a cheerful disposition and positive outlook. We felt it a blessing and pleasure to share our home with her.
However, as time passed, I began to feel the weight of caring for her. I had been released as a seminary teacher when she moved in, and I missed my calling. Caring for my mother didn’t feel as rewarding as teaching, but I loved her and wanted to serve her. I didn’t want my mother, who had given me so much, to sense my conflicting feelings. I made my concerns a matter of prayer, and the answer came in a sweet and tender way.
After helping my mother bathe, I would dry her feet because it was painful for her to reach down. As I knelt at her feet, I thought of the Savior washing and drying the Apostles’ feet (see John 13:4–17). The Spirit confirmed to me that simply by striving to meet my mother’s needs, I was emulating the Savior.
I also learned that Christlike service doesn’t go just one way. Typically, after my mother’s baths, I would stand in the tub and help her get out and dry off. One time I had forgotten to place my towel close to the tub so I could dry my own wet legs and feet. As I stood on the bath mat and stretched for a towel, I could feel my mother gently rubbing and drying my legs with her own towel. In spite of the effort and discomfort to her, she was rendering me a service. I felt as though the Savior were drying my feet. Peace filled my soul, and I was reminded that the Lord notices and values our every act of service.
Lyanne Jaubert-Sanderson, British Columbia, Canada
My son Luke was born with Down syndrome. He also has some autistic tendencies and physical health problems. He has no vocal language and is severely learning disabled. However, that has not stopped Luke’s progression and participation in priesthood service.
Some years ago Luke became my home teaching companion and went with me to visit a number of families in our ward. I had the blessing of being able to help train him, which was a great and humbling experience.
Though it was my role to teach him, I learned so much more from him through his unfailing diligence and obvious joy in carrying out his priesthood responsibilities. Each time we visited our home teaching families, he would make sure that I taught from the scriptures, that we didn’t stay too long, and that we didn’t leave without having a prayer with the family. Although he cannot speak, he has influenced the lives of many.
Luke has brought joy not only to our family but also to our ward family. I have learned that the Lord will inspire each of us in the ward as to how to serve and work with Luke. I have felt the love of the Savior as we have helped Luke take steps in fulfilling his priesthood duties.
John McLaverty, Worcestershire, England
When I was baptized at the age of 18, I wanted to be like my Savior, and I knew if I followed His example I could become more like Him. I started by sharing the gospel with my younger sisters, Laurie and Connie, who were both eventually baptized.
After my 19th birthday, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and was told he had only months to live. Before Dad passed away, his last words to me were, “Look after Mom, Laurie, and Connie.” I promised I would. Just weeks after my father’s death, my mother succumbed to a heart problem and passed away also. She too asked me to care for my younger sisters.
After my parents’ funerals, I had little time to grieve because I soon took on the responsibility to care for my sisters Connie, who was 12, and Laurie, who was 16. At 19 years old, I was still a teenager myself.
It took everything I had to attempt to compensate for what my sisters had lost. I relied on everything I could find for help—I turned to prayer, scripture study, the words of the prophets, and priesthood blessings. I strived to keep my sisters active in attending church and participating in the Young Women program. I called upon my Heavenly Father many times while caring for my sisters, and He gave me the abilities I lacked.
I always reminded my sisters of the plan of salvation and the knowledge that we would see our parents again. We found great comfort when we performed our parents’ temple work and were sealed to them for eternity.
I am grateful I was given this special opportunity to serve and love my sisters. I would not be the person I am today if I had not kept the promise I made to my parents. My sisters are grown, but I continue to be there for them. I now look back with wonder and awe, knowing that I was only able to accomplish this difficult act of service with the help and guidance of my Heavenly Father.
Cindy Rose Cooper, Ontario, Canada
After my grandmother had a stroke in 1996, I invited her to move in with my family. When I was young, I was afraid of Grandma—or “Tu Tu,” as we called her. She was often harsh, critical, and unkind. She was strong in another faith and was not happy when my parents, my siblings, and I joined the Church. We never dared talk to her about the gospel because we feared what she would say.
Caring for Tu Tu helped me see her with new eyes. She had worked hard throughout her life and remained strong, bold, and resilient in her old age. It was difficult for her to have to rely on someone else because she was so independent and self-reliant. After spending much of my life fearing my grandmother, the years Tu Tu spent in our home were humbling as I recognized her maturity and wisdom. She was grateful to be in our home and happy to be surrounded by family.
One day the missionaries came for dinner and asked us if we knew anyone who wasn’t a member who might like to talk to them. My husband said, “We have someone right here at our table”—referring to Tu Tu! She shocked us all when she said she would be happy to listen. Within a few months, my grandmother, now in her 90s, was baptized.
My husband and I were concerned about the time and energy we spent caring for Tu Tu. We worried that our children would feel neglected and resent those years. But we later realized that it made them more comfortable around older people—they were quick to make conversation and at ease in offering help. Our children had developed a spirit of service.
My grandmother lived with us for five years until her passing. The experience brought out the best in me and in my family. All the time that we gave in service is nothing compared to what we gained. Caring for family members within the walls of our homes is a great opportunity to love and serve, to refine ourselves, and to become more Christlike.
Linda Blackhurst, Utah, USA