As Valentine’s Day approached, I felt a wave of despair. I was 30 years old, unmarried, and living in my hometown. I hadn’t been on a date since I graduated from college. While I was happy with my current situation and job, I was painfully aware that I was single. I felt that I stuck out like a sore thumb in my church, personal, and professional life.
My pity party lasted for a while, until one day I was invited to a Valentine’s Day party that was being thrown by a woman in my ward. I reluctantly went.
During one of the games, I looked around the room and thought about the lives of the women who were there. Standing in the corner was one woman who had recently been divorced—her husband had left her family and the Church. I noticed another single woman, who was happily chatting and had been fostering two at-risk teenagers. A woman sitting on the couch was living by herself while her husband had to work in another state. And another woman at the snack bar had recently lost her husband.
As I thought about each of these women and their individual circumstances, I was instantly humbled. I realized that the Church is made up of people with different circumstances and backgrounds. And I realized that even though I don’t have a spouse or children, I still very much have a role and place in the Church, just as every person does.
Despite the awkwardness that I sometimes feel when I attend my family ward, since that party I have tried to do what the father of President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) advised him to do as a young missionary: “Forget yourself and go to work.”1 With that as my motto, I now approach family-related events and church differently.
Instead of hiding in a corner, I try to be as social as I possibly can. I also jump at any opportunity to hold a baby or help out in Primary. I’ve made friends with both married and single sisters in my ward, and we go to movies and out to lunch. Ultimately, I find that if I am proactive in socializing with people, the all-encompassing loneliness of being single is felt less often.
Also, the compassion and inclusiveness from others has been a huge help to me. I once went to a Relief Society activity that focused on the challenges parents face while trying to raise their children. I was the only woman at the activity who was single and had no children of my own. Despite this, the sisters listened to and appreciated my opinions and made me feel that I truly had good insights to share. They also drew on the experiences I’ve had as a high school teacher and asked me for advice. After this experience, I truly felt like no matter my circumstances, I belonged.
There are so many who want to belong. We need to reach out to those around us and no longer give in to our fears. By taking a simple step outside of our comfort zones, friendships can be forged and burdens can be lifted.
Our Savior Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of reaching out to those who didn’t fit in with the mainstream population. He didn’t see labels. Instead, He saw the worth and potential of each person and He ministered to their needs. We can do the same. Through our faith and actions and our willingness to reach out, we can all be unified in the Church and be one with our Savior and Heavenly Father. The Apostle Paul teaches us, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). And we can all realize this eternal truth: that no matter our circumstances, we truly all belong to this Church.