There were only a few days left until the start of my freshman year of college, and getting my textbooks was definitely a priority. New textbooks can be expensive, so I found a book-exchange site where I could find students who were selling their used textbooks. It wasn’t long before I found a woman looking to sell her physical-science book, and soon I was on my way to her apartment to pick it up.
When I arrived, I noticed that the outside of the complex looked fairly dirty. There was trash littering the walkway, and to be honest I was a little hesitant to knock on her door alone.
But I did need that textbook.
So I knocked, and a woman carrying a screaming baby came to the door. Behind her, I could see that the apartment looked dark and cluttered. Clothes were piled on the couch, and many dirty dishes sat in the sink. I could feel a sense of uneasiness in the atmosphere and in the woman’s demeanor.
We had a short exchange. She gave me the book, I gave her the money, and that was that.
The woman closed the door, and instantly the Spirit impressed upon me that this woman needed my help. I felt like I should knock on her door again.
But the idea seemed so awkward. What was I going to do, just knock and say, “Hi, you look like you need help”?
I quickly dismissed the idea and got in my car. But when the uneasiness and the thought in my mind persisted, I was reminded that I was being prompted by the Spirit, as “all things which are good cometh of God” (Moroni 7:12). And this definitely wasn’t my own thought.
I had never felt such a clear and specific message from the Holy Ghost in my life.
The gift of discernment includes “perceiving … the source and meaning of spiritual manifestations.”1 But even though I knew this feeling of needing to help was from the Holy Ghost, I still hesitated.
I said a quick prayer and told Heavenly Father that I felt uncomfortable and was going to drive away, so if He wanted me to stay, He was going to have to stop me. As soon as I opened my eyes, I started my car and felt the prompting again, but even stronger—it felt like the Spirit was pulling me out of my car. I knew I needed to obey the prompting, however odd the situation seemed, so I turned off my car and made my way back to the woman’s apartment.
I frantically thought of what I would say when I knocked on her door again.
“Hi, can I help you?”
“Hello, I want to serve you.”
No! I was panicking now, and I was out of ideas!
But I knocked anyway, and the woman came to the door looking frazzled with a confused expression on her face.
“Hi, I felt like I should come ask you if you need any help,” I said.
The woman gave me a terribly strange look and said, “Nope, I’m good.”
After that I frantically said, “OK, thanks. Bye!” before she shut the door.
Talk about awkward.
As I got in my car and drove away, I tried to reason why God would have sent me that prompting just to have the woman deny my offer to help. I was confused but mostly glad I had followed the prompting.
Suddenly I heard a text alert on my phone. I pulled into a parking lot and saw that the text was from the woman who had sold me the textbook. She was asking me to come back and help her out if I still had time and wasn’t too far away.
I drove back, knocked on the door, and asked her how I could help. I think we both recognized the awkwardness of the situation, but she asked if I could hold her baby so she could get some dishes done while her husband was at work. I gladly agreed, and for the next few hours, I rocked her baby while she told me about her life, with all the highs and lows.
I could tell from our conversation that she was going through a challenging time in her life and that she was glad to have someone to share her burdens with. After the laundry was folded and the dishes were washed, she took back her baby and thanked me, and we parted ways.
I never saw the woman again, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget hearing the voice of the Spirit like that or the realization that Heavenly Father truly is aware of each of His children.
This experience helped me understand what Sister Michelle D. Craig, First Counselor in the Young Woman General Presidency, taught: “Through the power of the Holy Ghost, Christ will enable us to see ourselves and see others as He does. With His help, we can discern what is most needful. We can begin to see the hand of the Lord working in and through the ordinary details of our lives—we will see deeply.”2
As we recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost through the gift of discernment, we can learn to see others’ needs and understand how we can best meet those needs. It’s true that promptings don’t always come at convenient times or in convenient ways, but being able to bless others by listening to the Spirit and being “quick to observe” is worth the sacrifice.3
We don’t always know who is in need, but God does—and through faith we can “work mighty miracles” and “becometh a great benefit to [our] fellow beings” (Mosiah 8:18). We can share His love with His children and invite it into our own lives too.