“Cool-Aid,” New Era, June 1997, 11
When I was little, I’d spend all morning building forts, climbing trees, or running away from the girls. I’d burst through the kitchen door with a thirst as big as the new soccer field. Mom would mix up an ice-cold pitcher of punch for me and my brothers and sisters. The best part was the purple mustaches we ended up with on our upper lips. The punch was refreshing and satisfying.
As I’ve grown, things have become more pressured. Forts and games of tag have been replaced by school, grades, part-time work, seminary, sports, choir, student government, and debate. These sometimes leave me feeling empty and depleted. I look for refreshment. However, I’m learning that the real refresher is not what I take in but rather what I give out. I call it “cool-aid.”
I remember a dance on the last night of youth conference. A younger boy was sitting by himself. “This next dance is girls’ choice,” a voice announced. One of the sharpest girls in the stake walked up to this boy and asked him to dance. It wasn’t a setup. It wasn’t a service project. No leaders said that every girl had to dance with at least one shy boy before the night was over. This young woman simply noticed someone who needed a hand. She did what she could to make someone else feel cool—cool-aid.
I remember a big group date where we ended up at a friend’s house making cookies. We had a contest to see who could do the best decorating job, and just when I thought the date was over, my friend announced we were now going to deliver the cookies to missionaries and families in the ward. “And no one better get caught,” he said smiling.
We had a blast going from door to door. One sister was too quick for us. She caught us on her front porch. When we handed her the plateful of our masterpieces, her face lit up. It was cool—cool-aid.
I remember one night when a friend, Adam, and I couldn’t find dates, so we called up a young couple we knew and announced we wanted to give them a night out. We picked up their kids, took them to an animated movie and then for ice cream. The kids loved the movie and the ice cream. There was mint chocolate chip and rainbow sherbet everywhere. Before we dropped them off, we played Superman and twirled them around in circles until we were totally dizzy. The whole night was cool—cool-aid.
Finally, I’ll always remember a man I met when I was driving a delivery van through downtown Seattle. I was earning money for my mission. I met a wide variety of people, but Larry was the most interesting by far. I had just run some boxes into a store and was hustling back to my van when he came up alongside and extended his hand.
“Hi, my name is Larry. Will you be my friend?”
“You bet,” I agreed with a smile. It was plain that Larry was mentally disabled. I’m sure some thought it was funny he would walk up to a total stranger asking for friendship. But I believe Larry was only innocently asking out loud the same question so many ask silently, Will you be my friend? If we would all just say, “Sure,” wouldn’t it be cool? Cool-aid.
We all know how it feels to be thirsty, so thirsty we can hardly stand it. I’m convinced that’s how many in the world feel right now, thirsty for attention, approval, acceptance, and love. We can do something about it! By giving cool-aid—the coolest aid of real selfless service—to those around us, we can quench the thirst that our brothers and sisters have and leave joy that will last longer than the purple mustaches on my upper lip ever did.