Recently, in the General Women’s Session of General Conference, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints emphasized the need to reach out to serve refugees and others who may be facing significant life challenges. These challenges may include finding employment, adjusting to a new culture, learning a new language, and making new friends. As I was pondering this invitation, I remembered an experience that had taught me how to love a stranger.
A few months ago, I rode in a carpool with a friend, her young son, and an older woman I was acquainted with. I knew that this woman had some irregular social behaviors, and I was worried that my friend’s son would be a little afraid of sitting next to her in the car. As time passed, she began to teach him little songs and tricks for counting, and she shared some snacks with him. To my surprise, he warmed up to her easily—acting more friendly than he has ever acted toward me.
A few days later, I carpooled with my friend and her son again, without the woman this time. The little boy sweetly asked, “Where’s my friend?” and we realized quickly to whom he was referring. In just a couple of hours, he had come to love a person that I had had trouble loving.
We can learn so much from children about accepting others and looking past their differences. I remember times in my life when I have met people and immediately begun to categorize the person, based on appearance or speech, into the type of person I believed he or she was. Most of the time, after getting to know the person, I have realized my gross mistake and misjudgment.
In contrast, most children are unassuming when they meet new people—they seem to see everyone as equals, including strangers. They don’t jump to making comparisons or casting judgment as some adults are prone to doing. For example, when I have taught children for the first time in church settings and public school settings, they have usually welcomed me with loving hearts, not caring what my background was or how well I delivered a lesson.
The little girl in this video from October 2015 General Women’s Session of General Conference shows another example of childlike acceptance of another who sometimes feels left out. If only we could all be that open-minded toward others and their circumstances!
Accepting others, seeing people as equals, and being open-minded are qualities that I know will help me better reach out and help my neighbors. I hope to follow the example of children who see others with such genuine love.
—Leah Davis Christopher, Stance
Image and video from lds.org