Yesterday I listened to a conference talk on my way to work. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told the story of an aged couple. The woman was losing her sight and could no longer paint her own fingernails. Her husband started doing it for her because it put a smile on her face, and he wanted her to be happy. He continued to do this for five years, up until the time that his wife passed away.
It was only a small thing, but this act of tenderness between a husband and wife touched me. It seems to me to be an utterly unselfish thing, a true act of service that showed this husband’s true colors. I want to be more like him.
Listening to this talk reminded me of something that happened ten years ago. When we lived in Oregon, Elder Wirthlin came to our stake conference. He told of a story about when he was a boy. He had attended a conference where an elderly woman spoke. This woman had met the Prophet Joseph Smith when she was young, and had shaken his hand. Elder Wirthlin thought to himself, “If I shake that woman’s hand, it would be only one handshake away from the Prophet.” After the meeting, the young Joseph Wirthlin sought out the woman and shook her hand. At the conference, Elder Wirthlin offered to stay after the session long enough for anyone to shake his hand so they could be only two handshakes away from the Prophet. Of course, I took him up on his offer.
These simple acts of kindness have inspired me. It is the small, simple things, motivated by genuine caring, that are the most meaningful things in life. I am determined to do better at following Elder Wirthlin’s example.
Something I heard a few weeks ago opened my eyes. Since then, I have been thinking about marriage as one long, continuous conversation between two people. It started for us when I was 17 and my future wife was 15. We met at seminary, but the first time I ever really talked to Cristi was at a Halloween party put on by the seminary teacher, Brother Price. I thought this girl was darling and so funny and pretty—an absolute knock out. The conversation soon developed into a letter writing campaign because we lived 70 miles apart. Email was not an option then. It was so fun to go out to the mailbox (on the ranch, that was almost a mile from our house) and find a letter from this adorable girl who liked me.
In the first letter I got from Cristi, she included some verses from the hymn ”More Holiness Give Me.” Our early conversations were usually very uplifting. We talked about the Church, the scriptures, my mission, the future. Soon enough, we started tiptoeing over the topic of romantic love. Before my mission, we even held hands a few times while we walked and talked about the possibilities of a long-term relationship.
During my mission, hundreds of letters traveled between Oregon and Ohio. On several occasions, something strange happened: The phone would ring at our humble missionary apartment. I’d pick it up and say, “Hello. This is Elder Fitzgerald.” Then I would hear the laughter of a half-dozen college co-eds and the phone would hang up on the other end. I learned after my mission that it was Cristi and her roommates calling on a dare. Not a long conversation, but an interesting one nevertheless.
Our conversation continued after my mission. Starry-eyed talk of love, commitment, temples, and how many children we would have was soon replaced by who would do the dishes, how much money we could spend at McDonalds (“But I’m still hungry!”), and whether or not the lid to the liquid dish soap remained open at all times or not, intermixed with dreams and schemes of graduating college, owning a home, and generally acting like grown ups. We figured out our lives, together.
Then our conversation matured into a thousand questions. Who would get up with the baby this time? When are you coming home from work? Where did all the money go? When will she get home from her date? Do you still love me even though I…? Will she live to see her grandchildren?
The conversation continues. And it gets better and better by the day. I love my Church calling and my job, but I can’t wait to be home with my wife so we can talk and be together. I call her several times a day when I’m away. We chat online when I am at work. I want to know all about
her day and she wants to know about mine. I can’t think of anything sweeter than continuing this conversation into eternity. It’s the best conversation I have ever had.
Yesterday, the bishopric gave a presentation on three youth awards sponsored by the Church: Faith in God for Girls, Faith in God for Boys, Young Men Duty to God , and Young Women Personal Progress. Something that Lewis said in his talk yesterday really pierced me. It was a quote from Robert D. Hales.
“The choices you make today will directly influence the number and kinds of opportunities you will have in the future. Each daily decision will either limit or broaden your opportunities. As you make righteous decisions…you will be ready to make righteous decisions in the future.” (Robert D. Hales, “Fulfilling Our Duty to God,” Ensign, November 2001.
So the choices you and I make today—whatever they may be—will either open up more choices in the future or close opportunities down. I know I’ll be thinking about this quote for weeks.
And I can’t forget Lon’s story about the Canadian schooner Bluenose, especially how the fact that the keel and ribs were exposed to harsh elements for many weeks during the winter it was constructed made it the fastest and fittest racing and fishing vessel on the Northeast coast for nearly 20 years. It makes me realize that the winters of our lives are designed to help and prepare us, not just “warp” and scare us.
Anything that is showing up in our lives that is trying and testing us is either there by Divine purpose, or if it is there by our own weak choices, can be refitted to our eternal, Divine education, if we let it.