Many years ago, there was a woman who attended the same ward I did. She “got under my skin.” Too opinionated, I figured. Always sticking her nose in other people’s business. She has an answer for everything.
I decided she was just “out to lunch”, so to speak, and we would probably never be friends. She was much older than me, anyway….and we seemed worlds apart in some of our philosophies. Deciding to “live and let live,” I went my way, and tried to stay out of hers. This is one woman I did not care to know.
We were called to serve on a committee together. Great, I thought. This is not going to be very enjoyable!
It wasn’t. After a month or so, this woman and I were paired up to do a project together. Hmmm…I wonder if we can switch off partners so that both she and I can have a more productive time. We aren’t even friends.
We began to talk as we worked. After all, we couldn’t sit there in abject silence, right?
The topics of conversation were shallow at first. But about the third week into this project, a floodgate opened as we chit chatted. One topic led to another, which led to another. I found myself sharing deep thoughts, personal concerns, hopes and dreams. She was a wonderful listener and one who spoke her mind clearly, lovingly, and with insight and wisdom. We shared a number of things in common. I began to see “Sister N” with different eyes. Those traits that grated on my nerves no longer would bother me. I saw her differently now.
Hmmm, a quiet voice inside my heart spoke up, maybe I’m the one who has been “out to lunch.” What was I thinking?
My best guess is that I wasn’t. Making a quick judgment call based on no real knowledge or understanding, I would have missed out on knowing a beautiful, quirky lady who had a heart of pure gold.
We built a great friendship. I learned a lot. I mean, a lot, from this lady. Her standards were high and her desires were pure. Maybe it was her purity that seemed, at first, to make her so different than many. Time and again, she could make me laugh, cause me to think, engage me in mental exercises that would force my thinking through things – even if I didn’t want to. Her ways will remain a memory for all my life, and her influence has made me a more thoughtful and positive person. [That’s what Sister N said, anyway…. And in the spirit of being positive, I will hope it’s so. If not, I claim it and will keep working at it, in her memory.]
From her, I learned that friendships are not limited to like-age, like-economy, or like- circumstances. It is a wide open field. And, according to Sister N, woe unto us if we miss the blessings that could be ours from opening our hearts and our mouths. There may be friendships to enjoy even with those persons who don’t “think like us”, “act like us”, or “speak like us.” There need be no boundaries in the business of building friendships…. even with those persons we have formerly had hard feelings toward. Although it may be harder to build the bridge of alliance with someone who has hurt us… even that is possible… and beautiful.
Whenever it is built upon righteousness, a friendship can grow. If we need to fertilize ourselves a bit, so that the seeds of camaraderie can better expand, then so be it. The investment in trying to understand Sister So-and-so or Mr. Such-and-such yields a harvest of gladness. In the meantime, we may better develop our ability to think more clearly, wipe away the cobwebs of negativity or finger pointing, and learn a lot more about ourselves and our neighbors.
And what of those who dare to tell us what they really think? Bless them! From Elder Marvin J. Ashton, we learn “A friend is a person who will suggest and render the best for us regardless of the immediate consequences.” [Conference Report, October 1972, p. 33.]
There is an old poem that speaks of the simplest – and yet, perhaps, hardest- way to increasing our circle of loved ones and growing our garden of friendships. It goes like this:
TO KNOW ALL IS TO FORGIVE ALL
If I knew you and you knew me –
If both of us could clearly see,
And with an inner sight divine
The meaning of your heart and mine –
I’m sure that we would differ less
And clasp our hands in friendliness;
Our thoughts would pleasantly agree
If I knew you, and you knew me.
Sister N [who has long ago passed from this earth] knew her stuff. Now I can look back and recognize that she saw my negativity toward her. For all I know, she asked to partner with me for that project. Her goal? To get to know me and allow me to know her—so that our hands could clasp in friendliness.
She was right, of course. We became the closest and most loving of friends. Her example and influence remain with me to this day. The lessons in righteousness gained from her are long and humbling. She saw a young woman who needed some loving tutelage from a feisty older woman with the vision and heart to give it. I grew to know her. I‘m pretty sure she sensed enough to know me from the get-go. She helped me learn about fertilizing this heart of mine in order to harvest real and lasting friendships. She taught me to see a little more clearly.
I think about her often . I’m glad I knew her.