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I went to bed crying one night last week. Three important, but very distressing – at least to me — Meridian articles left my heart grieving for the sadness and pain that exists for many of us, even with the light of the Gospel to guide us.

The three articles are:

1) Darla Isackson’s powerful article, “Shedding A Light On Spiritual Abuse”, a term that is new to me.
2) Jonathan Decker’s article on “White Privilege”,
3) The blog article, “A Letter To My Mormon Neighbors”from the mother of a different faith whose children have experienced great rejection in their predominantly LDS community.

These articles generated a flood of Meridian reader comments.  Many were very raw and brought more opinions, emotions and experiences than my little heart could hold. We’ve each been rejected in varying degrees at one time or another, in one form or another.  It happens when we’re young.  It happens when we’re old.   It is a great commonality that should never be – but undeniably is a fact of life, for both the greatest and the least of us.  Sometimes it stings mildly for us to learn and grow.  Sometimes it leaves such damaging wounds and scars that the hurts last a lifetime and even into another generation.

As I read those three articles, followed the next morning with news about the attacks and deaths in Spain, it occurred to me that the current furor and common element to all three of these articles is one major thing:  coming to terms with the truth that we are all not the same nor were we ever intended to be.  Whether it’s the color of our skin, our religion, our culture, or a myriad of other differences that do not matter in terms of sharing the earth and our time here, the answer is: No! we are not the same.  And why should we be?  Why do we try to make this so?

Fact: A quick look at nature tells us everything we need to know: From microscopic simple-celled organisms, to the incredible and numberless wonders of nature and the animal world, then on to the miraculous complexities of the human body, our Heavenly Father makes it perfectly clear that He thrives on variety!  Could it be He wants us to as well or there would not be such infinite variety in every one of his innumerable creations, including the human race?

Fact: It was the Adversary’s plan that we all be the same and choose the same.

Fact:  The adversary wants us to be unhappy and focus on our differences.  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf adds:  “One of the ways Satan wants us to manipulate others is by dwelling upon and even exaggerating the evil in the world. Certainly our world has always been, and will continue to be, imperfect. Far too many innocent people suffer because of circumstances of nature as well as from man’s inhumanity. The corruption and wickedness in our day are unique and alarming … I don’t believe God wants His children to be fearful or dwell on the evils of the world. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear,” April 2017 General Conference)

Fact: Kindness begins with me.  Whether we personally experience it to the degree we desire or not, we inspire goodness by being accepting and loving in our homes, Wards and communities.

Fact:  It’s up to us to teach children the doctrine of Christ, His example, and then by our own examples about how to love and how to be kind, especially when it comes to being kind to others who are different in physical appearance, religions and traditions.

President Uchtdorf continues:  “We are blessed beyond measure to live in a day of unparalleled prosperity, enlightenment, and advantage. Most of all, we are blessed to have the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which gives us a unique perspective on the world’s dangers and shows us how to either avoid these dangers or deal with them.”

Thank goodness for the Savior, His goodness, example and strength when the world around is at such great odds with the differences between us.  Thank goodness for the Scriptures, Psalms and the Hymns.  They always provide comfort and often even divine answers on how to love, accept, create healthy boundaries, change and forgive.

Thank goodness, too, for gifted authors and musicians, who are able to create perspective and bring characters, words and music into our lives to enrich and teach us that life is good and well-worth the living, despite its complicated difficulties.

Coming to a personal place of understanding, coping, growing, accepting and embracing the truth that there’s not much you can change other than yourself, is not child’s play. In addition to the scriptures, there are some inspiring directions for profound understanding within some recent works that are written for children, but are equally excellent for adults.  President Monson is a master at teaching with a story, and his is another good example to follow when it comes to teaching our children.

Teaching about choosing kindness at home means kindness at school, at work and far, far beyond into a troubled world.  Blessed is the child who has a parent who will read and discuss these most enjoyable and powerful books with them. The story lines, conflicts and characters teach of compassion, hope and courage in unforgettable ways.  No matter your age, my hunch is that you’ll probably cry at the end too, with a greater desire to be kinder, braver with diversity and your own personal challenges, and to be far more Christlike.

Books:  Here are three stories about three unique children who overcame physical and family challenges.  Their courage to embrace their own differences (compared to those around them) ended up changing not only their own worlds, but their  families and communities as well.  And that’s a lesson too! 

Book Title: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Newbery Honor Book
Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2015
New York Public Library’s 100 Books for Reading and Sharing

The year is 1939 and Hitler is on the move. Ten-year-old Ada, who was born with a severe clubfoot, has been confined since birth to a small London flat with her single, abusive mother.  Somehow she manages to escape with her six-year-old brother Jamie to join other London children who are being evacuated to the countryside.  Ada and Jamie have been horribly neglected physically and emotionally.  For the first time in their lives, they are kindly cared for by a single woman with some very sad experiences of her own. You will rejoice as they slowly bond and heal, but not without a surprise ending that will leave you flipping the pages and staying up as late as necessary to see how it all concludes.  Yup, I cried my little heart out.

Amazon reviews indicate that, surprisingly, this is a very popular read aloud for as young as first and second graders as it is so skillfully written.  It introduces the sad elements of life (abuse and war) in a gentle way to children who may never experience these things firsthand, yet need to learn of compassion for those whose families, lives and opportunities are very different than theirs.

Wonder
Author: R. J. Palacio
New York Times Best Seller Juvenile Fiction
ALA Notable Children’s Book Winner
Amazon Best of the Year Winner
Nearly 10,000 5 Star Reviews on Amazon!

August “Auggie” Pullman is a 10-year-old living in a fictional neighborhood in upper Manhattan. He has a rare medical facial deformity, which he refers to as “mandibulofacial dysostosis”, more commonly known as Treacher Collins syndrome and a cleft palate.  His facial appearance is so extreme that he has been home-schooled up to the point where the story begins.  His parents, at odds themselves on how to help him enter the world, are very gifted with finding and using humor to sweeten difficult times and people, so you’ll be laughing as well with this well-crafted juvenile novel.

The responses of other fifth graders and their parents will both melt and break your heart.  One does not have to be the parent or the child of this difficult situation to be able to understand the world-changing importance of seeing and loving as the Savior does, from the inside and not the outward appearance.

The book is divided into sections with different key characters telling the story.  We were in another world for a couple of days after reading it.  It is being made into a movie that will be released this November. However, it was so exceptional as a book that I’m not sure at all that I want to see the movie and have it be diluted in any way.

Interestingly, this story was born from the author’s personal encounter with a child at an ice cream store who had a similar facial deformity.  Her own 3-old cried when she saw this little girl.  The author’s response to the situation (to quickly leave the ice cream store with her kids) left her with more questions than answers on how to confront the discomfort around differences, and how to “choose kindness.”

The author’s interview on NPR entitled “How One Unkind Moment Gave Way to ‘Wonder’” is well worth reading too.

Where The Mountain Meets The Moon
Author: Grace Lin
Newbery Honor Winner
New York Times Bestseller

Within the first two chapters, I was enchanted and inspired by Minli, the only daughter of poor, peasant rice farmers in China who live in a village called “Fruitless Mountain.”  In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions.  Her mother scoffs and bemoans his foolishness and their sad lot in life.  Inspired by these stories, however, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon to ask him how she can change  her family’s fortune. You’ll catch glimpses of a Chinese version of “The Wizard of Oz” as Minli embraces her own destiny of being different than everyone in their poor village with her courage to defy the odds and seek for the answers to bless her family’s life and bring good fortune.

Interwoven are short Chinese fairy tales that delight and teach.  When I went back to read the reviews on Amazon, I was very surprised to see how many parents reported this book was their first real “grown-up chapter” book with their five, six and seven-year old children.  Broken into such short chapters, with the Chinese fairy tales in between with some excellent Chinese drawings to break it up does, indeed make it a perfect bedtime chapter book that will captivate the whole family.

Music

Last but not least, and perhaps they should be mentioned first in this article, are the messages for children of all ages in our own Primary Song Book.  Music is an exemplary teacher providing a unique spirit of understanding that resides in the heart long after the song has ended.

Perhaps a world-wide sing along of three of our best children’s songs could inspire some peace, acceptance and forgineness at the end of this troubling summer.

“I’ll Walk With You” Children’s Song Book #140
If you don’t walk as most people do, Some people walk away from you,
B
ut I won’t! I won’t!
If you don’t talk as most people do, Some people talk and laugh at you,

But I won’t! I won’t! I’ll walk with you. I’ll talk with you.
That’s how I’ll show my love for you.

Jesus walked away from none. He gave his love to ev’ryone. So I will! I will
Jesus blessed all he could see,Then turned and said, “Come, follow me.”
And I will! I will! I’ll walk with you. I’ll talk with you.
That’s how I’ll show my love for you.

“I’m Trying To Be Like Jesus”  Primary Song Book  #78
I’m trying to be like Jesus; I’m following in his ways.
I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice, But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers,

Love one another as Jesus loves you, Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.”

I’m trying to love my neighbor, I’m learning to serve my friends
I watch for the day of gladness when Jesus will come again.
I try to remember the lessons he taught.
Then the Holy Spirit enters into my thoughts, saying:

“Love one another as Jesus loves you. Try to show kindness in all that you do
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought
For these are the things Jesus taught.”

“We Are Different”  Primary Children’s Song Book # 263
I know you, and you know me.
We are as different as the sun and the sea.
I know you, and you know me – And that’s the way it’s supposed to be

I help you, and you help me, We learn from problems, and we’re starting to see
I help you, and you help me And that’s the way it’s supposed to be!

I love you, and you love me we reach together for the best we can be.
I love you, and you love me, and that’s the way it is supposed to be!

And that’s the way it is supposed to be. By divine plan, we are meant to be different.  I love that! How blessed we are when we understand that, honor and embrace that, then share our Savior’s love by choosing kindness in how we treat others, even when they are different from us.

 

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents of eleven. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox. CLICK HERE