I remember standing with a group of friends one Saturday morning in 1972 while waiting for a ride to a Boy Scout Jamboree and suddenly noticing that I was the only one without a Scout shirt. I felt embarrassed and wanted to cry.
A few minutes later, Brother Rex Williams, my neighbor and newly called Young Men president, pulled me aside and asked if I wished to wear a shirt that his oldest son had outgrown. He took me to his home and, to my great gratitude, the shirt fit.
I felt fortunate to attend the jamboree with my friends and feel that I was one of them.
Looking back, I realize how important the shirt was to helping me feel a part of the group. At a time when my father was not active in the Church, I needed the support of peers to help sustain me. I could have felt outcast, and could have easily gone inactive.
But perhaps more important was the thoughtful way Brother Williams relieved my embarrassment. Where some leaders might try to motivate a boy by embarrassing him in front of his peers, Brother Williams was aware of my family circumstances and probably knew that I would have worn a shirt if I had one.
Finding a shirt for me was a relatively small thing. But now years later, I see how preserving my dignity has proven crucial in my life.
His thoughtful concern was evident again a few years later after high school. I was attending a university on a football scholarship. During my freshman year, I would often come home during the weekends. This was a difficult time in life for me as I considered serving a mission.
Nearly every Saturday on the weekends when I came home, Brother Williams would see my car in the driveway and stop for a visit. He would often go downstairs and just talk with me in the den. I had questions and concerns and he did his best to alleviate my worries.
With his encouragement, I chose to serve a mission. After receiving my call to serve in the California San Bernardino Mission in 1980, I attended the stake missionary preparation classes where I found Brother and Sister Williams. He had been called to preside over a mission in Florida.
I thought it odd that he would attend a class with 19-year-olds. With all his experience in the Church, I asked him why he and his wife felt they needed to attend. He simply said that he, too, had to learn more about serving a mission. I think he also found particular pleasure observing the young men whom he had once served as Young Men president.
I'm grateful that the Church has such excellent leaders as Rex Williams. It wasn't until years later that I could really appreciate the time Brother Williams took to look after the youth and me. I'm sure that the love he has for the youth of the Church served him well years later when he was called as president of the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.
T. Matt Hansen resides in the McLean Virginia Stake where he was recently released as the stake executive secretary.