A Jewish young woman attending Brigham Young University many years ago made a poster as part of a class assignment. On white background on the top half of the field, she wrote in large bold letters a phrase familiar to Latter-day Saints: "I Am a Child of God."
At first glimpse, the poster didn't seem very creative. But a closer look revealed she had written in very small letters and lighter type a thought-provoking, humbling reminder: ". . . and so is my neighbor."
One of her roommates, an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that the poster remains one of the most vivid memories of her university experience. "We, as members of His Church, don't have a monopoly on membership in His family," she said. "Everybody is a child of God. We are all brothers and sisters."
British novelist G.K. Chesterton (1884-1936) wisely noted: "We make our friends, we make our enemies, but God makes our next-door neighbour."
In his First Presidency Christmas Devotional address Dec. 3, 2000, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: "All of the earth's children are the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Fatherhood denotes brotherhood and sisterhood. We are of His family, you and I. We have within each of us something of His divinity. We have an obligation one to another. We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourself. It is the light of Christ which has brought into the world an enlarged sense of brotherhood." (Church News, Dec. 8, 2000, p. 3.)
Since there is no finer relationship in all the world than the family, we ought to cherish being in the same family and do our part to make it more harmonious and happy. How can we do that?
By ourselves, we cannot have much effect on all the earth's population, but we can make a difference in the lives of those we encounter each day. We can start by being kinder to each other. We can be more giving and less selfish. We can be more thoughtful and considerate. We can reach out to and serve others. We can be more supportive and helpful. We can be more loving. And, perhaps most of all, we can be more forgiving.
The mother of a child who had been critically ill told how she had been helped by others who had demonstrated these attributes. "There were days when my patience was thin, when I was tired and in a bad mood, when I was thinking that life isn't fair. People could have treated me the way I treated them, but many showed an increase of love and understanding. Now, whenever I have an unpleasant experience with someone, I don't get upset. I wonder, 'What has happened to make this person behave this way? Is there anything I can do to help?' "
Do we recognize others as members of Heavenly Father's royal household? Do we have compassion to help them in their hours of need, to mourn with them in their time of bereavement, to cheer them in their moments of loneliness, to visit them in their days of sickness or confinement?
Imagine our shame if the Lord says to us:
"I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
"I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: . . . sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. . . .
"Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." (Matthew 25:42-45.)
When one of Heavenly Father's children suffers travails during life's sojourn, how do we respond? Do we, like the priest and Levite described in the 10th chapter of Luke, avert our eyes from the needs of the unfortunate traveler on the way to Jericho, cross by on the other side of the road and continue our journey without delay? Or are we like the Samaritan who, with care and compassion, assisted the unfortunate traveler?
We make choices every day. And, every day, we can make a difference in the lives of Heavenly Father's children, our brothers and sisters in His family.