We read reports in newspapers and watch television newscasts portraying the worst behavior of people who seem to have no conscience. Then, before despair fully settles in, we read and see examples of people at their best, doing all they can to help others. While some actively work, others fervently pray.
One report told of the dramatic rescue of a 2-year-old boy in Japan who was found after his family's minivan had been buried four days by an earthquake-induced mudslide. When news broke that the van had been spotted, people were jubilant. However, their jubilation was tempered when they learned the boy's mother and sister had died. Rescuers were endangered as numerous aftershocks rocked the treacherous landscape; at times, they had to pull back to safer ground. "Residents evacuated to public shelters watched intently as the rescue unfolded on television, praying for the family's safety." The rescue of the boy was called a miracle. "We'd been telling ourselves we'd get them out," said one rescue worker. "But when he appeared . . . it was like, 'Can this be true?' " (Associated Press, in Deseret Morning News, p. A-4, Oct. 28, 2004).
In November 2004, more than 100 people gathered in Frisco City, Ala., to watch and pray through the night for the safe recovery of a 22-month-old boy who had fallen down the narrow shaft of a 14-foot well. Experts dug a shaft next to the one where the child was trapped, and rescue workers tunneled over to the well to reach the child. After nearly 13 tense hours, rescuers brought the child to the surface amid "cheers, tears and cries of 'Praise the Lord!' " (Associated Press report, in Deseret Morning News, p. F-1, Nov. 2, 2004).
More recently, news reports told of the miraculous reuniting of children and parents or other relatives in the aftermath of deadly tsunamis in southeastern Asia. A 2-year-old Swedish boy was found two days after the disaster separated him from vacationing family members in Thailand. A 7-year-old girl was reunited with her parents several weeks after the tsunami in Indonesia (Associated Press reports, Deseret Morning News, Jan. 9, 2005, and Jan. 20, 2005).
In each of these instances, people did their best to help others. Few of us will be called upon to perform heroic deeds of literally rescuing people or saving lives of those in mortal peril. However, we can help others daily, in ways that never reach the pages of newspapers or win spots on broadcasts. In the end, we'll discover that small, simple acts make big differences in the lives of people around us, whether they are family members, neighbors, classmates, co-workers, or people we meet on the street, in stores or wherever our daily tasks take us.
Raking leaves or shoveling snow for a neighbor might seem a small deed, but it reaps big feelings of gratitude and helps foster neighborliness. A hot meal taken to one who is ill, a ride offered to a grocery store, a visit to someone who is homebound, a telephone call or visit to one who is alone or lonely, a note or a few consoling words to the bereaved, a welcoming greeting to a new neighbor, a smile and a few kind words to one who is shy, or an effort to include in a group activity one who feels friendless can make a difference. In some cases, these individual or collective acts can change the quality of life for another.
On a daily basis, we see such deeds performed; perhaps we are recipients of the benevolent actions of others. Only a few hours before the Savior began the painful processes of the Atonement, He met with His apostles in an upper room and gave them the final instructions in His mortal ministry. Among His teachings at that farewell gathering was His declaration: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34-35).
Whether we're among the people who go into harm's way to save others from mortal danger or we're among those who wait, watch and pray or whether we're numbered among those who perform small, simple acts of kindness, we demonstrate that love of which the Savior spoke. And because we do, lives or souls are rescued, blessed and enriched.