"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
January 23, 2013
Reversing Our Downward Spiral: An Unexpected Solution
by Kathryn Grant

Several emails I’ve received lately have expressed dismay and concern about the state of our society and nation. We see “spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12), the voice of the people choosing iniquity (Mosiah 29:26 - 27), and the love of many waxing cold (Matthew 24:12).

These concerns are compounded by feelings of helplessness. After all, what can one person do, or even a group of people, to change the politics and culture of a society? The battle is an uphill one, and the chances of success, at least prior to the Second Coming, don’t seem particularly good.

As I pondered this challenge, I found an unexpected answer in a book called The Message by Lance Richardson. The book contains Lance’s account of his near-death experience after contracting a severe infection following an accident. During his experience, Lance was reminded that our nation is in serious trouble. But he was told that there was something that could bring our nation back from the brink of self-destruction. That thing is service.

Service. Simple, powerful, within everyone’s reach, and ultimately life-changing, as Lance and his family discovered.

After his health improved, Lance had an interesting thought: What if his family went on a “service” vacation? What if they traveled, not for amusement or entertainment, but with the specific goal of serving others wherever they went?

He discussed it with his family, and despite some hesitation, they decided to try it. They planned a two-week trip and set off with rakes, shovels, and other tools they thought they might need.

One surprising “tool” was a stack of homemade coupons that said, “Sometimes it’s just nice to know somebody cares. Have a great day! From _____” (the giver would sign his or her name on the line). They discovered that these simple coupons had a big impact on most recipients—like the deli worker who burst into tears and said how much she had needed some encouragement that day.

Once, they stopped to help an elderly woman whose car had broken down on the highway. Lance and his sons quickly changed the tire while his wife watched the younger children play on the hillside by the road. As they got ready to leave, several of the young girls gave the woman some wild flowers they had picked. The woman’s eyes became moist and she said, “You don’t know how much these flowers have touched me.”

Lance knew she greatly appreciated their help with the tire, but he sensed that the flowers had touched her the most. This experience reinforced for him the truth that each of us can reach out to others in our own way and make more of a difference than we might expect.

When Lance and his family got home, they didn’t want to stop serving. Although the vacation had been an amazing, life-changing experience, they also realized they didn’t have to look far to find ways to serve and make a profound difference in people’s lives.

So here’s the challenge for today’s column. Find a way to offer selfless service today. If you feel so inclined, make it a goal to offer some kind of service at least once each day. Our combined efforts could have more of an impact than we realize—for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our nation.

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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