"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
May 23, 2013
Do the Right Thing
by Hannah Bird

Once, when I was a little girl, I was skipping rocks with my grandpa. Or rather, my brothers and Grandpa were skipping rocks and I was chucking them into the fishing pond and watching them unceremoniously sink to the bottom.

It isn’t that I didn’t want to skip rocks. I did. And I tried. Grandpa tried again and again to show me how. Pick a flat round rock. Wrap your finger around the curve. Move your wrist like this. He must have been right about the technique. His rocks skipped and skipped and skipped. My brothers were doing fine too. But still my stones plopped completely unskipped into the pond.

I was tearing up a little (ok, a lot — I was a whiner) and I held one more rock in my hand. I was determined to skip it. My Grandpa grabbed my hand and said, “You don’t want to throw that one.” He turned over the rock in my hand. I had noticed the perfect curve. But I had not noticed that it was part of a heart. Grandpa twinkled his blue eyes at me and I slipped the rock into my pocket.

I don’t remember what else happened that day. I can promise you that I whined on the long walk back up the house. My brothers probably caught a million fish. Most likely I stepped on a thistle. I am an adult now so I know that Grandpa was probably looking up at his fields and worrying about planting or harvesting or watering or something farmly like that.

But I do remember that rock. Since then every time I have come across a heart-shaped rock, I have saved them. I like to think my Grandpa knew that I was going to need to find those love notes from him as I found much worse thorns to trip over and whine about.

But maybe he didn’t.

Another once, when I was a little girl, I was in the worst Primary class ever. We hadn’t been members of the Church that long, and the transition from Quaker School to Ultimate Championship Primary was a hard one for me.

The boys in the class were unruly. The girls in the class (me absolutely included) overreacted wildly, making any annoyance that much more satisfying. We had a new teacher every week. Once we had a teacher quit during class. She just walked out. No one was surprised.

Shortly after that, the ward decide to sacrifice some fresh move-ins to our class. It turns out that they called the wife but the husband noted that she had plenty of callings and he had none. So we got a brilliant young novelist as a teacher.

Class didn’t improve much. A boy pulled down the rolling window shade and smacked me on the head with it. I threw a fit that could be seen from space. But my teacher did two things for me. First, when I told him that I was going to be a writer he told me that it was a great idea and he would be happy to read my book.

But second, he bore his testimony to our ravening mob. And when he did that I felt with as much surety as I have had ever that this was my place.  I have weathered storms of testimony, battles with church culture, and flat out heartache because I know this is my spot. Maybe he knew that I would need that.

But maybe he didn’t.

Not so very long ago, I joined an online forum. It was moderated by a cheerful woman who I came to admire greatly. One day I opined that there are two kinds of women. There are the precious and adored women who are the princesses of life and there are the scullery maids. I announced that I was an eternal scullery maid. She responded by promptly changing my name to Princess.

It was a silly thing. A tiny thing. I never thought of myself as the princess type. I was raised with the firm goal of being tough, capable, and reserved. A moment to be the Princess meant the world to me. Maybe she knew that.

But maybe she didn’t.

A few weeks ago, I became very ill. I spent long teary weeks in my bed. I felt utterly useless. I was a waste of a human being. I could not care for my family.

The pain and discomfort of illness is bad enough. But the helplessness of it is absolutely crushing. One day, my daughter brought a package up to my bed. It was a beautiful necklace sent to me from my sweet friend. It was engraved with a lovely quote about what the friendship contributed to her life. Maybe she knew that I was drowning in hopelessness. Maybe she knew I needed to feel like I still had something to offer.

But maybe she didn’t.

We spend our days running in and out of each other’s lives. We want so much to contribute. We want so much to do the right things — things that will protect and sustain our loved ones. We beat ourselves up and tear ourselves down. We worry and fret. We are sad because of what we don’t know.

I know that my grandfather’s greatest concern when he was diagnosed with cancer was his ability to watch over his children and grandchildren. I lost him far too soon after he and I were skipping (and not skipping) stones. I am sure that he thought of a million things that he wanted to do but I am also sure that he did not think, “I will give Hannah a heart shaped rock and it will sustain and protect her all the days of her life.” But he did. And it did.

We are told that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass. We believe it. Sort of. We believe that a little prayer can move a mountain. We believe that David could topple Goliath. But we still think that our big daily problems need big daily solutions. We are wrong.

So when we are trying to love, we have to remember that we don’t always know what the right thing is. We don’t know what moments are shaping and changing. We just have to be willing to listen and love. We have to be willing to be near each other and share stones and testimonies and names and treasures. Maybe ours will be forgotten.

But maybe not.


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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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