"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
May 22, 2014
When Kindness Has a Downside
by Hannah Bird

Recently, I wrote about a car accident involving my husband and five of our children. They were in a vehicle that rolled repeatedly on the highway.  

All of them were wearing seatbelts. All of them walked out of the vehicle. The injuries the children sustained were few and minor. My husband has significant injuries to his scalp, but not his brain.

Everyone hurts. They are going to physical therapy in hopes that the pain will not become long-term.

I am, of course, more grateful than I can express. I have had those heart-stopping moments of "what if" and even the imagining is more than I can bear. There was no "what if" for us.

Others have shared my gratitude and wonder. We have been the recipients of greater kindnesses than we knew how to accept. We feel so loved.

Yet -- there is a little worrisome thing.

As soon as the accident happened we heard so many kind thoughts. People told us we were blessed. We feel it. People told us angels were watching over us. Perhaps they were. Some told my children that this meant they have a special purpose. Of course I think so. But I am their mother. A few even speculated that we were just living right. That's when I knew -- they were just plain wrong.

I feel so fortunate. I am deeply grateful. I think that my children are the specialest specials that ever specialed. But we have wandered back onto troublesome ground. People are trying to say kind things. But those kindnesses have a downside.

My children all survived. They were wearing seatbelts. My husband was doing everything right. So they lived. Except that my cousin-in-law had a beautiful sister that rolled a Suburban. She was wearing her seatbelt. She was not at fault. She is gone.

Ten years ago, I was pregnant with my last child. He started failing in utero. We didn't know that. I just went into preterm labor. I gave birth early and we were lifeflighted to Primary Children's Hospital.

Machines replaced his failing lungs. Doctors replaced the blood cells he had stopped making. He is running through my house right now dressed as a cowboy. We needed a cowboy because just a few moments ago he came running through dressed as an outlaw and stole my duct tape.

But my beautiful friend Cheryl's only son was born sleeping. She loved him as fiercely as I love mine. But her arms will reach out for him for the rest of her life and remain empty.

I got married when I was 20. It was a good idea. I have been married for almost 23 years. We have sorted out most of our nonsense. We are happy to see each other. An honored friend was abandoned with four children by an unfaithful husband. Her bishop told her she would remarry quickly because no one as great as her could stay single long. Instead she has been alone for 30 years.

She is a lovely human being and I was a real idiot. Neither of us deserved for our stories to go the way they did.

This is the truth of it: we don't know why. We long to. We want to understand. And that can tempt us to fill in all these uncertainties with stories of our own. But that is not faith.

We are not promised safe passage on this journey. Telling ourselves otherwise is not faith. It is not faith to think that if I check enough boxes I will be immune from the effects of a fallen world. I cannot do enough good to ensure that I will never feel the sting of mortality. Great blessings do not mean I am a great person.

But still I am commanded to be grateful. How do we do that without filling in the gaps of understanding with what may be untruths?

Thessolonians 5:18 is one of my very favorite scriptures. "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." I love it because it is so simple: In every thing.

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with a complex respiratory disorder. It is a form of COPD. I will battle this for the rest of my life. It is likely the way I will shuffle off this mortal coil. A lot of people have prayed for me to be healed. The short answer is I am not. The long answer is I have been healed in this affliction more than I could have imagined. But I am so grateful.

I think maybe this is faith. I believe that my family being safe was a reason to give thanks. I believe that my poor health is also a reason to give thanks. It is not because I know what is a blessing and what is a trial. It is because I believe that the Lord will work these things for my good. Even the cups that do not pass.

It's a good thing to remember when we are holding up the hands that hang down. It is just as important to remember when we are rejoicing with them that rejoice.  "God is great" is a better way to approach our lives than "Because I am great."  And also, it is true.


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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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