It is rare that we understand the good that comes from service. Several small acts of kindness from others at critical times in my life resulted in changes or decisions that have proven to be crucial. But in spite of some efforts at belated thanks, these friends or good Samaritans probably have no idea how important their kindness was. But sometimes we get an inspiring glimpse of what selfless service can do. Today, for example, I learned about the consequences of a famous act of kindness that came President Spencer Kimball. I had often heard people tell how a story of how he helped an expecting mother at an airport, but the consequences of that little story come as a more recent discovery. This is mentioned in this years’ LDS Priesthood Manual, around page 80:
President Spencer W. Kimball urged Latter-day Saints to engage in “simple acts of service” that would bless others’ lives as well as their own.1 He often found opportunities to offer such service himself, as the following account shows:
“A young mother on an overnight flight with a two-year-old daughter was stranded by bad weather in Chicago airport without food or clean clothing for the child and without money. She was . . . pregnant and threatened with miscarriage, so she was under doctor’s instructions not to carry the child unless it was essential. Hour after hour she stood in one line after another, trying to get a flight to Michigan. The terminal was noisy, full of tired, frustrated, grumpy passengers, and she heard critical references to her crying child and to her sliding her child along the floor with her foot as the line moved forward. No one offered to help with the soaked, hungry, exhausted child.
“Then, the woman later reported, ‘someone came towards us and with a kindly smile said, “Is there something I could do to help you?” With a grateful sigh I accepted his offer. He lifted my sobbing little daughter from the cold floor and lovingly held her to him while he patted her gently on the back. He asked if she could chew a piece of gum. When she was settled down, he carried her with him and said something kindly to the others in the line ahead of me, about how I needed their help. They seemed to agree and then he went up to the ticket counter [at the front of the line] and made arrangements with the clerk for me to be put on a flight leaving shortly. He walked with us to a bench, where we chatted a moment, until he was assured that I would be fine. He went on his way. About a week later I saw a picture of Apostle Spencer W. Kimball and recognized him as the stranger in the airport.’ ” [Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball (1977), 334]
Several years later, President Kimball received a letter that read, in part:
“Dear President Kimball:
“I am a student at Brigham Young University. I have just returned from my mission in Munich, West Germany. I had a lovely mission and learned much. . . .
“I was sitting in priesthood meeting last week, when a story was told of a loving service which you performed some twenty-one years ago in the Chicago airport. The story told of how you met a young pregnant mother with a . . . screaming child, in . . . distress, waiting in a long line for her tickets. She was threatening miscarriage and therefore couldn’t lift her child to comfort her. She had experienced four previous miscarriages, which gave added reason for the doctor’s orders not to bend or lift.
“You comforted the crying child and explained the dilemma to the other passengers in line. This act of love took the strain and tension off my mother. I was born a few months later in Flint, Michigan.
“I just want to thank you for your love. Thank you for your example!” (In Gordon B. Hinckley, “Do Ye Even So to Them,” Ensign, Dec. 1991, 5.)
We may never know whether our attempts at service have a lasting effect or not. Naturally, some efforts will have no lasting impact, but if we seek to follow the Spirit of the Lord in striving to follow Christ, some of our attempts will bring significant fruits that we may one day have the pleasure of understanding more fully. But seen or unseen, let’s not hesitate to do more for those in need of a little help. The difference we make could change lives in surprising ways.