Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What Charity Feels Like

"Charity" by William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1878

In college I worked on a volunteer Rape Crisis Response team.

For three years I took turns carrying a pager for 48 hours each month, responding to dozens of summons from the hospital and the police office to help women who had just reported a rape.

I stayed with women as they went through the physical exams to "prove" they had been raped, I held their hands as they talked to the police, I fed them, I listened, I gave them new clothes and underwear out of my backpack when the police had to keep theirs as evidence, and-- while they rarely cried-- I waited with them as their hearts broke.

It was a hard job, and to this day I am not quite sure what possessed me to sign up or to keep at it for three years.

In fact, I dreaded every time I had to carry the pager.  I lived in constant fear that it would go off and I would have to drop what I was doing and go. It wasn't that I didn't feel that what I was doing wasn't important, it was just that it was a pretty thankless job. Most of the women I helped were too much in survival mode to thank me for my help (and I would never have expected them too), most of the doctor and nurses were too busy to pay me much attention, the police officers usually saw me as a nuisance, and except for the occasional friend or sister who acknowledged my presence rarely did anyone appreciate what I was doing. Still, I knew that being there made a difference and so I kept showing up, but it was hard.

I remember one time in particular, Jon and I were newly married and our friends were visiting from out of town on a Sunday afternoon. I had just made dinner and we were just about to sit down to eat when the pager went off. I called into the office and learned that there was an 18-year-old girl at the hospital who needed my help.

More than anything in the world I did not want to go. I didn't want to leave my friends and my fresh baked dinner. I knew what awaited me, 8 + hours in the hospital filled with a lot of sadness and heartache, and I just plain didn't want to go. I seriously considered not showing up. I reasoned that the girl didn't even know that I was suppose to come and she would be okay without me anyway.

In the end my conscience won out and I went... but I wasn't happy about it. 

I grumbled all the way to the hospital, I grumbled all the way across the parking garage, I grumbled all the way up the stairs and into the emergency room. Yet as soon as I saw the girl who needed my help I forgot all about my friends and dinner and poured my heart into helping her.

Ten hours later, I drove home just as the sun was coming above the mountains.

As I parked my car in the drive way of our little house I made myself take a moment and remember what I felt like. Even though it had been a sad night, I felt deep joy. I knew that I had just been an administering angel to that girl in her time of need. I knew the Lord had blessed me to say and do things that would help her.  I felt sad remembering  how much I had not wanted to respond to the call, and how I almost hadn't gone.

This, I told myself,  is what charity feels like.

Charity is giving service even when you really don't want to. Charity is giving service even when it goes completely unrecognized. Charity is giving service when it is the hardest thing you have ever had to do. Charity is giving when you have nothing. Charity is completely loosing yourself on behalf of someone else.
" ... Charity... suffereth long... vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up... seeketh not her own... Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth." (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)
 In those moments in my car I realized that charity is the type of service that makes us freeze in our tracks and yell, "That is asking too much!"

It is putting your dreams on hold to be there for a siblings who needs you, it is carrying a baby when your body aches in pain, it is caring for your elderly parents in your home when it would be easier to pay someone else to do it, it is getting up in the middle of the night with a sick child, it is answering a friend's phone call when you know she is going to need to talk for hours, it is waiting all night with a girl who has just been raped...  it is, literally, giving of yourself.

Just like the Savior did.

Real charity is never easy to give, which is in exactly  how you know you are giving it.

What times in your life have you given, or received, true charity? 


  1. I'm the compassionate service coordinator for my ward. I really have no idea what I am doing most of the time. But in the last few weeks our ward has been in crisis. I have seen our ward members spring into action to help each other out. I don't know if they are grumbling about it, but they do it without even thinking, and that is what has impressed me the most. I have just seen so many little miracles. I am starting to understand why 'Charity Never Faileth".

  2. Oh wow Heather. You must have a special talent for working with women to be able to give that service to those women.
    For me it's being the Primary president in my ward right now. It's SO hard for me. I just had a baby, 4 small children, homeschooling, shy, never had a leadership calling before, etc. Part of me just wants to scream, "I can't do this. I don't WANT to do this!"
    But, I know it's good. And now I appreciate so much more the Primary leaders I had as a child. I also better understand and appreciate what other church leaders do as I see how much work and love go into their callings. It's so hard, but worth it!

  3. My husband is in the army and we live thousands of miles from any family. When I had our 4th child, he had to leave the day I came home from the hospital. My parents who both work full time had already been with us for as long as they could, and they left that day also. I remember standing at the doorway watching them all leave for the airport, just hours after coming home from the hospital, with a newborn in my arms and three other young children around me. I had a mixture of emotions, but I knew it would be alright. Just 10 minutes earlier a sister from my ward had called as my parents and husband were getting out the door. I normally wouldn't have answered the phone at a time like that, but I'm glad I did. I quickly told her what was going on, and then she told me that her young single adult daughter was going to bring dinner, and spend the night at my house so that I could rest while she took care of my other children. I was hesitant because I didn't want to be a burden, but she insisted. What a blessing she and her daughter were to me and our little family that night, and a true example of charity.

  4. You know I felt this way on Saturday. I was asked to help. I knew it was an unpleasant task ahead of me. But I also knew that there was only 2 of us who would have done this job...and I didn't want the other woman to face it alone. Glad to read your post today...and know that it's okay to feel like it's hard, or that "I don't wanna" ...for a moment. And then proceeding...and knowing I was helpful and needful.

  5. I did that in Provo too for a few years. It inspired to pursue a bachelors and masters in social work. I don't work outside the home now, but I am so thankful for the experience I had with the rape crisis team.

  6. I feel this way with childhood cancer and this has been our journey through cancer with our now 3 year old. I feel pain and heartache as i talk to newly diagnosed childrens mothers or others who have relapsed but i know how heavy their hearts are and cant help but listen as others have done for me when i needed most. What a wonderful gift you gave those women...the most importabt jobs are often thankless. When a person is in crisis mode it can be hard to even recognize who is to be thanked until its too late for some.

  7. Thank you for sharing your wise words. Beautiful post!

  8. Real charity is never easy to give, which is in exactly how you know you are giving it.... Yes. Lovely, my friend.

  9. This post was lovely and a real eye opener. After reading it I thought about your final question and felt quite sad as I couldn't really think of anything that I would consider to be real charity. It's something I apparently need to work on.

    Thank you for your service to those young ladies. They might not remember your name or what you looked like but at least they know that someone cared and still cares. =)

  10. My patriarchal blessing mentions me having true charity and knowing of those blessings. At times I have thought- this is it, this is one of the times it's talking about, what it means, etc. Joseph Smith said "I posses the principle of Charity" and when I don't feel it I say "Charity has left the body!" and I've felt that A LOT lately!

    I should of done what you have done. I would have a better job had I done that. Good for you for doing it for 3 years! You could of got hired on in a woman's shelter, but you are doing career # 1- motherhood! Heavenly Father is proud of you!

    Hugs and best wishes for your move!

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  12. I wish I had read this last week before I taught in RS on Sunday!!! First off that is amazing that you did that. It sort of sounds like being a doula, but for a sad reason instead of a happy one. But similar in the support you give.

    Also I SO agree sometimes Charity is "In those moments in my car I realized that charity is the type of service that makes us freeze in our tracks and yell, "That is asking too much!" "

    I was led to a car accident last week and stopped to help until the ambulance arrived. I didn't WANT to, but knew I HAD to. I didn't get thanks for it, but know it was what needed to be done and know I helped. But sometimes it does feel like too much!