When I was in college, I was asked to serve in a Relief Society presidency (my church’s women’s organization) presiding over a group of college-aged girls. Because those of us in the presidency were all young and inexperienced, a few retired-aged women were assigned to work with us as mentors, to make sure we knew what we were doing. Because I had been a member of this specific college Relief Society group for a few years, I knew the two women who mentored the presidencies. They were both older, but one, Sister Harker, seemed especially old. I’m guessing she was in her late seventies or early eighties at the time. She was losing her eyesight, and to a young twenty-year-old girl, she seemed like someone who would be completely out of touch with the younger generation. I secretly hoped I wouldn’t be assigned to work with her.
As you might have guessed, I was assigned to work with her.
I remember approaching our first meeting thinking that we younger women would have to help Sister Harker along because she surely didn’t understand the needs and lives of young people. We wanted to plan fun activities! We lived in a fast-paced, exciting, college-aged world!
I remember thinking that Sister Harker would probably slow us down and hold us back from accomplishing all the things we wanted to do. Because of her age and health, I quickly measured her to be more of a liability than a help.
In other words, I soon learned I had been very proud, very ignorant, and very wrong.
Yes Sister Harker was older, and yes, she came from a very different generation than me. But Sister Harker had a gift that made all my youth and energy look meager in comparison. She had the gift of love. As I mentioned, she was losing her eyesight, so she often couldn’t recognize faces unless she was very close to a person or heard their voice. We had around fifty girls in our group, and without her eyesight, it was really difficult for Sister Harker to get to know each girl individually. In fact many of the girls in our group probably didn’t know Sister Harker very well at all. I think it would have surprised many of them if they could have heard her in our meetings. Whether she knew them well or not, she spoke of each member of our Relief Society with love and tenderness, as though they were her own granddaughters. She had deep concern for each girl’s well being. She worked endlessly to learn all their names, and tried so hard, despite her failing eyesight, to speak an encouraging word to each girl who would take the time to talk to her. Whenever someone in our Relief Society faced a challenge, Sister Harker’s love and concern for them was so sweetly sincere that it was humbling to witness.
I still think of Sister Harker periodically, and I cherish the lesson she taught me, to be humble, to not judge, and to love without restraint. These are things many of us talk about, but it’s when we witness them in action that we truly learn just how powerful they can be.
One of my favorite songs is a Primary song called “He Sent His Son.”
How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?
He sent his Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness.
How could the Father show the world the pathway we should go?
He sent his Son to walk with men on earth that we may know.
How could the Father tell the world of sacrifice, of death?
He sent his Son to die for us and rise with living breath.
What does the Father ask of us? What do the scriptures say?
Have faith, have hope, live like his Son, help others on their way.
What does he ask?
Live like his Son.
People like Sister Harker have taught me that our Father in Heaven didn’t just send his Son to walk with us. He has sent many people to this earth to walk with us. As we take time to walk with each one, to try to love and understand them the way our Father in Heaven loves them, we can learn the power of His love. When we walk together, we truly learn the meaning of mourning with those that mourn, comforting those that stand in need of comfort, and rejoicing with those that do rejoice.
Thank you Sister Harker, for taking the time to walk with me. And thank you to all the many other beautiful people who I’ve been blessed to journey with from time to time. You have made my journey brighter. You have provided my scenic views along the way. You have lifted me to become better than I was alone.
For a particularly beautiful rendition of “He Sent His Son,” check out The Lower Lights version at the link below. It’s one of my favorites.