I just finished a memoir written by Elizabeth Smart. In case you don’t remember, she is the young Mormon girl who was abducted and held for nine months before being rescued. I’m not going to review the book here, but some of Elizabeth’s experiences are worth thinking about. Periodically her captor took her into Salt Lake City with him — a place where she was known and people were looking for her. Yet, since she and her companions were dirty, looked weird (wearing long robes and veils) and appeared to be homeless they were avoided and ignored. She was too frightened by the threats of her abductor to speak with anyone or try to escape. She felt invisible. It made me sad to realize how most of us, every day, ignore the needy and helpless around us. Yet, in the book of James we are told:
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27
In other words, true religion is not just about going to church every Sunday and refraining from sin; it’s about identifying with and helping the most vulnerable people in our society. For a review of a book on this topic, see this post:
In this book, Raleigh Sadler will open your eyes to the many helpless people we walk by without a thought.
In addition, Elizabeth Smart enumerated times when she felt grateful, even during those nine dreadful months. The things that made her happy were so simple — a motorist giving them a lift after miles of walking in the hot sun; someone stopping at MacDonald’s to pick up hamburgers for them; a free community Thanksgiving feast, when she got to eat all she wanted after weeks of hunger. In other words, things that all of us could do or help to do. It wouldn’t cost much or take much time. Yet we tell ourselves we are too busy, or that those homeless folks are lazy and undeserving of our help.
Now, I know we can’t do everything for everyone. I know that helping at the mission once in a while, or handing out a blessing bag or buying some sandwiches is only putting a bandage on a much bigger problem. I’m just saying, think about what these little things might mean to one person. They meant something to Elizabeth.