The Helpful Stranger


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President Kimball

A young mother on an overnight flight with a two-year-old daughter was stranded by bad weather in the Chicago airport without food or clean clothing for the child and without money. She was two months 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."

The ending of this story comes from a letter written to President Kimball years later.:

"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 2l years ago in the Chicago airport. The story told of how you met a young pregnant mother with a young screaming child in ...a (condition of) 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 of 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!"

(quoted by Gordon B. Hinckley, Christmas Devotional address, 18 Dec., 1983)

President Spencer W. Kimball:

"God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom. The people of the Church need each other's strength, support, and leadership...In the Doctrine and Covenants we read about how important it is to '...succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.' (D&C 81:5).

So often, our acts of service consist of simple encouragement or of giving mundane help with mundane tasks, but what glorious consequences can flow from mundane acts and from small but deliberate deeds!" ("Small Acts of Service," Ensign, Dec. 1974, p. 5)

"He That Is Greatest Among You" (Luke 22:14-15, 24-27)