During his decades of service within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Thomas S. Monson wove many tales of charity, service and kindness from his life. One could presume every widow in his wards had him on speed dial should a need for a helping hand ever arise.
But there’s another Thomas S. Monson, the young child who was born of the Great Depression.
Monson’s parents, George Spencer and Gladys Condie, raised him and his siblings during the worst economic time in our country. At the time, one could easily surmise his parents saved every penny and scraped the bottom of every can to save for their own family.
But these kind, giving parents decided instead to extend their substance to others less fortunate than them. Monson recalled innumerable occasions when transient and homeless individuals visited his home for an extra meal or hot bowl of soup.
His parents stepped up when others couldn’t or wouldn’t.
Perhaps Monson’s hallmark charity developed from his selfless parents.
Monson recalled during a general conference address how he once wanted an electric train set as a child. He received it and also begged his mother for a less-impressive train car from another set to give to a widow’s son down the road.
When they went to deliver the gift and he saw the delight in the other boy’s eyes at the meager gift, Monson ached with guilt and ran home to retrieve a car from his brand-new, nicer set.
It may seem small and trivial, but to a small child, it was the world. Through the lens of Monson’s philanthropic perspective, he rushed to the rescue to those who called for his hand as if it were life and death.
Throughout Monson’s life, he personified selfless service — something Utahns have emulated and should continue to emulate. How many times have other apostles or general authorities spoken of Monson’s service to the countless widows with whom he’s crossed paths? The first ward he presided over as bishop was the home to 85 widows and at the time, was the largest demand for church welfare services.
It’s doubtful Monson ever asked for the millions of opportunities or appeals of service and aid. In fact, Monson said that the night before he was called to be an apostle, he didn’t sleep a minute thanks to trepidation. In a photo taken just prior to his call, Monson wore an uneasy and twisted expression on his face. It seemed obvious the calling wasn’t exactly sought after.
But when the call came, Monson didn’t hesitate.
He stepped up.
His inclination and zeal to serve when others couldn’t is a constant lesson all, members of the LDS Church or not, can learn from. While Monson’s life is mourned and the process of reorganizing the church leadership is handled, countless lessons can be absorbed in retrospect from his caring spirit. In addition to the most apparent lesson, service without question, another can be taken from his life of love — his eagerness to learn and emulate the examples of others.
He humbly looked to his parents’ empathetic and loving nature and developed it into a legacy, carried onto generations in his own children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Let us look to those who’ve influenced our life for good, whether it be our parents, educators, mentors or otherwise and consider how we can compound the good they’ve already done in the world. Let us look to the good acts of yesterday and develop it into a brighter tomorrow, as Monson strived to do.