Sunday, November 27, 2016

Kindness Wins: The Lord Looks on the Heart

Sam and I were engaged for exactly seven weeks. We were married two days after Christmas, along with a record-breaking number of other couples. Finding housing in such a short period of time was a major challenge, so when an advertisement for a 1-bedroom apartment in a turn-of-the-century house that had been converted into a 4-plex popped up, we jumped at the opportunity without thinking much about it.

We quickly learned, however, that we were in a unique part of Provo. Over the course of the eight months we lived there, we got to know a number of individuals who had some serious challenges in their lives. We heard heartbreaking stories of addiction and mental illness. There were those who sacrificed their meal at the food bank in order to come to Church which meant they would only get one meal that day. There was the man who had left his home in Alabama with 17 dollars and the knowledge that he had to leave behind the life he was living. He found himself in Utah and joined the LDS Church, and he was one of the most kindhearted, humble people we had ever met. There was the woman who was recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. There were those living in the dingy motel around the corner where the SWAT team had recently arrested a man for murder.

And there was the man who had run away from home when he was just 12 years old and had quickly gotten sucked into a whirlwind of life-altering experiences. He had returned to his home as a middle-aged adult and was living with his mother, still fighting the lifestyle he had picked up over the years. I can only imagine the joy his mother must have felt as she experienced the return of her own prodigal son while still feeling piercing sorrow as she saw the course his life had taken. We got to know this particular man quite well. He worked at Deseret Industries. I'll never forget the day he brought us a gift for our unborn baby boy. He had seen some cute little baby clothes during his work at the DI and purchased them for us. Although this man spent a great deal of time on the streets and although his life was still in the grips of significant challenges and toxic habits, he had thought of us and sacrificed to give what he could.

When I drive past Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City and see throngs of homeless people, I remember our friend and the good heart that lay beneath his rough exterior. I remember how his life was changed forever when he was barely old enough to make his own decisions. And I think about how our lives could be so drastically different if we had been born into different circumstances. So often the ones who physically have the least are the ones most willing to give.

"For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

Friday, November 25, 2016

Kindness Wins: An Anonymous Gift

We knew from the beginning that I would not be working outside of the home while Sam was in graduate school. He would be receiving a small stipend, but it wasn't enough to cover the expenses of a growing family throughout the 5 years we would be living in Houston. We had a strong desire to get as few student loans as possible, so we lived very frugally.

I taught piano lessons to earn extra money, we had a $5 limit for gifts, and I scrounged at garage sales for clothes for the boys. Sam even taped his glasses back together when the ear piece broke off and didn't get new glasses for months! And when things got really tight, I gave up my cell phone and used a landline instead that would cost only $30/year.

We never shared the details of our financial circumstances, but little miracles occurred regularly. We were constantly being given items from ward members, family members, and neighbors that were just what we needed at just the right time.

One day, I walked outside to get the mail and found, to my great surprise, an envelope labeled "Brady Family" with a significant amount of money in it. And by "significant," I'm talking many hundreds of dollars! I was shocked. I was touched. I was humbled. If our extremely generous anonymous benefactor is reading this now, please know how grateful we were for that gift. Not only did it help us in a time of financial need, it showed us that Heavenly Father was aware of our circumstances and He inspired others to be His hands to help us.

We have been so inspired by the thoughtfulness and kindness that was shown to us during those years, and the kindness of others has given us a great desire to be benefactors to others in a like manner. To all those who have shown us such kindness, your actions mean more to us than I can express.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Kindness Wins: Please Take it as My Gift to You

Happy Thanksgiving! This week, as I've thought about moments of kindness given to me, I've felt especially grateful for the wonderful people I am surrounded by. I could write daily stories of kindness for MUCH longer than one week!

As part of an assignment for a college Humanities class, my roommate and I had the opportunity to drive up to a monastery in Huntsville, Utah to visit some monks and observe their lifestyle and devotion. The monks graciously welcomed us. One elderly gentleman ushered us into a small room where a video was played, outlining their daily routine. They lived simple lives, and earned money for their humble needs by farming and running a small gift shop where they sold homemade bread, honey, and a few other items.

We were invited to sit in the chapel and watch one of their prayers, and we marveled at their complete devotion and reverence. They woke each day at 3:00 am and spent many hours throughout the day in prayer. Their quiet lives added to the feeling of peace and stillness present in the stunning spring mountain backdrop.

Our professor had strongly suggested that we try the honey they harvested and sold in their shop. It came in a wide variety of flavors, so I grabbed three containers and prepared to purchase them. The monk running the shop was not completely silent, but preferred to keep speaking to a minimum. As I approached him to pay for the honey, I discovered that they didn't accept debit cards and I didn't have enough cash.

"Please take it as my gift to you," he said simply. I was flustered. "Are you sure? I can put some back..." "Please take it as my gift to you," he repeated gently. His sincerity was so evident I felt I couldn't turn down his offer. And so we thanked him, gathered the honey, and left, touched by the kindness and devotion of these monks.

Most of the monks have now passed away, and the monastery will soon be closing. But their faith and kindness will be forever ingrained in my memory.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Kindness Wins: The Bunk Beds Wouldn't Fit

When our oldest was about a year and a half old, we decided to purchase bunk beds in preparation for the birth of our second baby boy. We found a reasonably-priced set online from Walmart, so I ordered the beds and had them shipped to our local store.

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I drove to the store in our tiny little Saturn SL2, expecting the bunk beds to fit without a problem. But when they loaded the large boxes onto a cart and took them out to the car, I began to recognize that, despite the fact that the seats folded down so the trunk opened into the rest of the car, I may need to take a couple of trips to get them home.

I'm pretty determined, though, and I was certain I could make them fit if I just arranged them right and pushed extra hard. The employee who had brought them out to my car watched nervously as I attempted to cram the boxes in. He was worried I was going to break a piece off the car interior as I pushed and shoved.

But we were in Texas, and Texas has an abundance of trucks and kind people.

Which is why three different people driving trucks stopped in the parking lot when they saw my predicament and offered to load the boxes in their trucks and drive them to our home. The third woman was rather persistent, and I was ready to let the nervous employee get back to his normal workday away from the crazy lady with the tiny car, so I finally agreed to the offer. We loaded the final box into her truck, and she followed me home where she chatted with me briefly before unloading the box and wishing me well.

Guys, Texas people are so kind. Southern hospitality and kindness is a real thing!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Kindness Wins: She Saved Me from Loneliness

About a month and a half before our first baby was born, we moved to the Houston area, where Sam would be attending graduate school. We settled into a little apartment, Sam began his coursework and research, and I became a new mom to a sweet baby boy.

All of our family lived far away, we had only one car, and we lived in a gated apartment complex set on a busy road with no sidewalks and no shoulder, which meant that I spent almost all of my time in our small apartment by myself. (Until literally thousands of roaches came through the walls from our neighbors' to keep me company, but that is a story for another day...) There were some weeks when the only time I set foot outside the apartment was on Sunday to go to Church. With Sam's long hours, it got rather lonely to say the least.

I tried hard to settle into my new roles and support Sam in his demanding work while cherishing my time with our infant, but at times I became very discouraged. One day, Sam had a presentation to do and I decided to bake cookies for him to hand out. For some reason I drove him into the medical center that day, and a few minutes after I dropped him off I realized he had left the plate of cookies in the car. I quickly called him to see if he wanted to meet back up and get them, but he didn't have the time so he went without.

It was a small event, but it triggered the release of months of pent-up emotions. During that 30-minute drive back to our apartment, which had become a sort of prison for me, I started bawling. I cried because I felt bad that I wasn't being the perfect wife. I cried because I missed my family. I cried because I was extra-emotional with a new baby. I cried because the days were just so long. And most of all, I cried because I just felt so alone.

I was almost home when my phone started ringing. A quick glance showed that it was my visiting teacher. I didn't want to answer the phone while sobbing, so I ignored it and listened to the voice mail after I got myself under control. And then I heard her kind voice explain that she was taking her 4-year-old daughter to storytime at the library and wondered if I wanted to come with her, just so I would have something to do to get me out of my apartment.

I'm pretty sure I got tearful again because of her heaven-sent kindness, but after I trusted myself to maintain my composure, I called her back thanking her for her offer, and so I began to make those weekly trips to the library with her. I grew to love those conversations she offered on the drive to and from the library, and as we got more acquainted my admiration for her grew and her kindness toward me continued. She took me out to lunch, she brought me gifts on holidays, she brought us pizza when I made that awful roach discovery so I wouldn't have to cook, and most importantly, she visited with me enough to become a real friend.

I've thought of her sweet example so many times. Her kindness has left an eternal imprint in my life.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Kindness Wins: The Story of the Peaches

This week on Facebook, I'm joining my sister in posting a story of kindness toward me each day to help counter the negativity that is abounding right now.
I've been quiet on the blog lately as I've been trying to finish up my list of projects and complete Christmas preparations which will allow me to fully enjoy the season without stress.
But this week, I thought I would post the stories I'm sharing on Facebook.
Because in the end, kindness wins.

A few years ago, peaches were on sale at my favorite ghetto grocery store for 49 cents/lb! I decided it was the perfect opportunity to can them and went to the store intending to buy 100 lbs.
I always caused a scene when I would buy produce to can at Texas grocery stores. Like the time I bought 20 pineapples--"I thought, 'Is she having a party?'" one lady quipped. Many others stared or asked what I was doing with so many.
Or when I bought 150 pears and one man sized up my cart, my 8 months pregnant self, and little Talmage and drawled, "Whoa. That's a lotta apples! Are you gonna preserve 'em?"
In any case, I went to the store prepared to deal with a lot of funny remarks. But as I filled one plastic bag with peaches and discovered it weighed only 3 lbs, I realized it was going to take a long time and a lot of cart space to gather 100 lbs of peaches. So I approached an employee working in the produce section and asked if I could buy a case or something since I wanted to buy 100 lbs. He told me I could, but I would just need to come to the back of the store with him so he could write down my information and order them for me.
Since I no longer had a need for the bag of peaches I had gathered, I dumped them back on the shelf and followed the man to the back of the store, gave him my information, and started to push my cart away.
Suddenly I felt a hand grab my arm and turned to see a sweet, little, old white-haired lady staring up at me. She pressed a crumpled dollar bill and 4 quarters into my hand and said discreetly, "You go get those peaches you put back."
I stared at her in confusion for a moment before it dawned on me that she thought I couldn't afford the peaches! I laughingly explained the situation and how I was actually buying 100 lbs of peaches. She gave me a knowing smile, nodded, patted my hand, and said again, "You go get those peaches you put back," before walking away to finish her shopping.
"Thank you!" I called after her. And then I turned around, filled another bag with peaches, and presented her offering as payment.
Although her $2 donation was unnecessary, her sweetness brightened my day and my heart was filled with the recognition that people are truly good.
People are good.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


December 2, 1944

“Dearest Mommy,”
            I went to the show tonight. I wish now that I hadn’t gone, because it made me too homesick. I went over with another married man and a single fellow. The show was about a woman who loved a man quite a lot. There was another man that wanted to marry her but she didn’t love him. She wouldn’t marry the man she loved because she was afraid the other one would kill him. So she promised the one she didn’t love she’d marry him in order to protect the one she did love. Somehow in her actions or something reminded me of you. It sure made me homesick for you. I felt as bad as if I’d just said goodbye to you. Just then the married man turned to me and said, “I wish my wife was like that and that she cared whether I lived or died; don’t you wish yours was?”
            Then before I could even answer he realized that he’d made a mistake and that it wasn’t who he thought it was. He thought it was one of the guys on his crew and had momentarily forgotten that I was there. So he said, “Yours does anyway.” So that goes to show you that the rest of the guys have been made to believe, by me, that you love me, and that I’m trying to be true to you. I don’t believe that I could take it if I didn’t believe that you loved me and that you wanted me to come back. I realize more every day just how lucky I am to ever get anyone as nice as you. You’d still be too good for me if you were only half as good as you are. It’s a lucky thing for me I was the only one left, and that all of my competitors weren’t able to dodge the draft as good as I did. But also what was my good luck was your misfortune. I’d give almost anything I had if I could just see you again right now...

-excerpt from a letter from my grandfather to my grandmother when he was serving in WWII

Yesterday Talmage greeted us with a jovial, "Happy Veterans' Day!"
He excitedly dressed in red, white, and blue and told me how some veterans would be coming to the school to eat lunch with the children. Evidently his teacher had told them that veterans have done so much for our country, but they hardly get paid anything for it.
And so, as he got ready for school, he told me that he wanted to give some money to a veteran.
For about six months now, he has been saving money from grandparents, from the tooth fairy, and from doing jobs around the house because he wants to buy Wesley a nerf gun. He carefully counted out the money he needed for the gun and found that he had 3 quarters extra.
He happily pocketed them so that he could give them to a veteran to say "thank you."

I was touched by my sweet boy's example,
and because of his enthusiasm, the sacrifices of the men and women who have defended our freedoms were on my mind all day.

I thought of them as we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the backyard. Our blanket crunched over yellow leaves from the tall mulberry tree that shades half the yard, and in the warmth of the sun we enjoyed smoothies and bran muffins as I read library books to my little ones.
It is because of them that we have public services like libraries and the ability to create our homes the way we see fit.

I thought of them as I watched my boys play soldiers--one was General Washington and the other was "Yankee Doodle." They pranced around the yard, using a tepee as their home base, as they invented their own version of the American Revolution.
It is because of them that we have these inspiring stories of bravery and heroism.

I thought of them as I baked chocolate chip cookies for the new neighbors. I considered sugar rations during times of war and the relative prosperity our nation enjoys.
It is because of them that we have the ability to choose our jobs, homes, and places of residence without constraint.

And most of all, I thought of them as I rocked my baby boy
and sang to him, "I Am a Child of God."
Because the freedom to worship as we choose is the freedom most precious to me.
And we have that freedom because of them.

And so we say "thank you" to the veterans of today and those of long ago
for defending our nation and providing us with the freedom to live our lives as we see fit.
Regardless of who leads the nation,
in spite of laws that are passed that I don't agree with,
I still firmly believe it is the greatest place in the world.

And we pray that it will ever be the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Halloween 2016

We had a great Halloween!
The boys were thrilled with the jack-o-lanterns we carved,
they visited my parents' house, where Grammy and Aunt Avalon put together some fun activities,
and then they came home for trick-or-treating.

Our neighborhood is really fun--
one neighbor projects "Charlie Brown" on a screen in their driveway,
another neighbor has a fire going in the front yard with cookies and hot chocolate,
another neighbor gives out hot dogs,
and their are a few "extra-scary" houses that delight our boys.

The boys weren't even mad when we gave out the candy-rationing orders!
Such a silly holiday, but so fun to see all the cute costumes.
And now we get to head into the holiday season!

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