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."