I really like this quote from C.S Lewis:
“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”
This is so true, I remember as a missionary my friend and I would visit an elderly woman every week or so to help her with things, sometimes mowing her lawn or doing other things in her yard, sometimes just talking with her. At first I wasn’t sure if she liked me very much and if I was helping her personally by being there, and this made it harder for me to want to be there. But we kept visiting her and she would often feed us lunch during those visits. As I got to know her I learned she had been a chef when she was younger and that it meant a lot to her to have the opportunity to cook for people, that made those lunches with her more meaningful. I believe she had been divorced years earlier so essentially she was by herself a lot and I don’t know how frequently her children visited her. It became easier to want to be there and help her with things as I got to know her more, also with that came a more genuine concern that she was ok and that she received the help that she needed with things.
Later I was transferred to another city and lost contact with her, but the missionary that I knew from her area called me one day and told me she had passed away. It made me sad but also grateful I had spent the time with her that I had. I realized even more that I did care for her greatly and hoped that her last days had been happy days, and that her family had been nearby her during that time.
My mission president was a great man, I can remember him telling us this quote several times: “serve someone until you love them, then you will love to serve them.”
I know this is a true principle, that was certainly my experience. Sometimes its hard to serve or try to love someone, for whatever reason, but it is a commandment that we “love one another” as the Savior loves us. God has promised to bless us when we keep His commandments. He always keeps His promises. Here’s a quote from the former prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Gordon B. Hinckley, which I believe applies to anyone seeking to follow Christ and do His will:
“The Church may call upon you to make sacrifice. It may call upon you to give of the very best that you have to offer. There will be no cost in this, because you will discover that it will become an investment that will pay you dividends for as long as you live.”
Even though this experience I had was several years ago I can still look back on it and feel God’s love, and feel an increased love for other people. The memory of experiences like this help sustain me during difficult times.
When we seek to love other people we’re blessed in many ways because God is loving and generous. Specifically I believe were blessed with an increased ability to give and receive love. The woman I had helped certainly wasn’t someone I would have considered my “enemy” at any point, but at first it was a challenge for me to genuinely care for her. As part of living the higher law that Christ instituted, he taught us to love others even when it isn’t easy to love them:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? (Matthew 5:43-47)