White Bar

 

M. Winston Egan

 

Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional

November 5, 2013

  

 

Scatter Sunshine

M. Winston Egan

Young Men General Board Member


 

I am thrilled to be with you today. I so much appreciate the wonderful prayer and music that has set the stage for this devotional. I wish to begin with a brief letter sent to Dr. Stuart Robertshaw, who founded The National Association for the Humor Impaired. Dr. Robertshaw is also known as Dr. Humor.

 

Dear Dr. Humor,

 

My brother works for a telemarketing firm that sells products by phone.  One day he called a home phone and the phone was answered by a small boy in a whisper.  All of the boy’s responses were whispered in the following conversation:

 

“Is your father home?”

“Yes.”

“May I speak to him?”

“No.”

“Is your mother home?”

“Yes.”

“May I speak to her?”

“No.”

“Is there anyone else there?

“Yes.”

“Who else is there?”

“A policeman.”

“Who else is there?

“Two fireman.”

“What are they doing?

“Looking for me.”1

 

I have been looking for you also. It is truly an honor to join with you and to feel your goodness and potential for blessing others, for scattering sunshine.  Also, I hope this message will be accompanied by the presence and promptings of the Holy Ghost. I pray that you will be responsive to these promptings.

 

As I spoke to my sweetheart, Linda, about this invitation to be with you, I asked her what I should speak about. Her reply was immediate and precise. “You should speak about what it means to be generous, to show a generosity of spirit.”  

 

Just exactly what does it mean to exhibit a generosity of spirit? What does it look like? How does it feel when we are the recipients of it? Why is it so important in our lives and those of others? What if this campus grew in its generosity of spirit? 

 

We know that “doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure.” It is what the Savior did. He wants us to be generous. He wants us to go about doing good.2 

 

Generosity of spirit is about cheering up the sad and making someone feel glad. When I was younger and quite immature, I used to sing, “Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel bad, if not I have failed indeed.”  I have since repented of singing this verse of the hymn.

 

Generosity is about sharing, lightening burdens, helping others on their way, and giving hope.  As the Savior taught, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”3

 

Og Mandino said:

 

 Remember that there is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving. Reach out. Share. Smile. Hug. Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.4 

 

Generosity produces the same effects. We are blessed as we freely and willingly engage in the “slightest actions [that] often meet the sorest needs.”5  

 

Yes, we need to be generous in our tithes and offerings as encouraged by our Church leaders, but these kinds of generosity and charitable giving need to be accompanied by personal acts of generosity characterized by the Godly attributes of kindness, mercy, compassion, and charity. 

 

When we manifest a generosity of spirit, we are behaving in a Christ-like fashion. We are blessing others.

 

I love the message conveyed by the Apostle John when he wrote:

 

We [are] the sons [and daughters] of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him . . .6


To be like Him is to be full of charity, kindness, and generosity. We become like Him as we daily strive to mirror His life of goodness and generosity. 

 

Generosity comes in many forms and sizes. Often when it is given, it is puzzling if not troubling for some of its recipients. Think about these remarks made by King Lamoni’s father to Aaron and his brethren:

 

I will not suffer that ye shall be my servants; but I will insist that ye shall administer unto me; for I have been somewhat troubled in mind because of the generosity . . . of thy brother Ammon;7


Indeed, generosity can be troubling and surprising to many who do not believe they merit it or others who do not expect it. Elder Neal A. Maxwell in writing about this event provided this commentary:

 

The king in the Book of Mormon who was deeply impressed with the generosity shown by Ammon knew that he had experienced someone who was special.8


Those who experience generosity like that provided by Ammon can be fundamentally and deeply touched. They can be prepared for other experiences with God, Jesus Christ, and His Church.

 

My attempts at Ammon-like generosity are generally small. I love putting freshly made cookies in a laundry bag provided by our cleaners. I like to imagine what happens at the cleaners when the attendant opens the bag, sorts our laundry, and discovers the cookies. Check out this note from the cleaners attached to our recently processed laundry. 

You guys are the best. 


I really like the heart at the end of this brief note—generosity is all about giving from the heart. 

 

In this regard, I hope some of you enjoyed the cookies I sent to some of your apartments. I hope they brightened your day and spawned some generosity on your part.

 

Generosity of spirit is evident in unexpected listening, genuine compliments, expressions of gratitude, the sharing of talents, unmerited patience, and all kinds of giving. For you, this generosity of spirit may include doing the dishes when you are not assigned, taking out the garbage spontaneously and happily, using precious little hot water when you are showering especially when three to five others are to follow, an unprompted bathroom cleaning, or other unanticipated acts of generosity and kindness. If we are to become disciples, discipleship must be practiced and evidenced every day.

 

Let’s now consider this question posed by the lawyer to Christ: “And who is my neighbor?”9  This question gave rise to the wonderful parable of the Good Samaritan given by Christ. We are all very familiar with this parable.  Let me highlight one theme that always catches my attention and pierces my conscience. It is this. A certain priest and the Levite “passed by on the other side.”10 They chose not to show mercy on him who was “half dead.” How often do we ignore those or pass by those who need some generosity, some mercy, and some kindness—especially those in our families or those in our apartments? We really need to be neighbors to each other.  We need to be disciples.

 

In this regard, you are all great detectors of genuineness and true discipleship. You know when someone is giving from the heart. The Apostle Paul spoke about authentic giving—about giving with pure intent.11 He spoke about our motivations, intentions, and purposes for being generous. Do we give grudgingly, out of necessity, or out of duty12?  He concluded, “God loveth a cheerful giver.13” 

 

We love cheerful givers too. In this regard, do those who experience you up close and personal, feel your cheerfulness, especially when you give? Are you known for scattering sunshine—His sunshine?

 

Elder Holland has taught:

 

The word generosity has the same derivation as the word genealogy, both coming from the Latin genus, meaning of the same birth or kind, the same family or gender.14 We will always find it easier to be generous when we remember that this person being favored is truly one of our own.15 

 

When we manifest a generosity of spirit we are bighearted, unselfish, and openhanded. Our hearts and hands are open to giving. When we are stingy of spirit, we are miserly, selfish, and tightfisted. Our hearts and hands are closed to giving. We are not “kindly affectioned one to another.”16

 

When someone reaches out to us in a spontaneous and thoughtful fashion, we are generally touched by his or her actions. Such was my experience with Bowe, a young deacon in our ward. I did not know him well nor did he know me well. Following our block of meetings, he said, “Brother Egan, I want to do some service for you?”  Never before had this happened to me—a spontaneous and genuine request to simply serve me. 

 

At the appointed time for his service, I picked him up. We drove to my home and together we washed two cars thoroughly.  He squirted. He scrubbed. He vacuumed. He cleaned each car window. He shined each car with a towel.  His contributions were freely and cheerfully given. I will never forget his kindness to me. I was totally touched by his generosity of spirit. Even now, his service evokes feelings of love and kindness within me.

 

President Thomas S. Monson captured my feelings when he wrote: 

 

God bless all who endeavor to be their brother’s keeper, who give to ameliorate suffering, who strive with all that is good within them to make a better world. Have you noticed that such individuals have a brighter smile? Their footsteps are more certain. They have an aura of contentment and satisfaction, even dedication, for one cannot participate in helping others without experiencing a rich blessing himself.17

 

Great blessings attend those who authentically reach out to the others, who scatter sunshine.

 

Families can also provide lasting acts of generosity and kindness.  I want you to meet the Shallenbergers and the Howards. Regularly these families scatter sunshine. 

 

First, I want you to meet Robbie Shallenberger. He is 11 years old. He and his family regularly scatter sunshine. Often when the family treats itself to a fast-food meal, they pay for the meal of the family or individual in the car behind them. It all began when Robbie’s dad was a university student and someone in the car ahead of him paid for his parking. Now many years later, Rob and his family regularly continue the practice of surprising others with generosity.  Robbie sums up his feelings about generosity in this fashion:

 

Being generous means you are being kind to someone else. Just like the guy that was very kind to my dad when he was in college. When you are kind to someone else, they might think, “Gosh that was really cool. I like the feeling.  Maybe I should do it to someone else.”  Then those people will think that was a really good feeling. I want to do it to someone else. It just creates a big ripple effect.

 

Imagine how individuals or families in the car behind them feel when they discover their meal or treat has been provided by anonymous donors.  Robbie is quick to mention that they exit quickly from the drive-up window with great joy knowing they have really surprised someone. They do, however, quickly look in the rearview mirror to see the responses on the receivers’ faces. For both the giver and the receiver, generosity evokes a thumbs-up response. 

 

The Shallenbergers regularly scatter sunshine. They give hope through their kindness and generosity. Imagine Robbie as a missionary, husband, and father, having undergone this kind of family training in being generous and in scattering sunshine.

 

Another provider of brilliant sunshine is the Howard Family. Carol and Lee have established a remarkable legacy in their neighborhood. Each month, they host a wonderful dinner for all of the widows and newcomers in their ward and related neighborhood. A carefully crafted invitation is sent to each individual, inviting him or her to come to dinner. When these sisters and others come to their home, they enjoy a wonderful social and a scrumptious meal—gifts cheerfully given by Lee and Carol and gifts gladly received by the sweet widowed sisters and newcomers.

 

My mother, Marcia Egan, now 91, loves attending this social each month in the company of her contemporaries and newcomers. She believes Carol and Lee are well on their way to sainthood now. They have been doing this for 10 years. They do this out of the best kind of motivation, love. They, like the Savior, are going about doing good. In doing so, they are becoming like Him.

 

Generosity of spirit can also be manifest in men. Men are capable of great good. What follows are some of my favorite stories about remarkably generous men.

 

Stranded in an airport because of bad weather, a young mother and her two-year-old daughter had been waiting in long lines for hours trying to get a flight home. The child was tired and fussy, but the mother, who was pregnant and at risk of miscarriage, did not pick her up. A doctor had advised the mother to avoid lifting the two-year-old unless absolutely necessary. The woman overheard disapproving comments from people around her as she used her foot to slide her crying daughter along in the line. Nobody offered to help.

 

But then, the woman later recalled, “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.” 18

 

What an outstanding example of generosity, of scattering sunshine.  Years passed and President Kimball received a letter that read, in part:

 

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 twenty-one years ago in the Chicago airport. The story told of how you met a young pregnant mother with a … screaming child [who was] in … 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 my mother. I was born a few months later in Flint, Michigan.

 

I just wanted to thank you for your love. Thank you for your example!19

 

Unexpected generosity leaves lasting and powerful impressions upon others and us.  We are blessed in profound ways when we, like the Savior, go about doing good; when we scatter sunshine.

 

Another example of generosity of spirit is conveyed by Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone.  He related the following:

 

I had reorganized a stake. Just as I was getting ready to go out to the airport where I could relax, a woman approached me. She was in her mature years and she said, “Elder Featherstone, are you going back to Salt Lake City today?” I said, “Yes.” She continued, “Are you going on that four o’clock flight?” I responded that I was. Then she said, “Would you mind doing a favor for me?” I quickly thought about the schedule I had just been through, and the flesh was begging for a little break. I assumed she wanted me to hand carry something to her relatives. I never check baggage unless I absolutely have to. I wondered if I would have to check what it was I assumed she wanted me to bring back. I thought about waiting at the baggage claim for the item; then I wondered where it would need to be delivered. Only a moment’s pondering and as always, the spirit thrust aside all empty excuses and I responded as a service-oriented leader should.

 

I said, “I will be glad to help in whatever way possible.” Then the woman said, “My grandson Phillip has been down here with me for a couple of weeks. How would you like to baby-sit him home to Salt Lake City? He is two-and-a-half years old. His mother will be waiting for him at the airport.” We arranged to meet at the Los Angeles Airport, where the grandmother introduced me to Phillip.

  

When we arrived in Salt Lake City, there was no one to meet us. We walked the length of the airport terminal. Still no one recognized Phillip. We went down the escalator, past the baggage claim, and out to the street. I have done some unusual things in our marriage, but I wondered what my wife would say when I came home from a stake conference visit and brought a two-and-a-half-year-old boy with me.20

 

The mother of Phillip eventually arrived at the pick-up curb and Elder Featherstone was relieved to have the young two-year-old in his mother’s care. But he was also spiritually content, having provided needed help, having scattered sunshine. His willingness to scatter sunshine has brought joy to many during his lifetime.

 

As a sidebar to our discussion today, I want you to think about this question, realizing that you may need to be certain that the person responding to the question has a good relationship with you—a relationship that has been affirmed with a good DTR, a solid, define-the-relationship conversation. 

 

The question is this: How is your generositas? This is a weighty question, but it is not about weight. I really like the sound of this word—generositas.  It has an academic feel to it. You may even pose this question to yourself. How is my generositas? Am I scattering sunshine—most everywhere I go?   

 

By the way, generositas is central to the success of any relationship, especially marriage. In marriage, we give ourselves to each other. The quality of our giving contributes mightily to the value and quality of our marriages.

 

I believe all of us are capable of showing greater generositas. What sparks us to be magnanimous especially when the stakes are high? Often during our college and university years, we can be self-absorbed, self-centered, and preoccupied with ourselves. This is especially true when we play sports or compete in athletic events.

 

The story that follows really struck and touched me. It centers on two, highly competitive women’s softball teams, Western Oregon University and Central Washington University. These teams were competing for a Division II Championship. Imagine in your mind’s eye the following scene, Sarah Tucholsky of Western is a bat. She is small in stature and is at best, a below-average hitter, having achieved only 3 hits in 34 at bats for that season. 

 

The first pitch arrives. It is a strike. Doing everything she can to silence the crowd noise and ignore a few avid hecklers in the park, she takes the next pitch. She knocks it out of the park. However, as Sarah begins her home-run jog, she misses first base. As she attempts to return to first base, she incurs an ACL tear and is unable to complete her trip around the bases on her own. Her pain is significant.

 

Her first-base coach and teammate, Shannon Prochaska, queries the umpires to see what she and others can do. Could Sarah crawl back to first base on her own? Her coach, Pam Knox, contemplates sending in a substitute runner and having Sarah’s hit counted as a single, not as a home run. Then something remarkable happened. 

 

Pam Knox, Sarah’s coach, hears these words: “Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?”21   

 

This is the voice of Mallory Holtman, a fierce competitor and very talented softball player for Central Washington University. Together with Liz Wallace, her teammate, they carry Sarah around the bases for her one and only home run of her life. You can imagine the response of all who witnessed this momentous act of generosity first hand.

 

In her own words, Mallory captures so much about what it means to evidence a generosity of spirit: 

 

Honestly, it's one of those things that I hope anyone would do…  She hit the ball over her fence. She's a senior; it's her last year…  I don't know, it's just one of those things I guess that maybe because compared to everyone on the field at the time, I had been playing longer and [I] knew we could touch her, it was my idea first. But I think anyone who knew that we could touch her would have offered to do it, just because it's the right thing to do. She was obviously in agony.22

 

We also can look for spontaneous opportunities to touch, to lift, and to carry.    

 

I conclude my remarks with one last tender account of what it means to demonstrate a generosity of spirit. This account centers on a little, four-year-old girl, who for more than two decades was temporarily named “Baby Hope.” No one knew her name. She was never reported as missing. She was, however, brutally abused and murdered by a relative. With persistence on the part of the New York Police Cold Case Division, we now know her real name, Anjelica Castillo.

 

Two years after [Anjelica] was found, [she] was laid to rest in a donated plot, buried in a white dress bought by a detective's wife, with a tombstone paid for by detectives. "Because we care" is the inscription at the bottom of the tombstone . . .23

 

We really can care for others. We can touch others by showing a generosity of spirit. It can happen in grand or small ways. You too can be an Ammon, a Bowe, a Shallenberger, a Carol, a Lee, a Spencer, a Vaughn, a Mallory, a Liz, a white dress giver, or a caring police detective.

 

We can make a difference in the lives of others by scattering sunshine—His sunshine. Our Father in Heaven wants us to be instruments in his hands24 by being worthy of and responsive to the Spirit. Our Father in Heaven is counting on us to mirror His generosity and that of His son. I know that you and I can be more generous. We can manifest a generosity of spirit in all we do. As we sing the closing hymn, I hope we will willingly and cheerfully “scatter sunshine,” remembering that our slightest actions often meet the sorest needs. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 


1. Stuart Robertshaw, Dear Dr. Humor, A Collection of Stories for All Occasions, 1999, 36

2. Acts 10:38

3. Acts 20:35

4.    . . .and spiritually speaking, http://spirituallythinking.blogspot.com/2012/02/happiness-is-perfume.html

5Scatter Sunshine, The Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 230

6. 1 John 3:2 and Moroni 7:48

7. Alma 22:3

8. Neal A. Maxwell, That My Family Should Partake, Chapter Four: A House of Generosity and Truth, 1974.

9. Luke 10:29

10. Luke 10:32-32

11. 2 Corinthians 9:7

12. Moroni 7:8

13. ibid

14. The Other Prodigal, Jeffery R. Holland, 2002, General Conference

15. ibid

16. Romans 12:10

17. Thomas S. Monson, “My Brother’s Keeper,” Los Angeles Rotary International, January 19, 2007.

18Teachings of Presidents of the Church, 2006, 79–80.

19. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Do Ye Even So to Them,” Ensign, Dec. 1991, 5.

20. Vaughn J. Featherstone, True Christlike Service is Rarely Convenient, Liahona, August 1984.

21.Graham Hays, Central Washington offers the ultimate act of sportsmanship, April 28, 2008,

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/columns/story?columnist=hays_graham&id=3372631

22. ibid

23. Melissa Grey, CNN, 'Baby Hope' has a name, a suspect in her death, NYPD announces, October 14, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/12/justice/new-york-cold-case-baby-hope/index.html

24. Alma 26:3, 26:15, Alma 35:14; Mosiah 27:36