I really enjoy listening to This American Life. It took me a few episodes to figure out why; it’s because I really like hearing people’s stories. Since I’ve been listening to so many people’s stories, another theme has emerged. It’s that everyone needs someone to care about them.
The first story to illustrate this point was one about men who had signed up for this correspondence service with women. As it turns out, the whole thing was fake. Form letters were photocopied and sent to thousands of people with gifts and donations being extracted from these men. The fascinating thing about the story was that the men weren’t all the upset when they discovered the whole thing was a sham. All the details of the story aside, I think it speaks to a fundamental need that we have to love and be loved. Some of the men were described as very lonely, and that these letters were a highlight of their weeks. The act of receiving and writing these letters helped them through some rough times. And so, the love that we can show to those around us really does make a profound difference in people’s lives.
The second story illustrates this same point in a different way. It was about a marketing firm hired to demobilize Colombian guerrillas. Some of the campaigns they found to be most successful were to remind people of Christmas and of their families. Listening to stories of people laying down their weapons because of this love was a real world example of something I read in Alma 31:5
And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.
It’s one thing to hope that the power of God, or even just our best attempts at loving can influence people. But seeing it happen, especially in a circumstance that I would have thought to be too extreme is inspiring.
Both of these stories, and many others I have heard, inspire me to be kinder and more compassionate to those around me. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to do it. I imagine it will be the topic of many future blog posts.