I am especially optimistic about the love adults have for children and youth within their stewardship. President Gordon B. Hinckley said "when we save a girl, we save generations". I believe this applies to boys too. We can't know the impact a righteous young person will have on the future. But how do we save them?
I could give many examples but there is one I would like to share. In the days surrounding my mother-in-law's funeral, I saw many touching moments of love and selflessness. They were what you might expect under the circumstances. Then I was introduced to my husband's former Young Men's leader from 25 years ago. They had not seen each other in many years.
I expected the customary handshakes and shoulder pats, maybe a little sizing up and a moment of awkward conversation.
So imagine my surprise when this elderly gentleman grabbed my husband around the neck and pulled him into a tight embrace. Even now, the image brings tears to my eyes. I don't think I have ever seen a more impassioned greeting. I imagined the prodigal son might have experienced such a welcome! I was introduced, as was the man's wife. We all talked comfortably for a few minutes, this man looking at my husband with an expression of pride and joy the whole time. The whole encounter left me with a sense of awe.
I have thought of this moment often. I have wondered if my Primary teachers and Young Women's leaders would react that way to me. More importantly, I have imagined what would happen if every person who works with the youth of the church had that kind of enthusiasm for their well-being. If each boy and girl had a leader who loved them as Christ loves them...what difference would that make in their lives, in the church, in the world?
The ultimate source of that kind of unfailing love comes from our Savior. We know that He loves each of us. He took upon Himself our sins and sorrows. He willingly sacrificed Himself because of His love for us.
Sounds like Sunday School doesn't it? Sometimes it is difficult to comprehend that ultimate love of Christ. So how can we teach a kid, who is already living in a chaotic world and experiencing the internal battles of adolescence, that someone they have not seen loves them that much?
The simple answer: by example.
Julie de Azevedo wrote a song called "Window To His Love". It explains beautifully how we can become more like Christ. One line says "I want to fade away 'til only He can be seen and I become a window to His love". I think of this song often. The more we strive to express charity in a Christ-like way, the more we show His love for others.
In more practical terms, I don't believe there is a set way to show this love. The Spirit guides us to act in the way that best shows that love. Sometimes it is a smile, sometimes a more demanding act of service. The possiblities are endless. I believe it is most often shown through patience and consistency. After all, Paul said
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth (1 Cor 13: 4-8)We do not show that kind of love by having lots of fun activities or cool handouts or refreshments. But sometimes we do. That is the miracle of spiritually-guided love. It can be manifested in infinite ways.
Most importantly, it is never-ending. When we truly love a child with Christ-like charity, we still feel that love for them when they are crusty old men like my husband. :)