I remember Nellie and her husband Horace coming into my office many years ago. A recent stroke had left her profoundly debilitated on the right side, and her speech came out garbled and difficult to understand. You could tell that Horace loved his queen despite the stress lines on his face. He did not know what to do anymore.
I learned that they moved from Maine to Alaska in their seventies to be closer to family. How they ran a remote lodge for years, and how Nellie held the state record for years for the largest trapped beaver. I remember wondering if I would be as adventurous at that age.
Unfortunately, her condition did not improve. And despite aggressive therapy, the right side of her body never made much progress, and her speech continued to be thick and hard to understand at times. But Nellie pushed on with a smile.
One Christmas, she made a fruit cake that must have taken hours with her limited function. I knew that it was made with love and caring. She smiled and laughed at Horace, which made things funnier as he could not hear after spending years with loud equipment. A deaf man and a wife who could barely speak would spend hours, everyday talking—about what, I do not know. Clearly, they loved each other deeply.
I first went over to their home to deliver some medication samples they had forgotten at my office. After consulting a map, I realized they lived close to me. They lived a humble life in a Quonset hut, but it was warm, dry, and full of love. I would stop by from time to time to help Horace with the wood stove, shovel some snow, and so forth. Once, I brought my wife, and as she spoke with Nellie and I helped Horace, it was as if two old friends had found each other again. They spoke and laughed, told stories about raising children, husbands in the military, and so forth. You could tell that both their souls recognized each other and were happy to be together again. Soon we had our kids over, putting up a Christmas tree, doing odd chores, and enjoying our new friends.
My children still talk about going to Horace and Nellie’s place, that despite the obvious age difference and health issues, they remember the love and kindness. Sadly, they both passed away a few years ago, but the impressions and lessons learned continue in our hearts and minds. We did not initially intend to provide service or to help someone in need. It began as easy as dropping off a forgotten item and seeing the shovel at the front door and a few inches of fresh snow. Or another time, dropping off some medication samples, so they did not have to make the drive to the office, and my wife happened to be with me. We never made grand plans, just a quick stop here or quick stop there.
The Lord repeatedly uses simple things to do His work. In KJV 1 Samuel 17:40, David picked five simple stones to slay Goliath. In KJV Matthew 17:20, the Lord talks about the faith as small as a mustard seed to move a mountain and the blessings from small and simple faith. Or in KJV Exodus 7:7-13, where Moses changes Aaron’s simple staff to a snake and back again before the Pharaoh. His works always occur in the hearts and minds of men, women, and children who have the faith of a mustard seed to help their neighbor.
I have heard story after story of selfless, kind service to those in need during this pandemic. I have seen the love of Christ work in many Alaskan hearts. It was never thought of as a “service” project but just kindness or being neighborly. If you are looking for more formal ways to help others, check out JustServe.org. Valley area food pantries need help stocking shelves; there are opportunities to make blankets, and many other ways to get involved.
I hope and pray that we act on the minor and simple promptings of the spirit to be there for others, be it a phone call, a friendly wave, or maybe something more.
Dr. John Boston is a father, husband, grandfather, local physician, member of the Mat-Su Board of Trustees and Colonel in the Alaska Air National Guard. He believes in Christ and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.