Grateful for the Opportunity

As I reflect on this past Easter Weekend with friends and family, and I look to the incredible opportunities that lay ahead, I feel deeply grateful for the experiences and opportunities I have had. Gratitude is absolutely one of the key components to happiness and success. As an entreprenuer and or business manager, this simple characteristic can produce vibrant success across the gambit of personal and operational challenges one faces.

I have heard it said that a strong seed can grow wherever it is planted. I believe the ability to be grateful wherever you are planted can develop an energy and hope to grow bigger and stronger and reach new heights and fertile soil…

I was digging through some past files (pardon the pun) and found a speech I had given a couple of years ago just before graduation from College. I thought I might share it, as I feel it still applies today…

Gratitude As Expressed Through The Sincerity of Service:
Speech at Hinckley Scholarship Banquet

Gratitude—Gratefulness, appreciation, thankfulness, acknowledgement, recognition, obligation, beholdenness—Gratidude. Although often used to near cliché commonness, this simple word holds a profound place in the awesome and infinite web of God’s perfect plan.

There have been times where gratitude for the immediate benefits of what I received have been easily seen and reciprocated with deep gratitude. A clear memory of just such an instance occurred about 2 weeks after arriving in the Bangkok Thailand mission. It was a warm Bangkok night and my companion and I were on our way home for planning and district prayer. Although in country only two weeks, my companion let me lead the way home as we peddled alongside the 8 lane Pohonyotin highway that ran past our house. Street 37 was about 5 feet across and the alley of buildings that lined it went plush to the sidewalk. Like clockwork I crossed the narrow street just as a speeding Toyota was rushed to the corner to meet me. My bike was quickly pulled under by the little car and I was sent spinning like a top into the broad street beside me. On perhaps my third or fourth whirling revolution I spun around just in time to greet the bright headlights of Mercedes bus. Although the exact proceedings are still a little unclear, the collision left me in the gutter about 30-35 feet from the point of impact—Where my bike and shoes were. Although my bike and clothes were pretty tattered from the ordeal, dozens of wide-eyed spectators looked with surprise as my companion and I walked off with nothing but some scratches, some bruises, and a bent tire to show for it. How grateful I was for my calling and for my life and for the protection proffered by Our Father In Heaven to his servants.

Time and time again I have been the recipient of the benefit from others, often oblivious or maybe incoherent to the work and sacrifice their actions mandate. Being the 4th of 13 children, you can imagine how much work and virtuous energy might have gone into the raising of our family. Growing up was a wondrous experience. Some trade marks of my growing up experience include station wagons, picnics, snow caves, family talent shows, cushion forts, and cushion fights, secret deliveries and more. So many incredible things that I often took for granted. My parents would read to us from the finest that literature had to offer. My dad would take us to do service in our ward and neighborhoods, and my mother would often be found writing scripture quotes or hanging pictures of our favorite book of Mormon prophets around our rooms.

For all of the principles that my parents taught, I had an uncanny ability to provide them with opportunity for real life application. I recall a cool summer’s night when I was about 13 years old. My older brothers were parking our 1969 Chevrolet impala into the garage. I could see they were a little nervous at its broad dimensions and narrow fit, so I eagerly volunteered to try it out for myself. Confident I could accomplish the simple task, I slipped behind the wheel and started the car. Directing me from in front, I was barely able to see my brothers over the dashboard. I began edging forward into the garage. As the car started to pick up speed, I got a little nervous and stomped for the break. Unfortunately I hit the ready gas pedal, and the ancient car lunged forward into the garage. My brothers cleared out of the way as I drove headlong into the back my family’s house. The silence of that solemn moment was piercing. I could not believe it. Having been amply warned by my dad about the “no rough housing, no balls in the house and other rules that had been established to inhibit my domestic destruction, I was sure that I was done for on this one. I was sure I would never get a license, and I figured I would be lucky if I ever even got ungrounded by the time I was 16. I ran to my room hoping to go to sleep and so I wouldn’t have to think about my impending doom. After hours of restlessness, I finally met up with my dad. I wasn’t really sure what to say. I had been crying so much I didn’t really have any energy left, I was just waiting for my sentencing. I remember my dad looking directly at me and telling me how grateful he was that I was okay and that no one was hurt. He told me pretty frankly that there were plenty of smarter and better things I could be doing with my time, but what was done was done and now it needed fixed. As my punishment I was given the opportunity to help him rebuild the small section of our house. With some creativity and a lot of hard work, we were able to patch up accident scene. In fact today, that portion wall is probably one of the strongest parts of the house. More importantly, it has become a monumental reminder to me of the patience and sacrifice of my parents.

I, like all of us am in debt to the myriad of loving family members, friends, mentors, leaders and strangers, whose obedience and sacrifice have created opportunities for us to grow and progress. The benefits we receive from others are often so abundant and so integral they become nearly indistinguishable in our lives. It has been said that a fish is sometimes the last one to recognize the water. If we were to try to trace and distinguish our gratitude, we find that it quickly grows and multiplies to nearly everything around us. This include not only those who influence us, but also those who influence those who influence us. The eternal concept of this exponential debt reaches its apex as we identify the infinite sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ and his endless atonement. How great is that weight and mercy which so fully he proffers us. That already incomprehensible obedience and sacrifice, then coupled with the thousands and millions of saints who have suffered and sacrificed to carry on his work, provides such a priceless opportunity for us. How can it be valued? How can it be repaid?

Our debt is directly unpayable. We could never directly compensate for that we which we have received. And yet there is a way in which we can help, in which we can perpetuate and contribute that plan of redemption that Our Father has prepared. This active gratitude is identified in the savior’s words, “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” I once heard this scripture referred to as the constitution of Pure Religion. Our service to others is a sincere expression of our gratitude to our savior. Likewise although we may not be able to directly repay the sacrifice of family, friends and mentors with any traditional compensation. We do have the opportunity apply the principles and love we have gained from them and share them with others to improve their lives.

Just last week I received a letter from Miguel and Javier. They are leaders of the small village of TeoXya, Guatemala, a beautiful place with a population of about 500 hundred families. They recently embarked on a venture to introduce the principles of hope, and success through education and activism in their village. With some young men soon to be the first graduates ever to come from TeoXya and no real jobs available, many villagers are skeptical of the value of education and thus have little hope in its success. Determined to prove this value, Miguel and Javier developed plans for a domestic pork and egg operation. We first met Javier and Miguel last summer, we had the special opportunity to share our life experiences and perspectives about success, leadership and personal and national development. We also had the special opportunity to consult with them on their business model. Upon first look at their business model it was clear to see that there were some simple principles that had been overlooked and would almost surely mean failure for their program. In a few brief hours we were able to share with them a few of the skills and insights that have been passed on to us from other mentors and business experiences. After an effective training session and a slight paradigm shift, they were able to build a model that provided long term perspective and sustainability. With wide, eager eyes, Miguel looked up at me and expressed his excitement. He felt something like this could be replicated and in the future he hoped to perfect the model share it with the surrounding villages.

Since then I have received many emails from Miguel and Javier, (their first emails ever) and they have expressed the success of the programs and the education and hope they are gaining from it. There is still a long way to go, but they feel strengthened and confident that someday their village will meet with great success. Their gratitude is so beautiful, so sincere. Their gratitude is not just for me or my friends or my family or the organization with which we were operating. No. Their gratitude is for all those who were instruments to directly or indirectly influence us to influence their village. Their gratitude is a reflection of the hope and excitement of their village and is even now being expressed through their hard work and sacrifice to see the success of the youth and growing leaders of their village.

How grateful I am for Ira Nathanial and his wife, and their examples of obedience and sacrifice that paved the way for Edwin and his wife. Indeed how grateful we all are for Hinckley family and the role they play in blessing and benefiting the lives of countless people. How many lives have been touched by their guidance, love and financial support? It is a truly inspiring example of pure religion and gratitude within gods Plan.

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