A life-changing lesson on strength and perseverance
Last summer, in the middle of a divorce and a period of transition, I got a job working for my cousin at an automotive reconditioning company.
It wasn’t my chosen field, but I needed the work, and I’d worked hard for six months prior to acquire the skills necessary to do the job. I still was not great at it, but I gave it my best.
One hot day in June when work was slow, I made an attempt to pick up a new account at a dealer my family had recently done business with.
I told him about the services we offer, which ranged from repairing tears in seats to fixing rock and curb damage on wheels.
As I spoke with the owner, he asked what we’d charge for a vinyl seat repair.
I looked at the specific tear he had in mind and, feeling doubtful of my ability, I quoted him the bare minimum price.
“Forty dollars,” I said.
I am not a good salesman, but I did my best to appear confident during this pitch. I don’t think I fully convinced him because he responded that he’d think about it and told me to come back next week when he had a new shipment of cars in.
This was a response I’d gotten used to in the short time I’d done this job. It usually meant they weren’t interested, and this was a kind way to tell me to get lost.
My lack of confidence as a salesman, I felt, was beginning to show through. I didn’t want to end the conversation with the impression I was just another salesman, albeit a bad one. All I wanted now was to make a human connection with the man, not to make a sale, but to put myself and him at ease.
I remembered my dad and my sisters had recently purchased a vehicle from him. I asked if he remembered them as well and told him my dad’s name.
“Oh yes,” he said. “He’s a good man.”
We chatted for a few minutes, and as I proceeded to leave, he stopped me.
“Listen, if you’re so-and-so’s son, let me give you a shot. Come back tomorrow.”
He showed me a monstrous tear in a 12-year-old SUV.
“I’ll let you fix this for $40,” he said.
The size of the tear was worth way more than $40, but in my mind, he was trusting me, despite my inexperience and I wasn’t about to blow it. I agreed to make the repair for $40.
I came back the next day. It was late afternoon. By the time I set up and got started, there was an hour and a half until closing time. Plenty of time for a more skilled technician than I was.
I told myself I was not leaving until this repair was perfect.
I quickly realized that this repair was beyond my ability.
Six o’clock came around and I was still working away. The owner said I was free to keep working.
“Put the keys in the drop box when you’re done,” he said.
Feeling a sense of relief that no one was there to watch me anymore and feeling grateful for the tremendous amount of faith he was investing in me, I was determined, more than ever, not to let him down.
“This will be the best repair I’ve ever done,” I committed to myself.
An hour later, I was tired and frustrated. I was not satisfied with the job, despite my best efforts.
Silently, I began to pray.
“Heavenly Father, I really need your help. I am trying to make this repair and I’m in way over my head. I don’t know what I’m doing. Please help me. I don’t want to let him down.”
I took a deep breath and collected myself. The words of my training came to mind.
Just relax, Rett, I thought. You can do this.
I repeated the process to myself in my mind. I quit looking at the whole picture and took one little baby step at a time.
Two hours after closing time after everyone had already gone home, I was finished.
I stepped back to examine my handiwork. I’m certain it wasn’t anything grand. But as far as I was concerned, it was beautiful.
This is a perfect repair, I thought.
I came back the next day to collect payment.
“Did you take a look at the repair?,” I asked.
“I didn’t,” he replied. “But I know your dad and I trust you.”
Without another word, he paid me.
I went home that night beaming with joy and the thought entered my mind, You’re a good man, Rett.
I’ve never been more proud of my family name and never more happy to make $40.
It was a life-changing lesson on strength and perseverance and taught me that when life throws you a challenge that is seemingly beyond your ability to endure, if you trust in God and fight with all your might, you are stronger than you think you are.
A life-changing lesson on personal worthiness and service
Then earlier this year, I was called to be an advisor for a group of young men in my church congregation. In addition to church on Sunday, they meet for weekly activities on Tuesday night. One of the first Tuesday night activities I experienced with them was going to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead.
This is one of the distinguishing beliefs for members of the Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints, and one of the reasons we build temples throughout the world.
The Sunday prior, one of the young men challenged us to find our own family names to take to the temple on Tuesday. I had never done this, but I accepted the challenge.
As I prepared to find my own family names, I read these words about the blessings of doing our own family history work from one of our church leaders.
“You’ll find not only protection from the temptations and ills of this world, but you’ll also find personal power, power to change, power to repent, power to learn, power to be sanctified, and power to turn the hearts of your family together and heal that which needs healing.”
After what I had been through in the last year and a half, the last phrase is something I desperately wanted.
I researched and found five family names. As an ordained Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood, I had the opportunity to baptize these young men for and in behalf of my ancestors.
The feeling that entered my heart was You’re a good man, Rett.
I completed the remaining work for these people on my own. The first person I completed the work for was Eli Cleveland, born in Virginia in 1730. He is my sixth great grand uncle, and though I do not know who he is, as I finished his work, I thought of him.
I thought about the kind of life he might have lived, whether we had any sort of relationship in the pre-earth life and whether my efforts for him in the temple that day were noticed.
I envisioned in my mind what he might say to me if he were here.
In my mind came the response,
Thank you so much Rett for what you have done. You’re a good man.
I went home that night beaming with joy. I’ve never been happier to be in the temple and never more grateful for the ability to use the priesthood on someone else’s behalf.
It was a life-changing lesson on personal worthiness and service and it taught me that reaching out and lifting others even when life is difficult lifts you in the process.
A life-changing lesson on healing and forgiveness
Just two weeks ago, my ex-wife and I met for a three-hour mediation.
The woman who was once my best friend and loyal companion had not had a civil conversation with me in two years, but now she finally agreed to discuss some concerns with me.
Very little progress was made in the first two and a half hours.
The mediator, a woman, could tell I was unsettled and she looked at me and asked if I wanted to talk privately for a minute. I expressed my concerns to her.
She listened and said to me,
“I see a father who loves his kids so much and who misses them terribly and I understand where you’re coming from. If you think it would be helpful for me to pass on to her (what you have told me), I would be happy to do so.”
It felt great to hear a woman validate me as a man and a father and acknowledge my feelings.
She then had a private conversation with my ex in the other room. We reconvened and the conversation that unfolded from there was nothing short of a miracle.
“You’re a good dad, Rett,” my ex wife said. “These kids love you so much and they talk about you all the time. They need you.”
In the blink of an eye, our hearts were changed. So much anger, bitterness and hatred was released and replaced with love and peace.
“Your words today have changed my life,” I said in response.
I went home that night beaming with joy.
For two years, “the lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise.”
The heartfelt prayer to my Heavenly Father that night was simply “Thank you.”
In my heart and mind came the response,
You’re a good man, Rett. I love you.
It was a life-changing lesson on healing and forgiveness and taught me, as another church leader once noted, “We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. But…(eventually)…the darkness of our sorrow (will pass and) a still, unheard voice (will whisper the peaceful message) to our soul, ‘All is well.’”