OPINION – The looks on the faces of my family made it all worthwhile. I’ll never forget how their eyes popped open wide as I stepped off the airplane upon returning home from serving a mission for my church.
To say that I had changed a bit would be an understatement. The physical difference was most obvious.
Two years earlier, when I left for Oklahoma, I tipped the scales at a modest 135 pounds. By the time I returned home, I was at least 50 pounds heavier and none of it jiggled.
My transformation had started after I arrived in the mission field. While visiting with a friend who was a fitness coach, my companion and I were invited to lift weights.
I was embarrassed to find that I could not successfully bench-press a meager 135 pounds of weight.
That’s when I made the conscious decision to improve my strength and fitness in my spare time. I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of a wrestler who made his weight room available to me.
Three times a week, I dragged myself out of bed at 5 am and spent an hour lifting weights. It didn’t take long to start seeing results.
I watched in amazement as my bench press steadily rose towards and then soared past 240 pounds. I bulked up to the point that I was constantly being asked if I played football.
My final two months, I was assigned to a companion who had been an acclaimed Cedar High wrestler. Knowing that I would be headed home soon, Elder Ackroyd mentored me into not just being strong but also being fit.
This meant a strict diet of healthy foods, no sugar or sodas, and stepping up my cardiovascular fitness by running and riding my bicycle more often.
By the time I returned home, I looked nothing like the skinny young man my family and friends remembered. The shock and surprise on their faces was worth every drop of sweat and every sacrifice that was required to make my transformation. It was immensely satisfying.
Since then, time and gravity have taken their toll. No one stays physically young and beautiful forever.
When I reflect on the effort and determination that was necessary to change myself, I remember that there are other essential qualities that require similar effort to develop.
I was reminded of this a few days ago when I read Lawrence W. Reed’s commentary “Honest When No One is Looking“.
Reed relates an experience when he traveled to Cambodia some years ago and was asked to deliver cash donations to some desperately needy families there. The money had been donated by family members who had fled the Khmer Rouge years earlier and settled in the U.S.
These families had attempted to mail cash to their impoverished loved ones but the cash always failed to reach them.
Reed was able to visit and deliver the cash to all but one of the families on his list. He knew the name of the remaining family and the city in which they lived. But he did not know how to find them.
On a hunch, Reed approached a man in tattered clothes in the lobby of his hotel. He explained that he had an envelope with a cash donation for a very needy family in Battambang and asked the man if he could take the $200 to them.
The man said he could make the delivery and Reed told him to keep $50 for himself for his troubles.
Reed admits that he knew he was taking a big chance. He didn’t count on hearing anything more of the man or the donation.
Months later, when he was back at home in Michigan, Reed received an urgent phone message from the Cambodian family that had sent the money to their loved ones back home. They had just received a letter thanking them for the $200 that had reached them.
Not only had the man delivered the money without taking a dime for himself, he also had paid for his train ride to Battambang in order to find them. Whatever material wealth this man in tattered clothing lacked, he was clearly rich in personal character.
Reed explains what is meant by character when he writes:
Character means that there are no matters too small to handle the right way. It’s been said that your character is defined by what you do when no one is looking.
Too often we allow ourselves to be swayed by superficial outward appearances that mean nothing.
Working to develop and strengthen our qualities of honor, honesty, and moral clarity takes real and sustained effort. It will ultimately change us in ways that also change the world around us.
Bryan Hyde is a radio commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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