“Boys, I think we missed it”

A few days back, my four boys and I were at Five Guys Burger and Fries. (If you want to see your checking account sink quickly, take four teenage boys to this establishment.)

While we were eating, one of my boys noticed a man had walked in, ordered, and then sat down by himself. My son pointed him out and said he works at their high school as the lead janitor. The other boys recognized him as well. When I turned to look, I had a discerning moment. I don’t know how to explain it, but the thought was—he needs to be recognized. This day he needed to be acknowledged. He was alone in more ways than one, I could sense it.

I encouraged my boys to approach him and say hello—to acknowledge him—and thank him for the school year that had just ended. I asked how he was treated by the student body. From their comments I discovered he wasn’t treated cruel, but indifferent.

We continued to eat and near the time we were getting ready to leave I tried to nudge my boys again to say hello to him. They didn’t respond in the way I had hoped. They are not bad boys, but rather shy, and walked out not saying anything, or even making eye contact, or extending a cordial wave.

The experience rested upon my mind. When I arrived back to my office I looked up a statement by Joseph Smith about friendship. He stated a few months before his assassination: “I don’t care what a man’s character is; if he’s my friend—a true friend, I will be a friend to him. . . . Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’; {it is designed} to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease and men to become friends and brothers. . . . It is a time-honored adage that love begets love. . . . It unites the human family with its happy influence” (History of The Church, 5:517). I wanted to share this with my boys and talk about it, but I was waiting for a genuine and non-preaching setting.

I thought about this statement and experience for two more days and didn’t say anything.

Shortly after dinner on the following Sunday night, our family was sitting around the table with a friend who had come to dinner. Something in the discussion triggered the statement from Joseph Smith to come back into my mind. The setting seemed right. I recalled our visit to Five Guys Burger and Fries the other day and how I encouraged them to acknowledge the man that worked at their school. I then said, “Boys, I think we missed it. We missed an opportunity to be friendly.”

This gave us a tender moment to discuss the statement from Joseph Smith. It also allowed us to talk about how there will be times, and particular moments in our lives, when we will feel impressed to acknowledge someone—to reach out and be kind and friendly to someone who may desperately need it.

Sadly, the world is growing more and more indifferent. Friendliness can revolutionize and civilize the world. We just need to stop missing opportunities that will accelerate the transformation.

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7 thoughts on ““Boys, I think we missed it”

  1. Jason Roberts

    Ryan,
    these words are very fitting for some events that we have experienced in our family. It’s always amazing to me how the lord works if we take the opportunities that are placed right in front of us. Many thanks for your inspiration my good friend!

    Reply
    1. Ryan C. Jenkins Post author

      Jason, I enjoyed the years we served together. You were never wanting of friendliness. So many people enjoy and appreciate being around you and your dear family.

      Reply
  2. G

    Thank you for sharing this insightful and vulnerable moment. I too am finding it more and more of a necessity to be a friend, to just be friendly to those I encounter. It’s looking to be a bigger part of the gospel than I had previously thought.

    Sometimes I play a little game called “You’re in the Celestial Kingdom.” The rules are very simple: I am kind and friendly to everyone I meet. You don’t take it to the point of freaking someone out by being overly gregarious. You are simply kind and offer a smile, or lend an unrequested hand when needed. The goal is to get as many people as possible to smile back and to find at least one way you could be of service to someone.

    This post makes me think I need to play that game a lot more.

    Reply
  3. Jeanette Call

    I can’t wait to get and read your book, you are amazing. Please tell the family hello and give them my love.

    Reply
  4. Guy

    I’m curious why YOU didn’t approach the man and say something like, “my boys tell me that you work at their school. I want to thank you for keeping the school in good condition that is conducive to learning. I know that everyone at the school has a part in helping students learn.”

    Reply
    1. Ryan C. Jenkins Post author

      Guy, I just about did do what you suggest. My boys see me many times interacting with others. In this case, I felt somewhat constrained as I wanted to keep nudging my boys to do it. It would have been even more impactful. I have lots of lessons to learn, at this experience my boys needed it. Failing to respond gave us a teaching moment in the home that will hopefully help us all not to miss future opportunities.

      Reply

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