Nicole Hone Webster spent most of one summer overwhelmed with feelings of anger and hatred. She reached a point where she was sick of being mad. Fortunately, and with some help from her younger sister, she was able to take action and turn her negative feelings around. Nicole shares her story "Joy in Service," published in our book on turning life's lemons into lemonade. She writes:
I hated everything about my life that summer. I hated my job. I hated my roommates. I hated being around my friends, who seemed to live perfect lives. I hated being around people who were cheerful, and I wanted them to be as miserable as I was. But mostly, I hated that I was filled with so much hatred.
Looking back, I still can't figure out what made me feel so much animosity toward everyone and everything. All I know is that I was mad and that I was sick of being mad. One day, I vented my frustration to my younger sister. I knew my overall attitude toward life was damaging my relationships with everyone and that I just needed to get over whatever was bothering me. But it seemed like the harder I tried to "be happy," the more things would just anger me.
After listening to me bemoan my rotten attitude for half an hour, my sister said to me, "Have you tried praying?"
I couldn't believe she would suggest something so stupid. I had just expressed a deep, unexplainable rage to her, and her advice was to pray? After glaring at her for a few moments, I regret to report, I responded with: "Prayer? That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard!"
My sister looked at me sadly for a few seconds and then said, "Perhaps this is the reason why you are struggling right now."
Even though I initially reacted to my sister's advice with scorn, I did think about what she had said to me. I realized that she was right. I had let my church attendance slip that summer. Even when I did go to church, I didn't pay much attention to what was said. I couldn't remember the last time that I had read the scriptures. I had let my spiritual life come to a complete halt. So I finally swallowed my pride and knelt down in prayer.
A few days later, I was talking to a friend and she mentioned how sad she was feeling over the recent death of her grandmother. The day after that, another girlfriend was saying that she didn't feel like she belonged in our community. I suddenly felt the strong urge to do something kind for these two friends who were feeling so down. I talked to my sister, and we decided to "heart attack" these friends. We cut out paper hearts and wrote kind messages on them. As we were preparing the surprise for the two friends, the names of five other people came to mind. So then we cut out more hearts and wrote more messages. Later that night, we placed the hearts on the vehicles of our friends and also left a dozen cookies or a bag of candy for each of them.
As the days went on, we heard from each person who we had "heart attacked" how much they appreciated whoever had done this for them. They said they had been feeling as if no one cared. It felt so good to know that I, being as angry and hard-hearted as I was, had made someone else feel special. And suddenly, just like that, I realized I wasn't angry anymore. Whatever horrible thing had managed to capture my heart for that summer was gone. By forgetting myself and serving others, even in a way that some might think is silly, I had forgotten that I was angry. I had found joy in service. And now, whenever I find myself getting a little angrier than I ought to, I know that it is time for me to do something for someone else.