Updated on February 18, 2021
Doug Tales 1: “Now You Understand How I Feel”
This blog post is the start of us sharing here—now and then—some of Doug Mendenhall’s tales for those who haven’t heard them before, and to remind those who have.
Doug shared many personal experiences in his books. These true stories illustrate what he was learning at the time about God, himself, and the process of conquering spiritual evil throughout this life. While most of what Doug shares in his writings involves himself in some way, many experiences come from others’ lives that interact with his.
The following set of events in Taylorsville, Utah, is covered on pages 21-26 of Doug’s first book, My Peace I Give Unto You. (2001.) Most of My Peace I Give Unto You shares what happened when Doug’s ten-year-old daughter, Denise, had a near-death experience in November 1999. But even before her NDE and its aftermath, Doug was being taught spiritual principles, as illustrated in these events six months before:
“Thanks for letting me use the van,” I said to Sarah, as I handed over the keys.
“Any time, Doug,” she smiled back at me. “You didn’t need to wash it, you know.”
“I know, but it’s the least I can do,” I answered.
Sarah and her roommate Erin are my neighbors and wonderful friends besides. Since I lost my job, they’d been extremely generous, offering their van from time to time when our family needed a larger vehicle….
“Hey, Doug, sit down, I want to tell you a story.” Sarah quickly changed subjects. “Do you have a minute?”
“Sure, no problem. Time’s the one thing I’ve got a lot of lately,” I quipped, as we settled into her porch chairs.
It was that time between sunset and night where all things take on a surreal lavender hue. At the crosswalk, an old woman stopped, in part to eye the traffic, in part to rest.
“Offer her a ride.”
“Huh?” Sarah frowned. She braked slowly and the car coasted toward the intersection ahead. The short pause there allowed her and Erin to glance over at the old woman.
Offer her a ride, came the thought a second time as their car moved forward through the light.
Erin turned to Sarah. “I think you should turn around. I don’t know why, but we need to offer her a ride.”
“Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.” Sarah quickly turned the car around and headed back toward the intersection and the old woman. Once again turning, she drew up beside her on the curb and Erin rolled down the window.
“Ma’am, would you let us give you a ride?”
Shock, surprise and finally acceptance played out in turn on the old woman’s face.
She placed her bag on the sidewalk and opened the back door of the car. “Now honey, be careful as you pick up my bag. Don’t drop anything!” She climbed into the car.
Erin glanced back at Sarah, shrugged, and got out of the car to pick up the woman’s bag.
“Honey, turn left here and go down to the store at the corner of Waterton and 3rd. I need to get my prescription.” She promptly settled back into the seat and closed her eyes.
They looked at each other in confusion, offering no comments or questions. Within minutes the car pulled up to the main door of the corner market.
“Okay, this will only take a minute.” The old women came alive and worked her way out of the car and into the store.
Once again Sarah and Erin looked at each other, too stunned to speak. The brazen confidence, the arrogance of the old woman, had momentarily robbed them of their voices. Minutes later they saw her coming from the store.
“425 Washington, honey.”
The request—no, command—came as the old woman opened the car door and climbed back in.
“Okay . . . uh . . . that’s 425 Washington,” Sarah repeated, and shifted the car into gear. The short trip passed in silence until the old woman’s house came into view.
“The brick one, there, with the lilac bush in front. Just pull into the driveway. And you can bring the bag into the house for me.”
Sarah parked as instructed. Erin got out and followed the old woman through the front door, laden with her bag.
“Set it down here, honey.” The old woman pointed to a clear spot on the table. “And close the door tightly on your way out.” Then she disappeared into a nearby room.
Erin left, making sure the door was tightly closed and got back into the car. Sarah backed out into the street. Heavy silence continued through the short trip home. Neither one wanted to break the silence for fear of what they might say.
Sarah hung the car keys on the peg inside the back door as Erin got a glass of water.
“She never even once said thank-you.” Finally, Sarah spoke. “I can’t believe she didn’t even say please.”
This seemed to thaw Erin. “We were supposed to help her, but I expected at least a thank-you. At least that would have taken the edge off her arrogant attitude.”
“I know,” said Sarah, warming to the conversation. “She just ordered us around. Can you believe it?”
“. . . why were we supposed to help her. . . ”
Erin opened her mouth to comment just as both of them felt, and heard, the soft, quiet voice.
“Now you understand how I feel.”
Their eyes dropped. In that moment, love filled the room.
Later that night, two very sincere and humble prayers of gratitude were softly spoken to Heaven for the lesson so poignantly learned—and for the mercy and the love so freely given.
I sat quietly as Sarah finished telling me her experience with the old woman. I was moved by her willingness to share the encounter.
“I don’t know why I told you that, Doug. When you handed me the van keys, I knew you needed to know.” Sarah sounded almost apologetic for sharing this private moment.
“Thank you, Sarah. What a neat lesson,” I replied, honestly sympathetic to her tender feelings.
“You know you can use the van anytime you need it,” she grinned….
For two days Sarah’s story nudged at me. I wanted to know more. I began looking through religious and self-help books for insights on thankfulness. “Gratitude” popped up as often as “thankfulness.” Were they the same? A lot of what I read suggested they were. Was gratitude somehow different, something more than thankfulness? Or did I just need it to be?
I opened a book of quotes to the section labeled “Gratitude.” I thumbed through it, stopping at a short passage by William Shakespeare:
I hate ingratitude in man more than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, or any other taint or vice whose strong corruption inhabits our frail blood.
I read and re-read the passage. First to understand what Shakespeare was saying, then to let it seep into my mind. Finally I went on to another quote. As I finished reading that one, I found myself going back to Shakespeare. I read his words again.
“Who hates it?” the question escaped my lips. The obvious answer, “Shakespeare,” left me uneasy. I read another quote, then again returned to Shakespeare’s words.
“Who hates it?” The question came again, demanding, as I finished reading.
The thought burst through my mind, shattering the obvious, leaving me to grasp for what I felt to be true.
“Father in Heaven,” I whispered.
In deafening silence I sat reflecting on the gravity of ingratitude. My mind opened. Minutes later I thumbed through the book to another quote, by Joseph F. Smith:
The spirit of gratitude . . . begets love and friendship, and engenders divine influence.
The words whispered to me that gratitude was the beginning of a true friendship based in love.
“In gratitude will you find my love; in gratitude will you find me.”
The voice was soft and comforting, more felt than heard.
My heart sang out in joy. I understood! Gratitude is the door He stands at—the door He waits for us to open! Gratitude for all that is within our lives.
I closed the book of quotes, closed my eyes, and just felt. I was encircled by a comforting sensation. My heart slowed to the rhythmic pulsing I felt from everything around me. I knew I understood.