By Susan Knight
I had the privilege of attending a fireside with Richard Paul Evans last month. I knew he was going to be an awesome speaker. He was keynote speaker at a writer’s conference and a friend related a story about him at our ANWA meeting.
He did not disappoint.
Evans spoke, not in the context of a writer, but as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and as a caring, teaching human being.
Right after publishing “The Christmas Box,” he was invited to speak to a group of junior high students in Georgia. The principal told him to prepare for a “few” minutes with the classes. He said, “I can do that,” and made it a side trip after a radio interview to promote his book.
When Evans arrived, school buses lined the curb of the junior high. He realized kids were bused in from surrounding schools to hear him. The principal greeted him with the news that he had an hour-and-a-half to speak to the students—in the jam-packed auditorium.
I chuckled along with everyone else in the audience. Everyone knows kids that age don't have the attention span to be attentive for ninety minutes.
Evans asked himself, “What can I tell these kids that will take up that much time?” They weren't LDS so he couldn't conduct it like a “fireside.” During his introduction, he hurried and jotted down five things he wished he knew while in junior high. He said he let the spirit tell him what to say.
I believe these five things can serve us all well, no matter our age.
1. We are Born of Divinity. There is a reason why you are here. You are not a mistake.
2. Live Free. Do not live in a cage of “victimhood.” Embrace freedom. Let it go. Forgive.
3. Magnify Your Life. Are we living the lives we should be? “All successes in life are built on stairways of failure.” Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t fail by default.
4. Embrace Adversity. “We do not succeed despite our challenges but precisely because of them.” Evans has Tourette Syndrome and spent some time talking about his challenges.
5. Love. Love is a choice. Service is love made visible. We love the people we serve.
He spent at least fifteen minutes elaborating on each “pearl.”
Richard Paul Evans (he referred to himself as “Rick”) is an amazing speaker. The chapel and the cultural hall were filled to overflowing, like a Stake Conference back in Philadelphia. Even so, the spirit was palpable. You could hear a pin drop. The woman next to me cried all through the closing hymn and prayer, as did I.
I went home spiritually fed.