Saturday, September 29, 2012

"She doesn't work here"

Tonight, I went to listen to good women and men speak to the world. It's part of my religious practice to, twice a year, listen to the revealed word of God, as given by latter-day prophets. The practice warms my heart as a certain specialty Mormon holiday-feel always seems to creep its way into my soul in the spring and in the fall, as I, along with all of the members of the church across the world, meet to think about our relationship with God. We meet and stand in support of the network that is increasingly spreading across the globe. It is the goodness of the gospel spreading forth. 

But that isn't what I want to write about tonight. That is a topic worthy of praise and awe. No- tonight, I want to reflect on two incidents that have effected me deeply. The first one happened  tonight before the broadcast, the other 1.5 weeks ago.

Tonight, my stake Relief Society decided to host a potluck for all of the women who live in our area TWO HOURS before the broadcast was to begin. I found the time-frame absurd, and so I decided to go late, believing that, certainly, others would too. I was only partially correct in that others also came late, but mostly they came without food. I brought some hummus and pita bread.

So I stood alone and late in the kitchen at our stake center, sawing away with the child-safe knives readily available in the unlocked drawers, at my pita bread wafers. The other sisters from the stake were already sitting down to dinner, and most of the food was already gone. I was attempting to make a million triangles out of four rounds of bread. As I stood there, an older lady rambled in, holding an empty water pitcher from her table. She slammed it down on the counter where I was hacking away. She glared at me, demanding my attention. I said hello as politely as I could muster through my obvious disgruntlement. She replied, "My water is out. I need it filled."

I had no idea how to reply. Was it not apparent that I was busy? That I wasn't her servant? I went through an entire range of emotion: rage, confusion, bewilderment, frustration, impatience. As this encounter was happening, another sister had entered the room. She saw what was happening, and quickly attempted to intervene. She loudly told the first lady, "She doesn't work here, Norma!"

And suddenly, it struck me. No, no, Norma. I DO work here. This is PRECISELY where I work. This is how I can serve and lift where I am standing. Tonight, I was standing in the kitchen hacking away at pita bread that would hardly be sniffed by the carnivores in my stake. Tonight, I was needed to refill pitchers for seemingly incompetent old ladies. Tonight, I needed to lift chairs onto stacks after frail ladies had sat on them to dine. Tonight, I was needed to crawl under the stage to retrieve somebody's purse that had mysteriously gotten lodged. Tonight, and maybe every night in my entire life, I was needed. I think I have been missing this somehow.

I filled the old timer's pitcher as she stood there scowling at me with such impatience. I returned it to her, and she continued glaring. I went back to my pita bread, hoping she would just go away when she said, "What about ice?!?!"

I felt completely floored. I was reminded of a story that my dad loved to tell me while growing up,  about a time that an older gentleman was rude to him and cut him off while in line at the temple. He was so enraged and irritated by the old man that he felt he had lost all of the goodness he had generated that evening. A temple worker, standing nearby, sought to help my dad regain his peace, and said to him, "I'm so sorry! That's too bad!" Instantly, things were put into perspective. It's remarkable how having an innocent- someone who will intervene can restore peace like that.  I think the point of this story is the message of the Savior, the message of forgiveness and patience in learning to love one another. I forget sometimes how that applies to every person. I get blinders on and focus on the people who I know need love, the ones whose need is apparent. But I forget that I have committed to act to serve even the least of people.

It was a really weird moment, because it was so incredibly inconvenient to have this demand placed upon me. And why couldn't the other sister find ice for her? The old lady demanded MY attentions, MY service, MY action. It was a time that I wasn't looking to learn a lesson, an instance wherein I didn't feel like expanding or softening my heart. I turned to look for ice for the lady, and I walked to the fridge with the most bitter wrestle in my heart as I felt it tempting to melt to her needs. There was no ice, and I felt a little vindicated in invalidating her demand for cold. She sauntered off, grumbling, and I kept thinking.

I have been accused (more than a few times) before of thinking too much and too deeply about things that might be insignificant. But there was something about this instance that won't leave me. It is a lesson that has been sitting with me for some time, and one that I am ashamed has taken me so long to learn. I will be 27 in a month, and I should like to think I had know this sooner. But alas, I am humbled... yet again.

The other incident coincides beautifully with the lesson that was given voice tonight.

A week and a half ago, my battery in my car died. I had to borrow money from my dad to get a new one which is humiliating in itself, but even worse to know that it meant that there was ZERO dollars left for the rest of the month (this was around the 15th). So that. But then, I was asked to buy some supplies for the ward activity, which, being broke, I could not do! It was so embarrassing, but I had to call my relief society president  to have her come buy the things because I didn't have the $20 to front the bill. She came and paid and all was well. A few days later, she texted me and asked if she could visit for a minute.

Then she said she didn't want to offend me but that she was worried about me. I really wasn’t feeling all that sad about being poor because… well… I always am, I guess.  At first, I was sort of defensive and nervous because, you know… pride. But I decided to be soft and let her visit.

She came over and she didn’t say anything really, just hugged me and gave me an envelope full of money and left. I have never been in a situation where I needed help so badly, but I didn’t ask for it. I felt foolish for not asking, but at the same time completely humbled that I didn’t have to. That I mattered without announcing it. (Sidenote: There is a pattern I see emerging with my recent thoughts about Charity, and in particular, with this one incredible person. I have more thoughts on this topic, but those will be saved for a later date!)

I guess I spend a lot of time feeling like other people’s problems are worse than mine are, and I still suspect that is true. But even still, it was a big lesson to me that EVERYONE matters, and that really, in very real and practical ways, true charity cannot fail.

[It's also really weird, if you are able, listen to the last sermon that was given in that link up top... The one by the man (President Eyering)- it is the section of the conference through which I wept. Everything fits, everything is teaching me about this right now. ]

I guess the end result of this (these) lesson(s?) is that it's maybe time for me to stop pulling away from God. It's time to come back and find out, earnestly, what He/She/That is all about. I think it might be time for me to "be as childlike as my education has taught me to be tough-minded—wise as serpents and harmless as doves, I believe the Savior called it."

If you only choose one link from this post to listen to, choose that last one.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I think I need to write more and better things, but I can't. I'm blocked, and my thesis is being selfish and taking up all of my time that isn't spent thinking about boys.

I sound horrible.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Let's remember what it is to be new.

Pablo Picasso, Woman with a Yellow Hat (Jaqueline) ca. 1906
I sat next to a man at church yesterday who asked me where the priest was. I explained how we have bishops in the church an a little bit about the organization. I am not confident that he understood all of what I was saying because I was whispering to him during sacrament meeting, a time when we're supposed to be real quiet. In a ward the size of mine, it's easy for people to notice when you are un-quiet. He started me on a vicious cycle, and my defense of things that smaller and newer than I am kicked in right then and there. I wanted to ask the speakers to be kind and non-jargony. I wanted so hard for them to remember that "initiatory" and "baptism for the dead" and "celestial kingdom" are things that sound scary to people who aren't us, but are curious nevertheless. Those things are scary for the uninitiated. The man sitting by me (we'll call him Charles, because that was his name)   looked to me several times, imploringly seeking validation and a glance to know that he would be ok. He would be ok. I was reminded of sitting in my dad's ward in California as a teenager. I always remember that ward as a ward where I was watched nearly constantly by the children of the ward. I think they liked me because I liked them openly. I remember how they often would watch me while I sat in sacrament meeting. It's a weird feeling to know that you are being watched like that. I'm not trying to say that I was a perfect example all of the time. In the contrary, I was often the one who supplied those babies with coloring books and dinosaurs to distract their attentions. I know what it is to be new, and to not know what big words mean. I know what it is to not know where I could set my backpack. I know what it is to not speak the language, and not know who I could sit by in the cafeteria, or when it was appropriate to ask a question. I know what it is to be new.

I got a text this last week that has been sitting deeply with me. It said, "disciples are not people who never doubt. They doubt and serve and help each other with their doubts. They doubt and practice faithfulness. They doubt and wait for their doubts to be turned into knowing."

I don't know who said it originally, but I am deeply moved by the concept. Is that not precisely what we promise to do every week? Is that not what it means to bear one another's burden?

I had to leave the sacrament meeting about halfway through because I was so overwhelmed in looking at he meeting from the eyes of the new. I am new to some ways of seeing things, I suppose, as things have shifted in my family lately. My dad is getting re-married next month, and I don't really understand how all of that works. I am sort of in a mess about how things will straighten themselves out. Where do I fit? And what of my parents' temple sealing? I don't know how to sort things out, and the talks given were almost exclusively about the topic of marriage (aren't they seemingly always about that topic in singles' congregations?). I felt remorse for leaving Charles to his own intellect to understand all of all of the things. I went into the hallway and cried and cried. I felt abandoned again. Felt lost again. Felt new and scared again. I felt like I didn't belong. Again.

And it is truly by the grace of God that I was joined by one of the kindest women I have ever known in that hallway. My relief society president wept with me. She shared her love and compassion and empathy with me. She showed me how to be Christlike. And man! What an incredible thing!

She literally embodied the spirit of the Relief Society in that instance, that selfless moment of reaching out to me. I shouldn't have needed it- I should be one of the strong ones. But she didn't care. She didn't want me to cry alone. She didn't want me to sink. And she reminded me that it's okay to be new. It's okay to not know, and to re-asses and ask again and again and again. There are always answers. She reminded me that charity never faileth.

Let us have patience with being new, and kind to those who don't yet know.