Thursday, February 26, 2009

Feeding the Missionaries and Other Reciprocal Acts

Last year I blogged about listening as an act of service. In that blog I confessed that I’m not a good listener. Today I’m going to go further and confess that I’m a particularly unwilling listener when it comes to the after-dinner ‘thought’ that missionaries always leave with the family that feeds them. When we have the missionaries over, I always invite them to give a thought and make myself sit attentively, and though I usually catch the spirit of what is being said and end up enjoying listening to the missionaries speak, I’ve never managed to look forward to it with anticipation.

So, with that kind of attitude, why do I keep inviting the missionaries to dinner? Because I remember when three of my children were out serving missions and how grateful I was for the members who watched over them and saw that they were fed. I feed these missionaries because other people fed my children when I couldn’t be there for them.

I was thinking about that—about reciprocating for service to my family--this morning after a phone call from one of my daughters. She called to visit and share a funny story about her cat bringing a squirrel into the house and the ensuing mayhem it caused. It was a normal little let-me-tell-you-about-my-day episode that was unusual only because of its normalcy, for this daughter was estranged from the family for a lot of years.

During those years, she had a visiting teacher and a Relief Society President looking out for her. I mean really LOOKING OUT for her. Bringing-her-into-their-home-for-months type of looking out. Seeing-that-she-had-proper-medical-care type of looking out. Listening. Forgiving. Believing in. I’m not talking about a short term commitment, either. This has been going on over a period of years. And, all the time they were reaching out and nurturing, these good women were reinforcing things this daughter had been taught at home.

Time is a great teacher and healer of old wounds, and this daughter was profoundly wounded by Life. Born into terrible circumstances, she spent seven years buffeted by an ugly world before she came to our family. Naïve, thinking love and structure would conquer all, I was unprepared to deal with the side effects of her previous experiences, and I made lots of parenting mistakes.

But, I used to tell her that she had been sent to our family because of her valiant spirit, and, though there were times when my faith in that statement faltered, I believe it again. I believe, too, that when the time was right, other supportive people were there to help her on her way.

She called us just after Christmas and said she’d been talking to her bishop, and together they were planning a program for her to get ready to go to the temple this summer. I look forward to that day, and to meeting these women that have been such an influence in her life.

I wonder, if I were this daughter’s visiting teacher, would I have gone the extra mile? That leads my thoughts to the ladies that are my stewardship, and I vow to do a better job as a visiting teacher.

And in the middle of this vow, I remember there are only two days left in the month and I’m only half done.


I’d better get at it.

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Monique said...

Lovely post Liz. Makes me think about all the wonderful visiting teaching experiences I've had both as teacher and teachee.

Valerie Ipson said...

I agree we look at the local missionaries a little differently when our own children are out serving all over the world. And we value the Visiting Teaching program more when we know that our children or wayward brothers (Home Teachers for them) and sisters are being cared for somewhere by them. We pray they will be valiant and not give up in this important assignment.

Kim said...

Again, -love reading your posts and learning from you!