Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wasted Time

Yesterday on Monday I was driving back home after dropping off two of my children at swim practice on the Ashley Ridge High School Swim Team. Their coach doesn't care if it is pouring since they are just going to get wet anyway. He makes them exercise if there is lightning. Practice is usually never cancelled. They swim through rain and thunder which it usually does in South Carolina during hurricane season.

I was moving at a good clip around 48 mph in a 45 mph zone on a two-lane city road. Considering it was raining pretty hard and you could only see a short distance it probably wasn't a smart thing to be doing. My attention was drawn to the side of the road when another car pulled in to a grocery store parking lot. I saw something white that caused me to refocus my attention about a half a block down. When my mind caught up I saw two Elders walking in the rain neither with their umbrellas up even though I saw umbrellas in their hands.

My initial reaction was that I should stop and pick them up. Unfortunately I was in the left lane moving pretty fast. I actually started thinking about how I should go down and turn around. I was surprise to see these two elders without their car. I knew they had a car because I had them over for dinner twice this last month. Also they had come to my house a couple of times to wash their car.

Then I had a couple of conflicting thoughts my first thought was that it was inconvenient to pick them up as I was heading home and was tired having wolfed down my dinner and spent an hour and a half getting home from work since traffic had been diverted on to the country highway from the interstate due to an accident and caused me to take one and one half hours to go twenty miles. I shook off that feeling and started to make a U-turn. I thought I bet their car is in the shop so that is why they are walking. I thought I should pick them up so they don't waste a lot of time walking.

They were walking on a commercial street and there were no houses for about a half an mile. I knew it would take them ten to fifteen minutes to get to a residence. At first I wondered if they were going to a dinner appointment but I knew this set of elders were sticklers for obeying the mission rules. I looked at my clock and saw that it was 6:12 p.m. so that wasn't the case.

Then I processed something interesting I noticed when they were walking that they were in a rather animated conversation with one another. They seemed oblivious to the fact there was a major down pour taking place. I received a strong impression not to pick them up.

Maybe I was projecting something into them but I remember some of my greatest moments on a mission where what my mission president would have considered wasted time. I knew that the two elders had only been companions for about two weeks. Being as P-Day was just ending and proseltying beginning I believed they were either talking about their personal lives or doing some informal discussion about the way their missions were going.

I never really considered it wasted time even though our minds weren't fully single to the work as our mission president M. Russell Ballard would remind us. I never had much in the way of social skills growing up as a kid. I had few friends. I learned most of my social skills on a mission. Many of those skills have carried me through twenty-five years of marriage and through my LDS Church callings. I learned to listen to the life stories of my companions. I had one companion Harry Lodholm three times. He was a fascinating man. He wasn't like most of us other missionaries. He had gone in to the United States Coast Guard and went on a mission when about twenty-four. He had come from a farm in Washington State and was very handy with his hands he could fix just about anything. He had a bright inquisitive mind and had undertaken a study of philosophy and religion while serving his country.

It whetted my appetite to learn about different cultures and climates as he would go in to a litany on various religions. He would talk about his family with great love and admiration. He would discuss the merits of good health and vitamins. He even put the juice from vegetables in to the pancake mix. He would share his Shakelee vitamins that his mother sold with me. I can honestly say that I heard every story he had to tell at least three times in the seven months I spent as his companion.

Some could argue that missionaries walking around repeating their limited life experiences about girls, sports, religion, and family is not productive but I disagree. I saw and heard many things that later helped me in life. A byproduct of a mission is that missionaries learn how to functionally cope better in life. It makes them better missionaries as they progress in their mission. They learn to pick up on the nuances of what investigators are saying. They learn to work with members better. Even if they don't produce great numbers of converts they are remade in to being socialized in to the Mormon culture.

As a convert to the LDS church I didn't have a lot to go on. I came from a dysfunctional home where my parents constantly fought. I father a recovering alcoholic had such a low self-esteem that he verbally abused his family most of our lives. He had to take Valium to put up with five kids. He never came home at night and played poker his entire life. We saw our father about one to two hours a day since he was either at work or out gambling. When we did see him he criticised us constantly telling us what losers we were. My parents cussed at each other like sailors and physically came to blows over money and accusations of adultery.

If it hadn't been for those wasted moments on my mission I doubt I would have been able to raise eight children as well as I have. Missionaries need to take advantage of every moment on their mission learning ways of being better men and women. Believe it or not in a matter of a couple of minutes I processed all that in my mind and didn't stop to pick up those two missionaries because what they were doing walking and talking might just be some of their most memorable moments in life.


S.Faux said...

What you say makes a lot a sense to me. Our 19-year old missionaries do amazing things, but they are still 19. They have a lot of growing up to do. Missions teach the gospel to missionaries, but they also teach many other things like: discipline, getting along with others, speaking to others, learning to be concerned about others, etc. etc.

The reality is that missions are leadership training grounds. Our lay ministry probably would not work very well unless we had such a training ground.

The gospel is broad NOT narrow. Listen to what a Bishop has to say to members in the hallways between meetings. Those VERY broad and diverse conversations are the gospel in practice because they tell members the Bishop loves them. In many ways our conversing missionaries are simply rehearsing the skills they will so often need later in the Church life.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Dr. B said...

S. Faux:

It amazes me at the depth of your understanding of human interaction. I have learned a great deal by your comments to my posts. I generate ideas that you seem to elucidate much more fully and with greater insight. I appreciate the wisdom and clarity you bring to my discussions. Thanks for sharing it was meaningful your response to my post.