Jan 19 2015

Cleaning the Building

Published by Kathy under General

These days, Mormons are everywhere you look. If you’re trying not to hit them with your car as you pass them on their bicycles, they’re behaving scandalously on some reality TV show.

Okay — not all of them are scandalous. Most of them are dancing or singing, or doing some other wholesome activity. It’s only the naked one on “Survivor” or the heroic cancer survivor father-son team that won the million dollars on “The Amazing Race” that immediately come to mind for me.

I tried to figure out how many of us there are in the USA, compared to other religions, but there aren’t any current figures. The most recent study I saw was four years old, and it had us being the fourth-largest Christian religion in America — right behind the Catholics, the Southern Baptists and the Methodists. Four years later, with four million more members worldwide, who knows where we are now?

Anyway, with Mormons multiplying like rabbits, we need more and more places to worship. And because we’re generally a messy lot, those places need to be cleaned on a regular basis.

Some years ago, the Church threw up its hands and decided it could no longer afford to waste donated dollars in the hiring of professionals to clean our meetinghouses. And since the meetinghouses were going to have to be cleaned, the members were just going to have to do it themselves.

Ideally, everyone in every Mormon congregation was just going to volunteer to take his turn wielding a mop bucket or a vacuum cleaner. I don’t know how well that works in most congregations, but it apparently wasn’t working really well in our neck of the woods.

I kept hearing rumors that the Hooper family and the Hunter family (one family with a whole boatload of kids, plus the Relief Society president’s family) were keeping our meetinghouse clean, along with a few other families, and it just wasn’t fair.

Well, it just wasn’t fair to those families that were doing the work. Everyone else probably thought it was a great deal for them, because seventy-five percent of everyone else wasn’t doing a whole lot of anything.

Fluffy and I were in that satisfied seventy-five percent of the ward, although Fluffy would volunteer about once a year when the high priests group was assigned the cleaning. What did people expect? I’m in a wheelchair! I can’t put on my own shoes and socks! So last year, when the sign-up sheets went around for people to clean the building, I didn’t even look at it. It was just not something I was cut out to do.

Then things changed, and when they changed they changed in a big way. In December, it was announced that in 2015, every family was going to participate in the cleaning of the building, and to assure that this happened; the families had already been scheduled — all of them. (Apparently the Mormon principle of free agency does not apply when cleaning the building.)

Surely we would not be on that list, I thought. But Fluffy looked at the list, and there we were. Saturday, July 18, 2015, Fluffy and I have been signed up to clean the Sterling Park meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

How did we react? We laughed and laughed and laughed. Fluffy decided he would wrap me in double-sided tape and then roll me down the hallway like a bowling ball so I could pick up the dirt like a giant lint-roller.

Let me explain how ludicrous it is to have Fluffy and me cleaning the meetinghouse. If you were to walk into our home, you would immediately conclude that we came from “old money.” And I certainly do not mean that in the sense that we are sitting on piles of cash.

People who have “new money” have houses that are nice and shiny and clean. Armies of cleaning people come in regularly to make sure the houses stay that way. “Old money” people, on the other hand, sometimes don’t have the funds to pay for those armies of cleaning people. If you look hard (or sometimes if you don’t look hard at all) you see the evidence that the armies are absent.

Our house is pretty much clutter-free. We do not have piles of things here and there. But there are garlands of cobwebs. Sometimes I’ll see a cobweb and point it out to Fluffy. It will be a massive thing that herds of sparrows could congregate on, if they were so inclined, but when I point it out, Fluffy will say, “Wow. That’s a good one,” and go about his business.

He is a man. He does not care about cobwebs. He has more interesting things to do.

It’s the same way with dust. A few months ago I saw a party attendee writing a message in the dust on top of a cabinet in our family room. I solved that problem! After the party, I had Fluffy move the cabinet to our dining room. Some people dust their furniture. Other people sit in front of the TV and have couch naps. Fluffy and I are firmly in the couch nap camp.

Fluffy does a lot with the vacuum. He vacuums the floors. (He also vacuums my head when it is time to cut my hair with the Flowbee system. I cut his hair with the vacuum cleaner too. What can I say? We’re old. Nobody cares how we look.)

Anyway, vacuuming the floor is just about all the interest Fluffy has in floor-related things. Do you think he is going to mop our hardwood floors? No. He has more important things to do — and I am not saying that sarcastically. It takes a lot of time to bake bread and to do the laundry and to do Kathy-related responsibilities. Mopping the hardwood floors is not on his radar.

I actually have an assignment as far as keeping the house clean. It is my self-appointed task to keep the powder room clean on our main floor. Let’s just say I am not very good at this. I can clean the sink, and I can clean the inside of the toilet bowl, and I can use a long-handled scrubber with a wet wipe on it to cursorily mop the floor. This is pretty much all I can do from my wheelchair, so it has to be good enough.

I am aware that the top of the tile kick-plate is grimy with dust, but I cannot reach that. I am aware that the grout between the tiles is black, but in my defense only a bonehead would put white tiles with white grout on a bathroom floor and then not seal the grout. The people who owned this house before we bought it did a lot of stupid things, and we are now enjoying the benefits of their decisions.

There are a lot of things in that bathroom I cannot reach — the mirror, and the walls, and a whole lot of the floor. Sitting in a wheelchair does not offer a whole lot of maneuverability.

So when people come to our house, I hope they do not have to use the bathroom. Or when they do use the bathroom, I hope they are thinking about other things than the tile kick-plate or the floor. The surfaces within Kathy reach are sanitized for their protection. Everything else, in the bathroom and the rest of the house, is “old money.”

If our own house is decorated with cobwebs and dust, who in the world thought we were capable of cleaning up our church meetinghouse? It was obviously somebody who didn’t spend any time in our home — that’s what I thought. Nobody in his right mind would ask us to do any cleaning when our own house is barely making do.

But there was our name: Kidd — Saturday, July 18. It was there in black and white for everyone to see.

When our friend One-F came over for dinner and games one night, we regaled him with the story. We thought he would think the image of Kathy rolling around the floors in double-sided tape would be as funny as we thought it was, but One-F, who is younger than we are, is nevertheless somewhat wiser.

“If you should be exempt from cleaning the building, Kathy, who should be?” he asked. “We have a whole lot of people who use walkers. Should they be exempt?”

Just as I was about to say, “Well, of course,” he added, “What about the women who just had a baby last week? What about the women who had a baby last month? Where do you draw the line?”

Suddenly there was a huge gray area. It wasn’t just Kathy anymore. If you start adding pregnant women into the mix, there goes half the ward.

And there are lots of other people who have allergies or ailments of one kind or another that could disqualify them, too. Once I got disqualified, I could be that first domino to fall. We might wind up with just the Hunters and the Hoopers cleaning the building again. We’d be right back where we started — and everything would be all my fault.

But once One-F got me on the guilt train, he took me all the way to the station. “Besides,” he added, “what kind of message would it send if you got out there in your wheelchair and cleaned the building right along with everyone else? You could take pictures. You could pass out brownies. You could cheer people on. And maybe you could do some cleaning, too.”

One-F was absolutely right. It’s not as though I don’t have hands, after all. The counters in the kitchen are Kathy-height. And at the rate my nerves are growing back, who knows? Maybe by July I’ll actually be able to stand up as I clean the counters. Stranger things have happened.

When Fluffy and I got the news about cleaning our church meetinghouse, we immediately disqualified ourselves. The reasons we did so were obvious. But a well-timed kick in the rear from a friend reminded me that all too often we give up long before we should do so.

Instead of saying, “I can’t,” we should be asking ourselves, “How can I make it happen?” The answers may surprise us. In the process of answering that question, we may find ourselves achieving far more than we ever would have done if we had just given up without making an effort. And in the process of making that effort, we can have a whole lot of fun along the way.

3 responses so far

Jan 12 2015

The Turkey that Would Not be Eaten

Published by Kathy under General

Way back in prehistoric times, perhaps as early as October of last year, our home teachers invited us to a big, communal Thanksgiving feast at one of their homes. This was not going to be an easy feat for me, because I do not get into other people’s homes willy-nilly, but I was eventually able to navigate the stairs through the garage and make it into the house.

I felt so brave, which shows you how pathetic it is to be an old person. We think it’s a major accomplishment when we manage to brush our teeth or get our shoes on the correct feet.

The Thanksgiving celebration was such a rousing success that when we learned that everyone was going to be in town for Christmas, Fluffy and I volunteered to have a similar dinner at our house on Christmas Day. This was no small matter. One home teaching family had three members; the other home teaching family had four members, plus perhaps the lady who lived in the basement, and then there were Fluffy and me.

I’m not big on math, but that was more people than Fluffy and I are usually feeding. We usually don’t host anybody, other than ourselves and Alex Trebek. Mr. Trebek keeps us awake during dinner so that we don’t fall face first into the soup.

We had already decided to order a ham from Famous Dave’s — not because we needed a ham but because their hams are so good we were looking for any excuse. But once we knew we were feeding an army, we also ordered a smoked turkey. Then we invited a friend from the temple and her mother. Why not? When you’re feeding an army, what’s two more?

As Christmas approached, things started to fall apart. Home teacher John’s parents announced they were coming sometime that evening. We bravely said that they could come for dinner too, bringing the tally to a lucky 13 if they decided to accept and if the agoraphobic lady from the basement didn’t join the party.

Then John learned that his sister-in-law and her family were planning on arriving for a visit sometime that day as well, and at that point it became apparent that not everybody had been communicating with everybody else. Some people had accepted our invitation without getting prior spousal approval, which is never a good thing.

John and wife Michelle decided to bow out of the Christmas Day dinner, replacing it with a dinner at the Cracker Barrel on another day — their treat. Then Michael and Melanie came too, but was that in addition to or instead of the Christmas Day dinner? Nobody actually let us know.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve. We knew were down to no more than seven people for dinner — Fluffy and me, the temple friend and her mother, and Michael’s family. But Michael’s family told us they were going to a movie on Christmas Day. Was that before dinner at our house, after dinner at our house, or instead of dinner at our house? We never were completely sure.

Also, our friend from the temple had not called to see what time we were eating. My guess was that they were eating elsewhere and that we were eating alone, but we couldn’t be sure.

At the last minute, we made menu adjustments. We decided to make cranberry fluff salad, cook the ham, bake the pie, share a sweet potato, and call it good. If someone called to ask what time we were eating, we could always make mashed potatoes and gravy. The turkey was spared for another day.

As it turned out, we ate Christmas dinner wearing our pajamas and Santa hats and watching Alex Trebek. After eating, we took a short nap on the couch. Despite the change in plans, it was a quiet Christmas and all was well. The turkey napped in the refrigerator, cold and happy. It dodged a bullet.

A few days after Christmas, we heard from a friend who suggested we revive an old tradition of having Easter and Christmas dinners together. We said we could do it retroactively, but our Christmas dinner would be on New Year’s Day. We already had the food.

So on New Year’s Day, which is a much nicer day to cook than Christmas, Fluffy and I did all the cooking that we’d planned to do the week before. We made dressing for the turkey. We made gravy for the turkey. We made mashed potatoes. Fluffy made another batch of cranberry fluff salad, the batch he had made the week before being long gone because it is so fine.

And of course, we finally heated that smoked turkey. It was a glorious bird. I couldn’t wait to eat it. It was the star of the meal. In fact, we had to postpone the meal until the internal temperature of the turkey reached 165 degrees, something I did not understand because the turkey was already fully cooked when we got it from Famous Dave’s. But we were obedient, so we waited.

Fluffy, being the family member with operating feet, was a whirling dervish of activity. He asked Dale if he would carve the turkey, but Dale declined, citing a lack of carving experience.

I would have been glad to carve the turkey, but I was making gravy and then I started telling Dale the story of the Halifax Explosion. There was an ulterior motive here. I wanted him to travel there at his own expense, interview a lot of people, and give Fluffy and me the research so we could write a book about it for an American audience. Then we would split the royalties three ways.

I could have carved the turkey as I was talking, and I would have been glad to do so if someone had brought me the turkey. It is just as well nobody did, because I was gesturing wildly with my hands as I was talking at the dinner table, and I’m sure everyone at the table was glad I did not have a knife in my hands at the time.

The only other potential turkey carver at the table, Lynne, is so polite that she would not have touched the turkey without written permission from the turkey in question, and the turkey was not in a position to write.

So all the food made its way to the table except for the star of the meal — the turkey itself. The very centerpiece of my Norman Rockwell feast sat on a counter across the room while everyone dug into the ham and the mashed potatoes and dressing and gravy and cranberry fluff salad.

Halfway through the meal, Dale said, “I think I’m going to get me a turkey leg.” He went over to the turkey, ripped off a leg with his bare hands, and back he came.

I thought to myself, I’d like a piece of turkey. But do you think it occurred to old Coma Brain that it might be a good time to carve the turkey so we could actually eat it? No, it never did. I don’t mind carving a turkey. I’m not good at it, but I would have been glad to do it. We could have had turkey and dressing and gravy too, just the way I’d planned from the beginning. But the idea never even crossed my mind.

We sat there visiting and watching Dale pick apart his turkey leg. He commented on the sinews and the skin, but he never told us how good it was or wasn’t. I still have no idea whether that bird was a good investment.

We have baguettes and avocados and cranberry-orange relish, all ready to make turkey and avocado sandwiches at our next meal. But I fully expect that before we get around it, we are going to see a one-legged turkey use his crutches to push open the refrigerator door. He will hop out of the refrigerator and hobble to the side of the road, where he will stand on his remaining leg and hold up a little sign saying, “Curse you, Mister Dale.”

Most of us plan our lives in neat little outlines. In the innocence of youth, we may expect that our lives will line up like this:

a)
b)
c)
d)
e)

It’s only when we get to the end of our lives that we see the path our lives have really taken is more likely to resemble this:

a)
Bolivia
?
“The Hallelujah Chorus”
17

It’s how we deal with the curve balls of life that defines who we are as people. In fact, it’s a good part of why we are here. We need to adapt to things we don’t expect — the spectacularly good, and the terribly bad, usually without any time to think about them and take them in. Not only do we need to adapt to them, but we also need to accept these things with grace.

We all know people who hit a bump in the road and just stop. It may be the death of a loved one, or the inability to have children. It may be a severe illness. It may be going through life as a single person. It may be something as seemingly trivial as the death of a pet. It may be any of the times when life diverts us from our established plan.

All of those things are big bumps in the road, but they are part and parcel of life. They are not things that are designed to stop us in our tracks. Nevertheless, if we look around us we can see many people sitting in front of their own personal boulders, steadfastly refusing to get up and climb over them, or walk around them, or plow right through them as though they are not even there.

There were a dozen little things that could have ruined our Christmas this year, but we ended up laughing them off and having a delightful celebration. It is my hope for the New Year that we can all take that attitude with the little and big obstacles that will inevitably block our path as we head down the highway of life.

3 responses so far

Jan 05 2015

The Making of Diamonds

Published by Kathy under General

Fluffy and I went to a wedding last week, and as we sat in the temple I couldn’t help but remember our own wedding ceremony a little more than 38 years ago. We were so young. We were so innocent. We were so — well, we were so stupid. We only thought we knew everything, when in fact we knew so little.

I could see that Fluffy was a diamond in the rough. He had jagged edges that would trip an elephant. I thought it would be no trouble to grind those edges off, once we were living in wedded bliss. I naively assumed that Fluffy would calmly sit there while I used the grinder on him to get rid of those nasty imperfections.

What a dolt I was! Fluffy will not even submit to a haircut unless he’s in the mood! He kept a mustache for more than thirty years, fully knowing that I hate facial hair in any form. If he wouldn’t even shave a mustache for me, why in the world did I think he was going to sit still long enough for me to mold him and shape him into the person I thought he should be?

It just wasn’t going to happen.

We’re just not even going to mention the little detail about what right I thought I had to change him, anyway. I’m not the first woman who went into a marriage thinking she was going to tame the savage beast — to civilize him, if you will.

As author John Grisham says, women go into a marriage thinking they can change their husbands and men go into a marriage thinking their wives won’t change — and both of them are wrong.

John Grisham is right. You can’t change a man. There isn’t a hammer big enough to knock off those rough edges. And the harder you try, the more determined the husband is to keep whatever quality it is you’re trying to get rid of.

I spent a lot of years trying. I would ask something of Fluffy, but Fluffy considered excessive asking to be nagging. If I mentioned something once, that was okay. The second time I mentioned it — even if it was a week after the first time — I had crossed the line into nag-dom, and Fluffy was less likely to do whatever it was I had asked than if I had never asked him at all.

If I hadn’t gotten the hint the second time and dared to ask him about the same thing on a third occasion, heaven help me. It was never in this lifetime going to happen — not even if Fluffy had been intending to do it in the first place.

Take mustaches. Please take them. Take all of them, far from me. Gee, do I hate those slithery little things! I don’t know why I have an aversion to them. It is totally irrational. I completely admit that some men look a lot better with them than without them. I don’t like them for the same reason I don’t like peanut butter or the Tabernacle Organ. I just don’t.

But the moment that Fluffy knew how much I hated mustaches, keeping his mustache became a matter of principle with him. His mustache was a part of him, and if I loved him, why was I trying so hard to change him? He never exactly said that, mind you, but that’s what his big, sad eyes were always asking me. I didn’t have an answer for that, so I always backed off.

So the mustache stayed until the moment he was given a choice of keeping the mustache or keeping his status as a temple worker. Then he shaved. It took me a year to get used to the clean-shaven Fluffy, and I had to admit that the mustache-less Fluffy looked a bit strange. But that’s a different topic for a different day. The point is, for the purposes of this column, he did not get rid of the mustache for me.

As I sat in the temple last week, looking at the dewy-eyed bride, I wondered what in the world possessed me, back when I was twenty-six and dewy-eyed myself, to think that Fluffy had all those rough edges and that I didn’t have any rough edges of my own. It never occurred to me that I, too, might need a little bit of fixing — or maybe a whole lot of fixing.

It never dawned on me that my rough edges might be even bigger than his were, and that instead of Kathy being given the task of polishing Fluffy up into a fine gem, God had instead thrown two rough stones into the same rock tumbler. Instead of him needing all the fixing, I needed to be fixed right along with him. We needed to grow, or be shaved off, or to be groomed, together.

Oh boy, am I mixing my metaphors!

In retrospect, I see that my vision for Fluffy was a lot punier than God’s has been. How do I know this? Because right now, today, Fluffy is a diamond that shines brighter than I ever imagined he could shine. I couldn’t have turned Fluffy into the person he is now. My imagination isn’t good enough. God is a better gem polisher than I ever dreamed of being.

Perhaps instead of trying to mold our mate (or children) into our image of what we want them to be, it would be better to encourage them to be the kind of people that will cause their best selves to appear. In other words, we should be the master of the garden, but we don’t select the seeds.

You can’t change someone to be what you want, but you can put them into an environment that will foster positive change. If you surround them with love and acceptance and happy experiences, sometimes the rough edges fall off without any effort on your own, and people become the diamonds they were supposed to be from the very beginning.

And usually you will find that the same process has removed most of your rough edges as well.

3 responses so far

Dec 29 2014

Learning from Failure

Published by Kathy under General

Sometimes you read something that changes your life. For me, a recent example was reading a talk given by R. Lanier Britsch back in 1999, “The Nobility of Failure.”

Ironically, the one contact I have had with R. Lanier Britsch in the long-ago past also involved a failure of sorts, and he was responsible for it. He taught a class on world religions when I was a student at Brigham Young University. It was one of my favorite all-time classes.

Britsch was a fascinating teacher, and I was enthralled with the subject. I aced the course — right up until the final exam.

I wish I had a copy of the final exam to reproduce for you. At the top of the paper was the name of the course. Then there was the word “Name,” followed by a colon and a line where the student could fill in his name.

That was it. Every other word — and I mean every other word on the several-page exam — was in one of five languages: Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, Aramaic, or Sanskrit.

No, that’s an exaggeration. There were different sections on the test. At the top of each section were instructions: “Fill in the Blanks;” “Matching;” “Essay;” “True or False” — that sort of thing. The instructions were in English. That was helpful.

But when you’re filling in the blanks of a sentence whose words are in Hebrew and you don’t actually speak Hebrew, the words “Fill in the Blanks” at the top of the section are not quite helpful enough.

Britsch left the room — as well he could. Even if we had not been students at Brigham Young University, there was no way we could have cheated. All we could do was shake our heads in astonishment. Then we laughed.

I was actually able to answer a question or two, just because of the context. “Namu Amida Butsu” must have gone in this spot, for example. There was no place else it could have fit. But I failed the test, and if I failed it everyone else did too. At least there was convincing evidence of this.

Before this final exam, my grade had been the highest in the class. I knew this for a fact, because Britsch had helpfully kept the grades posted in the hall on a bulletin board for everyone to see. I checked after every test to make sure my status was firmly in place, with that shiny “A” intact, and it always was.

That was the only “A” I was pulling down in a semester where my final grade point average was going to end up being — get this — .56, so you can bet that I was basking in whatever glory I was able to achieve.

So when I saw this exam, I was fully expecting that this text was a joke, and that when the final grades were posted, I would still be at the top of the glass with that shiny “A” grade.

Well, I was half right. When the dust had settled, I was still at the top of the class, but after factoring in the final exam, my grade in the course was now a “C.”

Some professors!

Anyway, I thought it was just a teensy bit ironic that this talk should be given by Lanier Britsch, considering that he was single-handedly responsible for a failure on my part. But his talk on failure was so important that it brought tears to my eyes, because failure has been one of the things in my life at which I have been, shall we say, the most successful.

I do not say this in the hope of being reassured otherwise. I know that some people consider me to be wildly successful, and at least as far as marriage and home and friendship are concerned, I have hit the jackpot.

What can be more important than home and family and friends, you ask? Absolutely nothing. Nobody is more fortunate than I, and I know it. I thank God for my blessings every day of my life.

But in other areas of my life — areas that I do not choose to share with others — I have been somewhat less successful. “Colossal failure” is the phrase that comes to mind. Things have happened to me that have been so bizarre that it’s almost as though an invisible brick wall had been built between me and success.

I did the work and I did it well. Then, when it was time for the reward, the reward did not come.

Things have been so completely against common sense that more than once I have said in my prayers, “If you’re not going to help me, all I ask is that you not stand in my way.”

I guess that’s why I was so touched by the talk. In it, Lanier Britsch quoted a man that many of us would consider a huge success in life — Mitt Romney.

Paraphrasing Romney, Britsch said, “he forthrightly stated that even though we may work hard, keep the rules, cross every t, and eat everything on our plates, we might not be big successes in life. A good deal depends on fate or luck or circumstance. Sometimes the good guys do not win — or so it appears.”

This is Kathy speaking. We all know people whose every effort is rewarded. Doors open for them. Things are handed to them, seemingly before they ask. They fill up their plates and eat everything they want without having to diet.

They don’t know the meaning of the word “pimple,” or “zit,” or whatever teenagers are calling them these days. They date (and later marry) the cheerleaders or the basketball players. Heck, they are the cheerleaders and the basketball players and the rest of the royalty in high school and later in college. Once they get out into the workplace, dream jobs fall in their laps.

I think there may have been a time in his life when Mitt Romney could have gone in that direction. Tall, wealthy, and good-looking, he may have gone a lifetime without ever developing compassion to go with it. A lot of people in his position never understand that it wasn’t their own virtue that got them their looks or their wealth or their success — it was the luck of the draw.

And yet Mitt Romney delivered that speech about failure more than a decade before his defeat in the presidential election, so somehow he learned along the way that life doesn’t come easy for everyone. I can only imagine how his own words may have comforted him in the years since he lost that election, and has reflected on the truth of what he said.

After quoting Romney’s words on failure, Britsch went on to tell the story of Mormon missionaries in the 1800s that went to India to try to spread the gospel, only to have doors shut against them at every turn. Although the missionaries who went to England saw success at every corner, the missionaries in India were only met with disappointment and heartache.

After baptizing only people who expected to be paid to remain members of the Church, and being condemned for everything they did, they went home in seeming defeat, only to almost freeze to death as they struggled across the plains to join their fellow Saints in Utah. It seemed as though everything they did ended in failure or near-failure.

But, as Britsch pointed out, these men were strengthened by their experiences. They were forged in the furnaces of their hardships, and not one of them regretted the time they spent away from their wives and their families, preaching the word of God to people who had no interest in hearing what they had to say.

They recognized that there are blessings associated with sacrifice, even if the sacrifice is not accepted. They understood that there are unseen recipients of that sacrifice — God, and the person who pays the price and suffers the loss.

So can we all be. Our failures are not really failures, if we learn the lessons we are supposed to learn and become better people in the process. We can choose to be successful no matter what the world says.

In the words of Mitt Romney — a person who has since learned from bitter experience — we may “work hard, keep the rules, cross every t, and eat everything on our plates” and stumble long before the finish line. “Fate or luck or circumstance” may work against us, and we may not win.

Nevertheless, there is no need to think of ourselves as failures in this game of life. Some of the most successful people on earth only appear to be that way from our earthly perspective. And some who have lived lives of seeming obscurity and humility may be — in the long run — the most successful people of all.

We are not losers until God says we are, and His is the only opinion that really matters when all is said and done.

4 responses so far

Dec 22 2014

The Breakup

Published by Kathy under General

I have lost my own true love.

It has been nearly two years in coming. When I first awoke from my coma in December of 2012, I was afraid that something was not right. And though I have tried to deny it many times, the time has come when I must now face the truth.

Although the two of us had blissfully spent many stolen hours together, after my coma things just were not the same.

I tried to force the issue. I tried to pretend that things were going to be the same as they always had been.

When I awoke from my coma, my taste buds were off. I couldn’t taste anything. “It’s the drugs,” the nurses said. And indeed, I was taking so many powerful medications just to stay alive that I wasn’t eating much of anything.

Hospital food was out of the question. The dieticians tried to tempt me with one “delicacy” after another, but face it — it was all made by the hospital cooks, and at that point I was not in a good hospital. Their food was not going to tempt me.

The dieticians finally brought me two bottles of Ensure at every meal. Fluffy took most of the bottles home, where they sat in the refrigerator for months until we finally threw them away.

Instead of the hospital food Fluffy brought me Jell-O or soup, and I ate as much as a cup of that a day. I lost a ton of weight, and that was fine with me.

When I got home, food and I continued to be at war. For about eight months, I ate Velveeta dip on toasted baguette slices for every meal. It was all I could taste, so it was all that tasted good.

One by one, my taste for foods came back. Apples were almost the last. They had been my favorites and I was glad when my love for them returned, but try as I might my one true love remained elusive.

I tried to woo him back.

Every few months, Fluffy would make the pilgrimage to Popeye’s. He would buy the chicken — all dark meat with spicy seasoning. It was just the way I had eaten it, all those furtive years.

It was the chicken that would have been my last meal if I had ever found myself on Death Row and had been forced to make the request — four-piece dinner, all thighs, with red beans and rice and an extra biscuit.

But try as I might, I couldn’t get the chicken to taste the way to me after my coma as it had tasted before. Even two years later, it has an off flavor.

I say to the chicken, “It isn’t you. It’s me.” And it’s true. My taste buds are catty-wampus. I want to love the chicken the way I used to. I just can’t.

Last week was the last straw. I had a doctor’s appointment near a Popeye’s. I decided to get chicken for me and go somewhere else for take-out for Fluffy. His choice was anywhere else. (He isn’t on speaking terms with my beloved. His is a seething jealousy.)

We arrived home, and Fluffy set the feast before me. It took only one bite for me to know the sad truth.

It’s over. “Irreconcilable differences” is what would go on the papers if there were any formal papers, but there aren’t. We have just grown apart. Something that I thought would be a lifetime love affair is no longer a part of my life. Oh, I may return to Popeye’s for the biscuits and the red beans and rice, but I see no point in buying the chicken again. It is finished between us. There is no sense in forcing the issue.

I have spent two years trying to rekindle my flame with Popeye’s chicken. It’s a small incident, perhaps, but it illustrates the idea that we as human beings often hold onto things long after we should let them go.

Sometimes we cling to habits, stubbornly, even though they are no longer our friends. We hang on to a sedentary way of life even though we know we should exercise, or consume a diet that only young people should eat. We watch television shows that dull the senses, or play video games that numb the mind. We may allow our vocabulary to drag us down rather than uplift us, or choose music that incites rather than heals.

Sometimes we hold on to companions who would drag us down. We follow their lead rather than making the effort to being the leader, refusing to put forth the courage to turn the group in a different direction.

It is often the little things that make a big difference in our lives. Either we do those little things or fail to do those little things — a difference is made either way.

1 Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” The verse implies maturity. When we are spiritually mature, we discard the things we need to put away, the “childish things” that distract us from a meaningful life.

It has taken me two years to realize I need to walk away from my one true love. I only hope that when I am confronted with habits and issues that really matter, I will able to spot them a little more quickly, turn away without hesitation, and become the creature that God intends me to be.

3 responses so far

Dec 15 2014

Two-Year Anniversary

Published by Kathy under General

The Kidd family passed a milestone recently, although I passed it without even thinking about it and had to be reminded by Fluffy. He, being on the sentient end of it, wasn’t exactly in a position where he could forget about it.

Two years ago, I was in a coma. Some of you may think of this as a relaxing twelve-day nap, but it was a life-altering event for me. I was not the same person when I awoke as I was when I went to sleep.

There is a whole lot involved in the coma biz — so much that these days, when we see people on TV shows who are in comas just wake up and go about their pre-coma activities, Fluffy and I tend to laugh and laugh.

In fact, I was lying in my hospital bed when Fluffy and I watched Leroy Jethro Gibbs of “N.C.I.S.” wake up out of a coma, strap on his gun, and run off chasing the bad guys. I would have rolled out of my bed laughing, if I could have rolled over, that is. Having awakened almost completely paralyzed, rolling over at all was somewhat out of the question.

After I woke up, Fluffy had to teach me how to open and close my fingers into a fist. To encourage this, he would bring dice games to my hospital room and would spend hours chasing the dice around the room as I attempted to pick up the dice cup and throw out the dice like a normal person.

For months I had daily occupational therapy (the occupational therapists work on your arms and hands) and daily physical therapy (the physical therapists work on your legs and feet). The heroes on TV never have to learn how to make a fist again, much less how to brush their teeth.

But I assure you, these little acts take weeks or months or even years for those of us who are not highly-paid television actors.

Fluffy tells the story of how, in the second of my three hospitals, I used to try to convince him to help me escape. I wanted him to get the wheelchair from home and sneak it into my hospital room and take me home.

“Great,” said Fluffy. “Show me how you’re going to get out of bed.”

He said I’d try and try and try, until my face was red and maybe I’d move one leg a half-inch toward the edge of the bed. “Okay,” I’d finally say. “Maybe the nurses can get me over to the edge of the bed.” (The nurses in this hospital were strong men from Africa. It would have taken strong men to move me across the bed. Fluffy never could have done it by himself.)

“Great,” said Fluffy. “Show me how you’re going to get into the house once we get there.”

I’d think for a minute. “Men from the ward can get me into the house.”

“Great,” said Fluffy. “How are they going to get you up the stairs?”

“I guess they can carry me,” I said. It was obvious I wasn’t thinking this through. I probably still tipped the scales at close to four hundred pounds, and even after they got me into the house it was fifteen more stairs to get me into the bedroom.

“Great,” said Fluffy. “And how are you going to go to the bathroom?”

“Oh, never mind,” I’d say in frustration.

Then, five minutes later, I’d say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Next time you come, why don’t you bring the wheelchair from home and take me home with you.” And thus the conversation would start all over again. My hands and feet were not the only parts of me that needed retraining!

This was in December. I didn’t go home from the hospital (yet another hospital) until March 5. Even then, I felt like a baby chick leaving the egg prematurely. It took me nearly a half hour to get into bed. Our bed did not have those nifty rails that were on the side of my hospital bed. Fluffy finally rigged a rope in bed so I could grab it and pull myself far enough onto the bed that I wouldn’t fall out. It was an answer to prayer.

Even then, I was so weak I kept falling off the wheelchair as I transitioned from the bed to the wheelchair in the morning. Once I was on the ground, the only way to get me up again was to call Fire and Rescue. That’s how weak I was. This did not promote marital harmony. Finally Fluffy found a different way for me to get off the bed in the morning. It was another answer to prayer.

I was not strong enough to stay in my wheelchair without a seat belt to hold me in. Otherwise, I’d slide right out like a greased pig. I was not strong enough to sit in any seat other than that wheelchair until September of that first year, securely belted in. The first day I was able to get over on the loveseat and sit next to Fluffy where I belonged was a red-letter day.

I was not strong enough to go into the bathroom until June, two months after I returned home. I am sure this was an answer to Fluffy’s prayer, because until then I was using a bedside porta-potty that had been supplied by the hospital. Somebody had to clean that porta-potty after every use, and here’s a hint: the hospital was not sending out orderlies to do the job.

Even now, two years later, Fluffy has to put on my shoes and socks for me in the morning and take them off at night. I am not a total doofus. If I did not wear compression stockings I could put on my own shoes, albeit with considerable difficulty; it is the compression stockings that make Fluffy’s participation in the process necessary. It takes a good ten minutes to get shoes and socks on my feet every morning.

I’ve found throughout this process that challenges seem insurmountable. After a while, with perseverance, they become possible. That’s how I conquered the stairs. I practiced on a plastic stair-stepper until I could do one step. That alone took months. Then I went up the first five real steps every day until it seemed easy. Only then did I try the last ten.

My next goal is to be able to stand up from a chair without pushing myself up by the arms, just using my legs and the walker. Right now it’s impossible. It’s the hardest thing about church with the exception of using a walker in the parking lot, which is a real pain in the neck.

But getting up once I’ve sat down on those nasty church chairs is impossible unless Fluffy just about gives himself apoplexy in an effort to pull me up again. Something just has to change. So it will.

That’s what happens in the process of growth. Something is just too hard to tackle. So you agonize over it, for a nanosecond, or an hour, or a week, or even longer. Finally you decide to do something about it, and you mentally work it out. Then your body follows. Eventually, through a process of trial an error, you do what has to be done.

It’s a process. In this case, I am going to practice knee bends to strengthen my knees and my thighs. They won’t like it, of course. They will think it is w-o-r-k, and they do not like w-o-r-k, which is why I have to spell it. But eventually they will be stronger, even against their will, so that when I try to stand up just using the walker, I will be able to do it.

And then, one day, I will be able to stand up even without the walker, just the way you do. Effortlessly. Or even with effort. Hey. I’m old. Everything I do takes effort. It’s one of the rules.

When I can stand up again the angels will sing, but perhaps not as fervently as Fluffy. Then I’ll go on to another goal. That’s part of the human endeavor. Whether you’re a baby learning to walk or a person like me recovering from a coma, it’s the way of life.

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Dec 09 2014

The Great Unrecognizable Kathy

Published by Kathy under General

We happened to be scheduled to work at the temple on Black Friday. Of course, because everyone at the temple wears white it is more appropriately called White Friday. But I digress.

Anyway, as Fluffy was rolling me from one place to another I noticed a couple we hadn’t seen in several years. I had really enjoyed working with them several years earlier when they had been assigned there as temple missionaries. Seeing them once a week while they served there resulted in quite a bit of time spent together.

One of the fun things about working in the temple is getting to know all of these interesting people who have lived in many places and done many things.

When the wife came to the office to visit with the office staff, I waited patiently while she talked to Karen and then to Lydia. Then she turned around to me and looked at me without a glimpse of recognition.

She read my name tag and said brightly, “Oh. Kidd.” I could tell she was faking it. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but she had no earthly idea who I was.

I said, “I used to have long hair. I lost a hundred pounds.” I didn’t mention the coma that took the weight off me. She didn’t have enough interest in that. You only have interest in coma-related things when you know people, and she obviously didn’t think she’d ever met me before in her life.

She smiled at me vacantly and walked off, looking to reconnect with her other friends. No doubt if she had seen me as I looked before my coma we would have embraced like long-lost companions, but I am not the same person I used to be. I understand that.

This is not the first time this has happened, you see. The last time, the person was a lot closer than a missionary who had only been here on a two-year assignment.

The last time, the person was someone who had been in my home. I had been in her home. In fact, I had held Connie’s hand, so to speak, as she and her husband Floyd had built that home. And then when it was finished, she had invited Fluffy and me and another couple over to inspect every inch of it and see the grandkids’ pictures that were nailed up the staircase to the second floor and into the bedroom.

She and I had worked together as initiatory directors every week at the temple. We were part of a tight little group of four temple couples. We went to the Cracker Barrel together on numerous occasions. We celebrated the Millennium together.

We were tight.

Then she and Floyd started working at the temple on a different day, and Fluffy and I just didn’t see her anymore. The first time I saw her after the coma, I was in the temple and she came to the office. I called out, “Hi, Connie!”

She gaped at me, silent. Then she said, “Who are you?”

I said, “It’s Kathy.”

She said, “Kathy who?”

She had been standing at the counter, but she wasn’t content to wait until I shouted out my last name. She came back to where I was sitting and kept looking from my name tag to my face. I don’t think she was ever able to reconcile the two.

I tried vainly to convince Connie that she knew me, and that we were friends, but she never believed it. We never had a conversation that indicated in any way that she knew who I was. She just walked off and out of my life. The end.

It hurts when people whom you considered to be your friends do not recognize you as friends anymore, but as soon as Fluffy picked me up at the end of our shift all was well again. He recognized me just fine. Our home is happy and warm. That’s what’s important to me.

And the bottom line is found in 1 Corinthians 13:12 — For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

I am known by my Creator in a way that will never be forgotten. No matter how much weight I gain or lose, how old I get, or what I do to my hair, He knows me through and through. He accepts me. He loves me. He doesn’t have to sneak a peek at my name tag. He is waiting for me. And when the time comes for me to return to His presence, His will be the arms that welcome me home.

6 responses so far

Dec 01 2014

An Avalanche of Service

Published by Kathy under General

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, Fluffy answered the door three times. This in itself was a little out of the ordinary, because Fluffy generally hides from door-knockers. You never know who’s going to be on the end of that knocking fist — a salesman, for example, or even a missionary from one of those crazy churches out there.

But on Saturday, Fluffy answered the door three times, and on all three occasions the knocker was somebody we knew and loved, and on all three occasions the knocker was somebody who was performing a surprise act of service for Fluffy and me.

Three of them — all in one day! That’s one of the bizarre things that happen when you turn into an old person. It is also fairly common in our church, where the members really do look out for each other.

The first incident had a crazy story attached to it. John, one of our home teachers, came to our door with a pan of funeral potatoes and a bag of salad greens. This was a real treat. Who doesn’t love funeral potatoes (unless they are actually made to accompany a funeral, which is not near as fun)?

I have mentioned John in this column before.  He does a lot of traveling, and he sends us selfies wherever he goes.  The last time he went to Kuala Lumpur, he took a picture with the Petronas Towers behind him and I said he looked jowly.  This time he was careful to crop off the bottom of his face so any ambient jowls did not show.  He has an endearing sense of humor, even when he does not bring funeral potatoes.

John does not usually have jowls, but just in case he cropped off the bottom of his face when he took a picture of himself with the Petronas Towers in the background. He did not want accusations to fly.

We asked John why he brought us a fresh pan of funeral potatoes on a Saturday morning, and he said it was due to a slight misunderstanding on the part of his wife, Michelle. Michelle is the visiting teacher of a lady who does not ever come to church. Unfortunately, the lady’s husband got an E. coli infection and died from it last week. Naturally Michelle asked what she could do.

Somehow the message that Michelle got was that the funeral would be held in Baltimore, and they would need salad and funeral potatoes to feed 200 people. Michelle rolled up her sleeves and did just that. With the help of her two daughters, she did a funeral potato assembly line. She made thousands of them, and bought many bags of salad greens to accompany them.

Surprise! It was only after she was up to her ears in funeral potatoes that she learned that the two hundred funeral attendees were going to be eating African food. Michelle had only been asked to make enough potatoes and salad to feed two people — the mother and father of the woman she visit-taught, who preferred more traditional funeral foods.

Funeral potatoes, anyone?

I was upstairs working when John arrived, so I had him schlep himself upstairs to the second floor and visit with Fluffy and me in my office, just because it’s so hard for me to get downstairs. It was only after we had been visiting for a half hour or so that he confessed he had just gotten out of the hospital after having hernia surgery.

Indeed, the only reason he was able to escape with the funeral food for us was that Michelle was up in Baltimore attending the funeral with two hundred Africans. John was supposed to be lying in his sickbed, recuperating. He wasn’t even going to church on Sunday. We promised to not tell Michelle about his transgression.

It’s not often that you have somebody who is so intent on doing a good work for you that he will get out of his sickbed to bring you funeral potatoes. John is a man among men. But this was not the first thing he had done for us this week. Oh no.

An earlier email he had sent us this week had said, “I stopped by on Saturday to do some raking for you but it looked like the backyard was done so I finished raking the leaves from under your deck and disposed of the big pile of leaves by the deck. Then I raked and mowed your front yard.”

Where do you even get home teachers like that? All I can say is, when the home teacher and visiting teacher programs were being designed, John and Michelle were the people they were thinking about as the poster boy and the poster girl for what the perfect home teacher and visiting teacher should be. They don’t get any better than that.

I’m just glad they don’t read my column, because I don’t think either one of them would be happy about all the publicity. And I also think John would be in trouble if Michelle found out he’d gone out in the car and climbed our stairs when he was supposed to be flat on his back in bed on Saturday morning. That’s what I think. So, friends of John and Michelle, mum’s the word.

But this was only the first visit we received. In the late afternoon, we got a knock on the door from a friend with a leaf-blower, just letting us know he was on the premises blowing leaves.

This was the second time this week he had done so, but we had not been home last time. We were out of town when Jeff had come previously, but John’s email had said it “looked like the backyard was done.” Yes, it was done because Jeff had done it.

Jeff had blown every last leaf off our yard with such precision it looked as though we lived on a golf course. He got rid of the walnuts too, no doubt to the consternation of the squirrels who lived in the trees in our yard. But he was back for an encore. And he, too, came inside for a welcome visit. We treated him to some funeral potatoes, and then he got back to work.

No doubt the squirrels were disgruntled.

Less than an hour later, our friend Jim, also from church, came over with a loaf of bread from Great Harvest Bread Company. He did not come in for a visit. He knocked. He gave Clark a loaf of bread. He left. No reason. He just did it. Amazing.

We are told to give acts of service. Giving acts of service is what we do as followers of Christ. The very act of becoming a Christian implies learning to give — to stretch one’s hand out in an act of service, not just once, but often. Not just daily, but more than once a day. Giving acts of service becomes a way of life. It becomes who we are.

What we often forget is that every act of service has an implied recipient. Somebody has to be on the receiving end.

Unfortunately, we tend to ignore the receiving part. Indeed, we often pride ourselves on how independent we are from needing any help from others. We can be lying in bed with a broken leg and no food in the refrigerator and flatly refuse any help from friends who offer to bring over a pot of soup.

But in refusing to accept help when we need it, we are refusing to allow people to give service, and we are refusing to learn humility by learning to accept service.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but God has an impish little sense of humor about things like this. He calls it “old age.” As age-related maladies make us more and more helpless, it gets pretty much impossible to say no. So visits from people like John and Jeff and Jim are no longer impositions — they are godsends. And I mean that literally, so I guess I’ll capitalize it. They are sent from God.

Hebrews 13:2 says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” We are not unaware. When Fluffy opens our door to the Johns and the Jims and the Jeffs of the world, he knows full well Whose messengers they are. And we are grateful every day that they have the ears to listen to His inspiring voice, and the willingness to act upon His suggestions.

4 responses so far

Nov 24 2014

Are We Not All Beggars?

Published by Kathy under General

Recently Fluffy and I spent a lovely week in Williamsburg, Virginia. No, we weren’t checking out the usual tourist sights. We’ve done that many times because we are residents of the state.

We have been there so many times that we mainly just use it as a place to relax for a week, prior to all of the activities of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We spent the week reading, playing on the computer, and catching up on our DVD collection.

On one afternoon we were on our way to dinner, and we were in the rear of the Cracker Barrel parking lot. We were in the handicapped parking stalls, where nobody could reasonably see us. Fluffy had wrangled my wheelchair out of the car, and I had just settled myself into it when a stranger came up to us and started his spiel.

“I am not a beggar,” he said. “I am a draftsman. I have a job. My father died last week, and I need to get back to Richmond to be at work tomorrow at 8 a.m. Our car is broken and we have run out of money. I just used my ATM card to empty my bank account, but we are still $18 short for getting the card repaired. Do you have $18 I can borrow? I’ll send it back to you in the mail when I get home.”

Fluffy and I were hesitant. We live on strict budget and $18 is a lot of money to us. Although we have been deceived before, this man looked like a good man.

Just that morning, at the timeshare where we were staying, we had told the story of how we had been taken in by one Handsome Timeshare Salesman, a young man who was as smooth as butter and who cheated us out of several thousand dollars in a timeshare scam. He has his own website now. He retired at age 34, has written his own book and is very rich, while we, as you know, live on a limited budget.

But on the other hand, the Book of Mormon tells us to be generous to those in need. Mosiah 4:16-19 says this:

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just –

18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

King Benjamin was a great guilt-inducer, wasn’t he?

Fluffy had exactly one twenty-dollar bill in his wallet, and he was loath to part with it. But how could we look that man in the face and not help him? We couldn’t. So Fluffy took out his wallet, gave the man $20 and our address, and sent him on his way. Then we went into the restaurant for dinner.

As we were eating, I couldn’t help but wonder why the man picked Fluffy and me, who were way over on the side of the restaurant, rather than someone who was in the front of the parking lot or on the porch sitting in the rocking chairs.

I asked Fluffy, “Do you think people are inspired by God to ask particular people for help?”

Fluffy didn’t hesitate for a minute. “Absolutely,” he said. “Don’t you remember Dick Winters from the Bonneville Ward when we lived in Salt Lake City? Fluffy then told me a story that I had pretty much forgotten.

Dick told a story in church of how he was driving home from vacation and was on his way down a particular canyon. Even though they were in no rush to get home, he kept getting the feeling that he needed to drive faster.

The feeling got stronger and stronger, and he was soon driving as fast as the speed limit and the road conditions would allow. Eventually he rounded a corner and saw a little old lady whose car had broken down. He stopped to help her. “Are you a Mormon bishop?” she asked.

“Yes.” he said.

“‘Well, it’s about time,” she said. “I prayed for a Mormon bishop to come and I thought you’d never arrive.”

It made me feel good all day that maybe — just maybe — the person who needed eighteen dollars was directed all the way to the side of the Cracker Barrel to Fluffy and me because God knew that Fluffy and I were the ones who would help him.

This reminded me of another story that I read recently. This took place a few years after the Mormon pioneers had arrived in the Salt Lake valley, and happened to a man we’ll call John Jones (okay, I don’t remember his real name).

It had been a long cold winter, and most people were running out of food. One day there was a knock on the door, and John opened it to find a stranger there. The stranger was nervous and apologetic, be he explained that they had run out of food. When the stranger had exhausted all of his options and had finally prayed about it, he was told to, “Go visit John Jones and he will help you.”

Even though John had limited food for his own family, he was happy to share what he had with the stranger. He later wrote in his journal that he went to bed that evening with an empty stomach but a full heart. He was excited that God knew him by name and trusted him to help someone else in need.

Almost daily we read somewhere about someone who makes a living through the generosity of others. There was a story just yesterday about a woman who was begging by the side the highway, but then someone saw her driving away in an expensive car. But someone once said that they were willing to be cheated 90% of the time, than to turn away that one person who was really in need.

We still don’t know if the $20 will arrive in the mail or not, but that really doesn’t matter. It’s worth more than that to know that God sometimes trusts us to be His angels when others of His children need assistance on the pathway of life.

2 responses so far

Nov 17 2014

No Rules; No Masters

Published by Kathy under General

We recently experienced an eight-day vacation in Florida and the Bahamas, where it was always sunny and warm. But when we got off the ship in Baltimore, it was rainy and cold. Fluffy and I were not dressed for the weather.

As we waited in line for U.S. Customs, we noticed a teenage boy in line ahead of us. He was wearing a gray hoodie. The message written across the back of it said, “No rules. No masters.”

I pointed out the hoodie to Fluffy and said, “There’s a kid who has never had to deal with the I.R.S.”

Fluffy said, “He has obviously never held a job of any kind. Managers own you. If you’ve had a manager, you’ve had a master.”

I said, “I guess his parents have never set any rules.”

Fluffy observed, “These days, maybe they haven’t. They probably paid for the shirt.”

I said, “When he learns to drive, he’s going to he’s going to have to deal with a rule or two there.”

Fluffy said, “If he doesn’t, he’s going to meet the masters of the Highway Patrol.”

As we stood in line, we went on and on about the masters and rules the slouching young man already had to deal with in his young life. Teachers and principals. Paying for things versus shoplifting. Dealing with a mortgage. The pesky little law of gravity.

That rebellious little teenager could wear all the hoodies he wanted to, but he was only showing his ignorance. We human beings are subject to rules and masters all the livelong day, and it’s a good thing. If we were not rule-keepers, we could never get behind the wheel of a car without fearing for our lives at every intersection. We could never eat at a restaurant without fear of being poisoned. We could never buy food or gasoline without peril, or goods without fear of being cheated.

Even nature follows its own innate rules. We read about the law of the jungle and survival of the fittest. But everything is equally true on a cellular level. Cells divide and plants and animals grow according to the rules of nature. When things go wrong, we get cancer and other diseases. Most of the time, we are healthy because our bodies follow the rules that nature intended them to do.

And it’s the masters who enforce those rules, or who teach us from a young age that those rules exist. They are our law enforcement officials, our judges, our magistrates. They may be the ones who pull us over when we are speeding, but they are also the ones who come to our aid when we have been the victims of a crime.

They are the shopkeepers who keep prices down by making sure other shoppers do not steal. They are the forest rangers who do not let you hike or camp in unauthorized areas, making sure the pristine areas will stay pristine for generations to come. They are the federal regulators that tell fisherman they can’t fish for cod for six months because the fish populations are down and need a chance to regenerate.

Whether our young friend is willing to admit it or not, there are masters in every sphere, and there are masters that rule over us all despite all the hoodies in the world.

In fact, even the great Ruler of us all is subject to rules of His own. One of the themes of the Book of Mormon is that even God is subject to rules He cannot violate. We humans may not understand what those rules are, but our God is a God of order nonetheless.

Doctrine and Covenants 132:8 says, “Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.” This tells us more than that God’s refrigerator is squeaky clean, and that His shoes are lined up neatly in His celestial closet. No, if you read the Book of Mormon, it says that if God violated the rules of the universe, He would actually “cease to be God” (Alma 42:45).

Right there, in those four words, you see exactly how important rules are. “God would cease to be God.” I cannot even imagine the ramifications for the universe if God ceased to be Himself. I don’t think it’s something the human mind can comprehend, although I’m sure Hollywood would like to try. Everything would fall apart.

The message on that hoodie — “No Rules. No Masters” — was written by somebody who does not understand the way of this world. I am grateful for rules, and I am grateful for masters. Yes, there are rules that are harsh and there are masters that are unjust and unkind. But I follow rules that are eternal, and I follow the Master of the Universe.

Those rules and that Master make all the difference to me.

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