Real People, Real Community

 

A village in Vietnam

 

Several things said today in our fast and testimony meeting struck me.

 

Some of the speakers expressed gratitude for having received help during yesterday’s ward service day, while others expressed gratitude for having been involved in giving service.

 

I wasn’t able to participate, because I was deeply involved from Thursday evening through late last night in the tenth annual meeting of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology.  This was, obviously, a relief in one sense — not only because I’m lazy but because, on the whole, I’m useless.  I have no really practical skills.  I can rake leaves or wield a shovel, but it isn’t wise to get me near any task that demands actual ability.  In another sense, though, I really regret having missed out.  It always feels good to have done good.

 

Late last night, during a long after-dinner conversation, the Pentecostal academic with whom I had eaten told about an acquaintance in Plains, Georgia, who attends the same Evangelical church as Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.  It seems that they take their regular turn doing maintenance and janitorial work in their church (e.g., vacuuming, cleaning toilets, and the like).  And, of course, they’re well known for the work with Habitat for Humanity.  (President Carter is a skilled carpenter.)  I’m not a big Jimmy Carter fan, but I admire this aspect of the life of the former president and first lady enormously.

 

We also heard, during our fast and testimony meeting, from a young woman who had a baby just about a week ago, and from a man who told of how much he misses a member of our ward who passed away recently.  (My wife and I miss him, too.  He was a good friend, and I wrote about him here.)  It’s gratifying to be part of a community where we get to share with others in the cycle of life and death.

 

Another member of our ward, our former bishop, is a retired engineer, and he and his wife have been serving a mission for the Church that has them going overseas every six or eight weeks to work on clean-water projects in developing areas.  They’ve just returned from Laos and Vietnam, and he described how wonderful it is to be able to help rural villagers get clean water from a tap for the first time in their lives.

 

German troops marching in the Netherlands, which they occupied 194-1945

 

Another speaker told about a good friend of long standing who had recently passed away in California.  Converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Netherlands, this friend had had most of his teeth pulled out — without anesthesia, of course — by the Nazis during interrogation.  But he wasn’t embittered.  After the war he and his wife had volunteered, before they emigrated to the United States, to care for terminally ill children — ultimately numbering about a hundred of them.  Our speaker himself lost a mentally handicapped adult son relatively recently, and he told of imagining his son, whole and happy, in the next world, and of the reception that he pictures his friend receiving from those hundred children who had gone before.

 

I value the community in which I’m privileged to participate.  I learn from these people, and admire the service they give.  I love to hear their stories.

 

 

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