I have had several deep thoughts on my mind lately that I have wanted to blog about, but I wasn't sure I could put them into words given my current mental state. But I have decided to try, so I hope you will be patient with me and overlook my shortcomings. And if they are way too wordy and boring feel free to skip them. I think I am mostly writing these things down for myself.
A few weeks ago I went to Sacrament Meeting (Sunday worship) with my parents. My parents live very close by, in the same neighborhood they moved into when I was fifteen. However, they have only recently moved back to this neighborhood after living elsewhere for several years.
I moved into this particular ward (church congregation) as a sullen fifteen-year-old. I did not think I fit in at first. My leaders in the Young Women's program were very kind to me, and so was my Bishop. Also, the neighborhood my parents had moved into was mostly a retirement community and many of the senior citizens there were very sweet to me. I was a bit too self-absorbed to thoroughly appreciate their love and service. I missed my friends in Minnesota and had a hard time making new friends my age. Eventually I did, though, and by the time I graduated from high school I felt very connected to the ward.
When the Badger and I got married, we had our wedding reception at this chapel and all these dear people came and gave generously to the setting up of our housekeeping, which was a huge help to two newlyweds starting out with almost nothing.
It wasn't much later that my parents moved, and it was only very recently that they moved back to the ward, so it has been years since I have had the chance to visit the ward. Oh, the memories that washed over me as I walked into that church building! I did not realize how powerful and poignant the experience would be for me.
I made it to the meeting just as it was starting and the chapel was already full as I slipped into the pew next to my parents. I looked around and saw many people I knew, even after all these years.
I quickly realized that there were two categories of people I recognized. There were many people I had known but hadn't really interacted much with. When I would see them I would think something like "oh, look. There's the Joneses. They haven't changed much. How interesting to see them." There was recognition, but not connection. And then there were the people who were my former leaders and teachers, people who I had served and who had served me. When I saw them, there was this welling up of emotion inside me, this feeling of love and gratitude. I had not seen these people for years, or hardly even thought about them. But all those years ago a bond had been created between us through love and service and it was still there. It was such a beautiful and tender experience to realize how those acts of kindness and encouragement had not just drifted away as life went on but had remained as a permanent link between souls.
The most tender moment for me was when I looked over and saw my old Bishop and his wife. My sophomore year of high school I used to walk to their house every morning and then they would give me a ride to school. During those few minutes sitting on their living room couch every day they performed many small acts of kindness for me-- many as small as just a positive, encouraging word or two. On my sixteenth birthday I was feeling gloomy because my dad was in the hospital after a near-death scare and I still didn't feel like I really had any friends at school to make a fuss over me on such a monumental occasion. That morning at the Bishop's their entire family burst out of the kitchen and sang a loud and enthusiastic happy birthday song to me. Such a small thing, and yet it meant the world to me and I have never forgotten it. So, when I saw them sitting there in the chapel I was overwhelmed with emotion and love. It was so wonderful to give them a hug after the meeting and visit with them a little bit.
And as I left the chapel that day, I thought a lot about those bonds of love and service and the joy of being reunited with those we have those connections with. We have lived so many places over the years and there are so many people in so many places that I love so much.
I saw some more of those people yesterday, when we attended Jim's funeral. Jim and Becky were our adopted grandparents when we lived in Oklahoma, and their kindnesses made such a difference to us while we lived there. They left Oklahoma not long after we did, and this fall found us living about an hour away from them. A couple of weeks ago, they came down to visit us and we enjoyed an afternoon together. We knew Jim was fighting cancer, but it ended up that that trip to see us was his last road trip. We are so glad we got to see him, and we felt very privileged to be able to attend his funeral yesterday.
We know we will see Jim again in heaven. And the bonds of love will still be there. That is what will make heaven wonderful. As we look around and see all these people that we loved and served on earth, we realize the bonds that we have with them and we will embrace and weep and be filled with the most beautiful love.
If I never make it back to visit Kansas or Oregon or any of the other places I have lived, I know the day will come when I will be able to reunite with all the dear people I have known who have helped and encouraged and loved me on my mortal journey. I believe as I embrace them in heaven we will both know completely how much the love and service that we gave each other mattered. We will be able to see our lives clearly and every act of goodness and kindness will bring us great joy. That is what will make heaven so wonderful. And how much we could miss out on if we chose to live a self-interested life where we didn't create these bonds with others.
These are the ideas that are bouncing around in my head lately and if I were really with it I would throw in several scriptures and quotes to clarify and reinforce these musings of mine (like the C. S. Lewis quotes my sister and I were discussing the other night which go perfectly here.) But all I can do right now is share these little experiences I have had lately and how powerfully they engrained it in a deeper level in my heart that:
Every act of love, kindness and service matters. No matter how small. No matter how ungrateful the recipient. Reaching out to others is what really matters in this life. It creates a connection on a spiritual level that never goes away. It means far, far more than we know, than we can see from our limited perspective. I know I don't fully understand how this all works, but I am grateful for these glimpses of understanding that I have had.