This looks to be my last week is DALALALALALARNA. My tribute to this gorgeous corner of Eden will come next week. This week was Midsummer. We had literally two days of vacation essentially, and it felt so weird….to just be almost normal.
This is Omar. The happiest bus driver in the world. Seriously, you can not find a happier, friendlier, kinder bus driver on the planet. If he isn’t smiling, he is laughing. He becomes everyone’s friend and will remember everyone’s name next time they ride the bus. He was forced to leave his homeland of Somalia a few years back and start and new life here in strange new cold Sweden. His life has been far from easy. And here is the craziest part of the story, he has TEN CHILDREN. yes. TEN CHILDREN. All between the ages of 1 and 18 in one apartment…. All with the same wife who he will tell anyone and everyone that he loves dearly. Because he has to provide for TEN CHILDREN he works without rest. Every day he takes as many bus routes as he can…. From early in the morning to late at night….taking holidays and weekends just so there is good on the table. And through it all he is HAPPY. His life is a thousand times harder than mine. His past is a nightmare of war and starvation and poverty. His present is an endless whirlwind of work so his ten children and one wife can eat. His future will probably be many many more years of the same insane schedule so his children can have a future. Yet, he never complains, he never self pities, he just joyfully drives buses and loves every single person that rides with him, no matter how grumpy they are in return.
The other day I asked him as I was sitting up front chatting to him “Omar, how do you do it? How are you always so happy?” He gave his classic giant smile of white teeth and said “it is a blessing to always be able to make a new friend every day!”
What a brilliant perspective to maintain happiness! Omar wakes up every day determined to make a new friend. He does not dwell on the past malnutrition and death that was his childhood. He does not bemoan his endless work schedule to provide for his ginormous family. He smiles and makes new friends. He looks outward and chooses to be a light to others.
As I look at less than five months remaining of my (first) full time missionary service, I am starting to realise, like Omar, just how great a blessing it is to make a new friend every day. My whole day just about is dedicated to making new friends. True, a whole lot of people don’t want to be my friend, and can be quite shirty about it, (don’t you just love that word? Shirty) but then you meet one here and there who does, and it is wonderful; truly wonderful. What a blessing we have to meet new people every day. People are just brilliant. True, sometimes they choose to do rather bad or sad things or live rather depressingly boring Dursley lives, but behind the layer of worldly debris, we all are quite incredible creatures with unbelievably infinite potential. C.S. Lewis, as always, put it better than I can “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. … There are no ordinary people. … Your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.“
For most cases, the realisation of this truth can keep you energised in the work for weeks on end. For a great deal of my mission it has….. But every once and a while, you get beat down a little deeper, slapped a little harder, and even when your heart is desperately wanting just to serve because it honestly loves serving, squaring up and carrying on is not enough to keep you afloat. It is very hard to explain the feeling. It is a bit like this sometimes you want nothing more than to push on and serve with your full self, but you physically are unable. Your body will not let you. You’ve neglected your own health so much that you are prevented from helping others. You want to be an Omar, and you pretend to be, but inside you disintegrate.
When those times hit, and they most certainly will, and honestly should, to benefit our spiritual growth. We need to take care of ourselves before taking care of others. “Manning up” and ignoring it only makes it worse. (Don’t get me started on the stupidity of the modern male stereotype) Seeking help from loved ones, professionals and most importantly from our Heavenly Father, is required. It takes humility and honesty and a great deal of bravery, but it is the only way to fully heal. We cannot expect to be able to face it alone.
The recovery is so personal and so almost sacred, as you experience your own discovery of the healing power of the atonement, that I cannot teach the steps in a blog post.
They are so individual that it requires one on one help and personal revelation.
But there are few simple things anyone can do to be a little happier every day. These do not erase deep wounds. They are not promised cures. But they are good practices to lighten the load a wee bit.
One that I can share today is, as Joseph B. Wirthlin taught in the fantastic talk “come what may and love it” which I highly recommend reading. He says to simply laugh. Find humour in the day. As a missionary you always have something to laugh about. Last week we taught the full restoration lesson to a Sri Lankan lady and by the end of the lesson she thought my companion was Joseph Smith. She was greatly impressed that he came to her house to tell her that he himself saw God and Jesus Christ, started his own church of now over 15 million members, translated the Book of Mormon, and came to Sweden to teach people about it. There obviously was some key details lost when all of us were speaking to each other in our second languages….. And a few days before that, as I was bearing my testimony of miracles to a man on the street a bird literally flew down and landed on my head. Unfortunately, it did not descend in the form of a dove, but it still was quite miraculous…. And on splits as we were teaching a man about the Book of Mormon he thought we were saying “mormors bok” which in Swedish means “grandma’s book” so he was under the belief that we were sharing a book written by my grandma. And this picture below is of a cat laying in the sun which we literally thought was dead for a good three minutes. We just stood there frozen on the sidewalk, looking at the presumed corpse that was completely lifeless, not sure what to do. The cat was fortunately alive.
There is something every day worth laughing about. Even if it seems like the entire day was just terrible, that is a funny enough thought to laugh over. Laughter and humour can help ease many burdens and keep us sane…. Hence why the comedy industry always thrives in times of war and distress. It really is a gift from God. A bad hair day can be terrible or it can be hilarious. A string of misfortunes can give you much weeping and wailing or it can cause you to weep tears of laughter over how ridiculous the whole matter is. A political catastrophe can destroy a nation, or you could be British about the whole matter and boldly make comedy out of it…. Great Britain gives this world the best comedy partially due to understanding that principle…
A great deal of unhappy people in this world take themselves far too seriously. There is a great deal of danger in taking ourselves too seriously. The only things really worth taking seriously in life are the things which are perfect. We do not make light of sacred things because sacred things are perfect. We ought to take the gospel seriously because the gospel is perfect. We ought to take God seriously because God is perfect. We ought to take the attributes of Christ (faith, hope, charity, love, etc) seriously, because they are the means to perfection….. But we ought not to take ourselves seriously or else we will just be awfully upset with ourselves for the entirety of our days.
Of course, times will come were laughter is not enough or indeed, not even appropriate. The other night as I was unable to sleep I looked out my window and watched three hooded white boys beat up two Somalian boys. The whole event was so fast I hardly had time to react. The white boys stood on the sidewalk as the Somalians were walking towards them and then out of nowhere the white boys just started punching the Somalians to the ground and ran off into the midsummer never-dark night. That is not something one can just casually laugh over. That is just horrible, absolutely horrible. Heartbreaks like that will require a further understanding of the atonement and gospel of Jesus Christ to find solace in….. Understanding eternal compensation and God’s love for His children….. But that is for another discourse.
When things are more trivial, and most especially, when they involve ourselves, laughter can elevate a great deal of potential bitterness and pain.
In short respect the eternal things and laugh over the temporal things. When life gets hard, laugh at it. In the Harry Potter series, the creature called the boggart is a shape shifter who transforms into your worst fear. The greatest means to destroy a boggart is not a great complex spell. It is quite simple. It is transforming it’s image to become humorous with the spell “ridikulous”. Ultimately, it is laughter that kills the boggart. You can conquer the form of your worst fear with laughter. I strongly believe that principle taught by J.K. Rowling is true. I can imagine the adversary getting rather frustrated and feeling quite foolish when we laugh at the slings and arrows he hurls at us. There truly is great power in humour.
I would like to thank all of the wonderful people in my life who wrote me this past week. I wish there was time to write back to each and every one of you. Thank you to my parents, my grandpa, my sisters, my great-Auntie Sue, Kendal, Bishop Johnnson, The Fields and the Smiths. Words really cannot say how much your letters meant to me. Thank you. I’d like to take this time to thank one special person in particular, my father, in celebration of Father’s Day which was yesterday.
My dad means the absolute universe to me. Both my mum and dad do…. but today let me tell you why my dad is the best father I could ever receive, because he has taught me how to be a man. When I say that I don’t mean “wrastle a steer to the ground and apply a fiery brand to his hindquarters.” (sorry comedic movie reference) sort of teaching…. I mean the much more deeper and truer meaning of the word man. The world today preaches a rather indecent vision of what a man ought to be which is in every way contrary to the way I was raised.
My dad taught me that a man respects nature and God’s creations. He does not destroy them. He loves them. From since ever really he would take me out backpacking and hiking and canoeing, as a family and often just the two of us. He truly taught me how to love nature, because he loves nature.
He is happiest sailing on the Columbia or climbing a mountain. He taught me the great importance of taking time to just sit in nature in silence. It wasn’t until I was much older that I really appreciated those summer nights out in the darkness under the big starry sky with my dad and his telescope. Whether it was in our backyard or out in the eastern Oregon wilderness with a bunch of other unwashed astronomers who smelled like lasagna, my dad taught me to fall in love with the universe. He taught me how to care for nature…. He would have me save spruce saplings in the forest from being swallowed by blackberries even if no one would really see the spruce tree…. and he taught me the spiritual enrichment one can get from nature.
My dad taught me that a man reads. The world says a man reads sports illustrated and maybe a few action paperbacks and that’s it. My dad taught me that a man reads all the classic boyhood books like Lord of the Rings and Callof the Wild but also the works of Jane Austen. He taught me that a man is well read in the classics and the wonderful practice of always having a book to read. My dad is always reading some great thick old novel. My absolute most cherished childhood memories were laying in my parents bed every night listening to my dad read me Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Treasure Island, and many more books that opened my imagination to worlds without end. I must attribute a great deal of who I am today from those hours in my parents’ bedroom as my dad read about Middle Earth and Narnia and Hogwarts.
One of the greatest gifts I can give me future children is the gift my father gave me a love for reading….. For if you teach a child how to love reading, they will keep on learning even when they leave the house….. And my dad taught me that the greatest book of all was his old worn quad of the scriptures. He taught me how to really love and sink deep into the scriptures, every day of your life. He never did it by force, but by example. (And he is the only person I know who actually understands the Isaiah chapters).
My dad taught me that a man is a gentleman. He taught me that violence is a weakness, not a strength. He taught me that as a man you communicate your feelings, even if it takes him an hour of waiting for you staring at the floor before you say anything, you must express your emotions and talk things out and humbly resolve everything in a peaceful and loving manner and never ever resort of violence. Not to a person. Not to the wall. Not to anything.
He taught me that a gentleman respects girls as their equals. He taught me what real love is by the way he loves my mother. He taught me that the best girls are the cleverest. He taught me how to honour and cherish my mother, because he does.
My father taught me that a man is always serving. He taught me that the man plays just as much of a role as the woman in raising the kids, cleaning the house and cooking dinner. He taught me that a man cooks,and that a real man bakes bread. He taught me that what matters most is serving your fellow man, which he has always taught by example, never once wanting praise for anything.
My dad taught me that a man works hard and enjoys it. While most kids on Saturday got to sleep in, watch TV and go to the mall or whatever it is normal people do, Saturday was when we worked…. and enjoyed it. Saturday activities came only after chores and yard work. After the yard and fields and animals and house was satisfactory there was always wood to be chopped with my dad. We did not get paid because my dad taught us that the payment comes in the joy of the work. The lesson of work ethic from my dad has blessed my mission. And, even though I absolutely hated math with a burning passion and would cry over that awful subject, my dad would always patiently be there to help me through it….even though I was the worst student he could possibly teach. He would teach us how to do hard things to become better…. which included sending us down black diamonds ski runs before we were even baptised on how how to ski properly.
My taught me that a man puts his family first. He switched jobs to travel less so he could spend more time with us…. Everything he ever does is with us in mind. It does not matter how long of a day it was at work, he always has time for us. He always was there to play with us, whether it was playmobils at age 6 or some board game I would lose at age 16, my dad was never too busy or too “manly” to do the silliest things with his kids. He would be there for my soccer games, coach them even, and for every play performance, having built the set and programme the lights and sound.
My dad taught me that a man holds the gospel above all else and is converted to it. The gospel and his family meaning everything to him, and his example has given me a love for the gospel. He is steadfast and guards the right. He loves God, loves his fellowman and is one of the greatest examples of how to serve both.
I love my dad. I don’t know why I have been blessed with such a wonderful father and mother. It seems unfair but hopefully I can use the blessing of my parents to help bless others. My dad is the greatest man I know, and one day I hope to be the father that he is. I’m not sure I’ll ever be as good of a skier as he is, I certainly will never even try to be as good at math and puzzles as he is, but I hope one day to be at least half the dad to my kids that he was to me. I really do love him. Loads.
This is Susan, Erik’s mom. The blog post is a bit different this week but felt like the right thing to share with everyone.
First, one thought from Erik this week as it continues to be on his mind:
“The refugee crisis is just one massive Good Samaritan experiment conducted by God. This is where we see where we really stand. Who loves in just word only, who loves not at all and who loves truly in deed and truth.”
Books, and specifically literature are an important dynamic of our family. I’ve always used stories and characters as a way for my children to relate to others and see another perspective. Most people who know us, are aware we all love Harry Potter books a lot. Because of this, Harry Potter books have been used as a kind of Bibliotherapy with my kids. What is Bibliotherapy? It’s therapy based on the premise that people are greatly influenced by the characters they identify with in stories, and that through stories one can use these stories to get through difficult times.
This week, instead of Erik’s letter, I’m posting my oldest daughter, Elizabeth’s letter to Erik. It says what I’ve tried to say to Erik, but couldn’t get across. But, his sister, who knows how Erik relates so well to Harry Potter took a different approach to help Erik; a kind of bibliotherapy.
Susan (Elder Scott’s Mom)
Here’s Elizabeth’s letter:
I have thought a lot all week about your blog letter from last week. I have thought a lot about how much it all hurts. It made me think of the 5th Harry Potter book when Harry is all mad and yelling at Dumbledore at the end of the book. Dumbledore mentions that Harry’s greatest strength is love and that Voldemort could not possess Harry because of it. He told Harry that feeling this pain (because of Sirius’ death) meant he was human. Harry then yells he does not want to be human and wants the pain to stop, wants out, wants it to end, etc. There is a long talk in between about everything about that night and the prophesy etc. and the power that Harry has. Dumbledore says love is the most powerful thing and is studied in the Department of Mysteries. He says to Harry, “In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you.” In book 7, Harry does not beat Voldemort/save everyone with violence or in some epic magical wand battle (as the movie depicts), he wins with LOVE. He willingly sacrificed himself for everyone else and then used some smarts and the elder wand to help Tom finish himself off. But mostly, it was love and unselfishness. Harry so strongly loved people. The thing which Harry learned so many times (all before he was an adult) is that love is so hard and so painful. He had so many important people die in his life. But in that moment of freaking out and saying enough is enough–I can’t handle this pain—he, through listening to Dumbledore, came to understand some of his purpose and did not shirk from his bleak and difficult road ahead.
I am not sure I am writing this out as well as I would like, but what I’m trying to say is that it is so hard. I can imagine what you’re experiencing and I’ve read many a refugee story and I just cannot handle them and want to help sooo much. But hearing things first hand and so many horrible things is so hard. But Erik, you have a strong and loving heart. You fill the world with so much love and light and your big heart can and does help many. And yet, there are still so many hurt people out there. But even if some people do not get all the peace they deserve in this world, Heavenly Father and Jesus are loving, kind and can heal all wounds, no matter how deep. I have often wondered why I am so blessed and my life is so easy and happy when so many others live through hell. I suppose so I can help. So, if you are feeling that way too, think: “I have this firm and happy foundation from home so I can better serve those who have had that torn from them.” You can feel their pain, but maybe bolster them.
We cannot fix everything but God can. It is seriously hard. All of it. I love you and I know your big heart will save so many people, just like Harry.
“Thank you for this letter and the beautiful insights from Harry Potter. I NEEDED IT. Love you Sis!”