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.