Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Trading Places

Sunday I had an odd experience.

I arrived at my ward -- as I always do -- about fifteen minutes early. In other posts, I've written about running the gauntlet past Sister "Smith". In recent weeks, she has not been at Church, and she was not there last Sunday either. The second counselor in the bishopric, Brother C. was standing there, handing out programs as people walked in. As I arrived, he smiled broadly and said, "Would you mind helping out?"

"Sure," I said.

"Here," he replied, thrusting the stack of programs at me.

So I sat down next to the door, and shook hands with people, and handed programs out to them as they arrived. It was fun. I would smile, people would smile back. Little kids would eye the programs, wondering if it was OK to take one. "You want one of these?" I asked one boy with big, brown eyes, and a cowlick just like his father's. He nodded shyly, so I handed him one, and then he smiled. Ward members I knew passed by and received programs. And members I didn't know, but with whom I was now connecting for the first time, through a handshake, a smile, and the passing of a piece of paper.

My Sunday School teacher, Brother B. was one of the last to arrive. He always has a bit of a mischievous gleam in his eyes, and an enthusiastic smile. After he found his seat, he grinned back at me and signaled to his pew. Did I want to come sit with him and his wife? I nodded, and smiled back gratefully.

The incredible, amazing, wonderful thing about being an excommunicated gay man in a Mormon ward is you never, ever take a single thing for granted. Every connection, no matter how seemingly minor, is never insignificant. Every smile is a gift, every handshake is a gift.

It occurred to me Brother C. could just as easily have left the programs on a chair, untended. People would have just picked them up as needed. But there is something about receiving it from a real person, along with a welcoming greeting.

I wondered about Sister "Smith." I hope she's OK. I thought how odd it was that I had now traded places with her.

Strange, I thought, that I should be welcoming people to the LDS Church.

I know to some of you I sound pathetic. But I know that the Restored Gospel is true. And the way I see it, this is just a role I have to play, necessitated by this time, this place, these circumstances. It does not prevent me from learning what my Heavenly Parents sent me here to learn, nor from becoming what my Heavenly Parents sent me here to become. What you see is not all of me.

I'd rather have it this way. I'd rather know every minute how significant these relationships, these gifts, and these opportunities for service are. Because it is in the moments when we appreciate most that the Spirit speaks to us most clearly.


Beck said...

Simple connections, moments of touch, glimpses and smiles - they all mean so much. I love this! We all need this!

P.S. How is Sister Smith doing?

J G-W said...

I don't know, but I was planning to ask my friend Sister J. about her, as she usually seems to keep up with Sister "Smith."

As greeters go, she is unique. I wasn't the only one to get flak from her over the years. But as I have said elsewhere, I think it was her way of trying to connect as well, odd as it may seem.