An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Personal relationships’

Ever’thing I Do Is Wrong

I should have learned long ago that it’s impossible to make someone like you against their will. On the first day of 5th grade, I was placed in Mrs. Swapp’s class. My best friend, Linda, was placed in Miss Huber’s class. Both teachers were equally old and unattractive, but Mrs. Swapp had the reputation for being more strict and requiring more work. Before school Linda had announced to all and sundry that her mother would change her class if she landed under Mrs. Swapp’s tutelage. Not to be outdone, I announced that my mother would do the same. My mother, however, refused to contact the school for no better reason than my desire to be in Miss Huber’s class. Never a quitter, I set about finding reasons why I should not be in Mrs. Swapp’s class. I magnified her every glance in my direction into a scowl. Since Mrs. Swapp never criticized me, I reported exaggerated versions of her discipline techniques with other students. My mother, as mothers do, bought my stories. My dad, wiser—as dads often are, refused to back me.  Mrs. Swapp apparently sensed my hostility and tried to win me over—praising my work—even inviting me to dance with her at the school social—an ordeal I sullenly suffered through. The nicer Mrs. Swapp was to me, the more I hated her. I needed meanness to justify my dislike for being in her class.   

When I became a teacher myself, my bad behavior came back to bite me, as bad behavior always does—karma, the Buddhists say. George and I moved to a new state and I was hired late in the summer to teach an overflow kindergarten class housed in a church near the elementary school. Children living nearest the church were placed in my class. Few parents were pleased to have their child placed in a less adequate facility, but most went along with the principal’s decision. Except for one father who was a teacher in the district and a longtime friend of the other kindergarten teacher. His child deserved the best—which was not a new teacher in a makeshift church hall. I worked hard to provide a good program for my students, but this father remained hostile. His daughter became ill and was homebound for several weeks. I made a point of stopping by their home after school, to visit with the child and leave activities from class. I felt virtuous. I was being like Jesus—turning the other cheek. But I soon realized that my visits annoyed these parents. I was making their hostility seem unwarranted. Just as I wanted to dislike Mrs. Swapp, they needed reasons to dislike me, and I wasn’t cooperating.

I thought about continuing the visits just to spite these unappreciative parents, but that wasn’t being like Jesus. Jesus had plenty of undeserved enemies, but he knew a lost cause when he saw it. While he didn’t deliberately antagonize church officials, neither did he court their favor. Their dislike for him and his teachings was rooted in their own life experiences and expectations. He ignored belligerents to concentrate on those whose experiences and expectations opened them to his love and message.

Of course, we should make amends to people whom we’ve wronged, but sometimes life juxtaposes us with people who see us as impediments to their well-being through no action of our own. Forgiving and forgetting seems easier when human beings can pinpoint an actual wrong rather than a scapegoat upon which their mind has fixated.

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See You in Heaven

Mitch Albom has written about the possibility of reuniting with choice people in heaven. I love the idea, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen. My mind entertains the possibility that Richard Dawkins, a vocal atheist, is right and there is no heaven. Or, that if heaven does exist, only the elect or the righteous will gain admittance. For those reasons, I’ve decided I’d better spend time with friends and loved ones while we’re still here.

A phone call last week announcing the death of a friend I’d been meaning to call jolted me with the consequences of procrastination. And while it’s nice to think I might get a second chance to tell her how much I care about her in heaven, that event is less than certain. What is certain is that I could have called her a couple of weeks earlier—and I didn’t.

George and I each lost aunts whom we didn’t take the time to visit when they were hospitalized. Of course, we’d have made the time if we’d known for sure this was their last illness—but we didn’t. An opportunity in heaven to make up for failure to visit, console, and express love to a person before they’ve left this life appeals to me. And don’t you think apologizing will be easier in heaven? Surely nobody’s going to hold a grudge beyond the pearly gates. Maybe the key to admittance to heaven is the realization of the long list of people to whom we should make amends. Maybe hell is finding out there is no opportunity to make amends beyond this life.

I think it’s time I went on People Finder to locate some long-lost friends. I’d like to meet them in heaven, but it’s risky to wait .And, assuming there is a heaven, the person I’d most like to meet there is Richard Dawkins—just to see the shock on his face.

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