As a missionary, you get to see many sides of many people. The vast majority of people trust us enough to confide their problems, fears, and wants within us. There is no better therapy for your own shortcomings, then for you to help others overcome theirs. I can honestly say I have witnessed some of the rawest and most visceral emotions while on my mission. Sitting in the chilly living room of a woman whose hands are weathered from age and undoubtedly many trials, tells you soberly - she needs food. Our church liberally gives food to those who ask. Sometimes, however- the seemingly mundane task of asking for help is so hard for people to do.
What I find time and time again, and what people can't seem to grasp is that poverty in itself does not just consist of being hungry for bread. Rather it is a tremendous hunger for human dignity. Just like when the Spanish Conquistadors destroyed the walls of the ancient city of Cuzco they destroyed more than mortar and stone. The human soul goes much deeper than monetary infatuation. I would like to share a quick story about such depth.
During the waning years of the depression in a small southeastern Idaho community, I used to stop by Mr. Miller's roadside stand for farm-fresh produce as the season made it available. Food and money were still extremely scarce and bartering was used, extensively. One particular day Mr. Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas. I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller and the ragged boy next to me.
"Hello Barry, how are you today?"
"Would you like to take some home?"
"Hello Barry, how are you today?"
"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank 'ya. Jus' admirin' them peas ...sure look good."
"They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?"
"Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time."
"Good. Anything I can help you with?"
"No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas."
"Would you like to take some home?"
"No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with."
"Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?"
"All I got's my prize marble here."
Is that right? Let me see it."
"Here 'tis. She's a dandy."
"I can see that. Hmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?"
"Not 'zackley .... but, almost."
"Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble."
"Sure will. Thanks, Mr. Miller."
Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said: "There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps."
I left the stand, smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys and their bartering. Several years went by each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. Upon our arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.
Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts ... very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing smiling and composed, by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary, awkwardly, wiping his eyes.
Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. Eyes glistening she took my hand and led me to the casket. "Those three young men, who just left, were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim "traded" them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size... they came to pay their debt. "We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world," she confided, "but, right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho."
With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three, magnificently shiny, red marbles.
Truly Mr. Miller was the richest man in Idaho. As you move about through life, experiencing different people and places one will find that there is a different kind of poverty. A poverty that no amount of money or temporal possessions could satisfy. A poverty that is running rampant throughout modern society. This is a poverty of the heart- a spiritual poverty if you will. Today we have unlike anything else a lacking of the human soul. I say this not from reading a book or hearing a lecture. I say this because of the people I meet, the eyes that gaze back at me with an empty stare. The hands I shake that have the texture of regret. The broken voices of those of whom desire peace in their hearts. This poverty comes about when the gentle warm glow of the sun recedes and all that is left for one to look at or dwell on is the painful prose of the what could have been's- the what if's and the why not's. This is truly where our society lacks. As Ernest Hemmingway put it (The Sun Also Rises) “It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.”
Let's be honest for a minute. Religion as a whole has a very bad connotation in today's society. From the jihad to heartless street preachers many view religion as an intolerant medium and even (many times) a weapon to be used against the weak. Oh how wrong they are. Surely there are some instances where religion is twisted to fit the carnal goals and aspirations of a nefarious few but the true purpose and depth of religion is much more sincere and serene. Jesus calmed the storms. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He wiped away tears. True Christianity goes so much father than today's world wants it to. I hear a lot of people talk about how they "found Jesus". I could not be happier when I hear that phrase. Finding Jesus means the void in your heart is filled- it means the pains which you hold onto for so long, can be set free. It means when you are at your breaking point, when you can't hold on to what little you have left anymore - That's when you can find Jesus.
As a missionary I was called to be a representative of Christ. That entails helping the poor in hand and the poor in spirit. The joy that Christ has brought to my life is unrivaled by anything else in life. The knowledge that our Heavenly Father loves us beyond our comprehension is something you can hold to and never let go of. The eternal truth that families can be together forever can heal the pains of sickness and death. The blessings of the scriptures and prayer, allow us to have constant counsel with the one who loves us most is something that can heal broken hearts. The constant companionship of the Holy Ghost will bring light to the dark and assist us in making tough choices in life. These blessings are made manifest not just when you have a smile on your face and a warm house to sleep in. These eternal truths are solidified in our times of need.The Christlike purity of a young child who was taught to love, and not hate her captors in the hell of a Japanese concentration camp. The faith of a young American pilot, shot down over Vietnam and tortured in the jungles of Hanoi. The diligence of a father who without a job, without any way to care for his kids, refuses to give up and keeps on fighting. The patience of two parents who, despite teaching their son right and wrong, have to witness their precious child suffer through hardships brought upon by poor decisions. The hope seen in the eyes of a brand new mother, which shines through her new child, with visions and dreams of who she will become. All of these emotions and attributes that swirl about in our crazy world, show us that their is a little bit of Christ all around us. It is my job as a missionary to help magnify Christ in others lives. To bring to those in the dark a glimmer of light, a spark of hope. And with God's help I can turn that spark into a raging inferno of love and joy.
Love , Elder Clancy
|This week we helped build a fence,|
make some repairs and add a little mulch to this family's yard
|Ready for action in the District Nerf War last PDay ha ha|
Nerf is BIG out here!