The trouble is that as I've thought about it I don't really know how to sum up the things I've been thinking about it one word. Our new religious congregation is teaching me some valuable lessons. In most Mormon communities congregations are called wards. In areas where membership in the church is very small and the congregations are small they are called branches. We are in a branch. There are between 35 and 50 people who attend regularly (that includes kids). Many of them rely on public transportation to get to church and lots of them work multiple jobs or have no jobs at all.
This next part is a little tricky to explain and you need some understanding of Mormon culture to follow along. Mormons, on the whole, are over-achievers. Our religion teaches and promotes hard work and sacrifice. There are no positions in the church that are paid. The minister is volunteer, the choir is volunteer, everyone is a volunteer and everyone has a job. This system generally works very well. When Joseph Smith (who founded our church) was asked how he governed his people he said, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves." That idea is very empowering within our church and we are left to govern ourselves in the jobs that we do. I think that this plays a part in the over achieving. If you have a boss who can tell you that you are doing a good job you can easily judge when you have done enough and when you can stop. When you are your only judge, that gets a little harder to decipher.
My parents were here visiting a couple of weeks ago and I explained to my mom that my job in church is sometimes a little tricky. I am in charge of singing with kids. I also do some management of kid's stuff so if their teachers don't show up I have to teach. I also help with decorating the kid's room, remembering their birthdays and that kind of stuff. The hubbs does some management-type work for our congregation and he is often in meetings. Claire is at an age where she should go to play group but because our branch is so small she is only person in play group. And her teacher only comes to church about half the time. When I explained that to my mom she was appalled and said, "she just doesn't come?" with just a hint of disbelief. People who are not Mormon won't understand that but I swear it's part of the culture. Not doing the thing that you are asked to do in a congregation feels a little bit like Moses walking away from the burning bush.
I said, "Mom, she works 2 jobs, her mom is dying of cancer and she doesn't have a car. She's doing the best she can and we just have to judge her on a different scale."
Yesterday tested that theory a little. Once again there was no one to lead play group for Claire. So the hubbs and I had two babies to take care of while we tried to do our responsibilities. To top it off none of the teachers for the other kids showed up to teach. I saw one of them earlier in the day but she vanished when teaching time came around. The hubbs and I juggled meetings, singing, an impromptu lesson for some crazy 5-year olds and two kids for 3 whole hours. I was spent.
There was a pot-luck dinner after church (which I had also had to bake for that morning. Luckily my kids got up at 5:30am so I had plenty of time). As I walked into the pot-luck (where there was no food left because I was a little late and there is a tendency for those who do not have an abundance of food in their lives to pack plates to take home) I saw the teacher who had vanished during teaching time enjoying dinner and laughing with a couple of other people.
Talking to my mom about the whole incident later I realized that my first explanation of judging people on a different scale was totally incorrect. We just can't judge them at all because, as Mother Teresa said, "if you judge people you have no time to love them" and people need all the love that they can get. I have every advantage in my life and I am just the person to be in a place to love others. The teacher who ditches out on class and the one who doesn't come included.
So that's my New Year's resolution. I thought about having Love as my one-word motto but that seem a little cosmic for what I'm trying to accomplish. I considered "Only Kindness Matters" but I know that I can't live a whole year with the Jewel song running around in my head. I also considered "Only Connect" which is from Howard's End but that doesn't seem quite right either. So maybe it is Love.
That's a pretty big, cosmic motto.
First item on the agenda to Love is teaching my kids that any wake-up time that starts with a 5 or a 6 is not acceptable. Because adorable as these faces are they are even more adorable on the far side of 6:30