So I began to think about it.
After some thought I guessed I might be doing alright with “Come what may, grit your teeth and hang on,” or “Come what may, tolerate it and try to keep a smile on your face,” or “Come what may and pray hard that it goes away soon.” But, love it? All of it? No. And why love it? What’s wrong with hating the rotten times anyway?
My mind went back to a “stone day.” You know, the ones described in that old country song. How does it go? “Some days are diamonds and some days are stones.” Well, this day was one of the rocks.
It was just a few years ago. I was teaching high school. It was after I’d dismissed my kids with the last bell. I’d made an appointment with a colleague to come to my room to meet with my husband and myself. I’d asked her to come on a personal matter.
She was the visually impaired teacher, a dear woman, with extremely limited sight herself. She arrived at school every day on the city bus, sometimes using her white cane to cross the street and get to her office. All of her students were blind or with severe vision issues. I didn’t know her well, except that she always seemed to be cheerful and smiling and was ready to go the extra mile with any of my kids and their teachers.
I’d asked her to come because my husband had lost his job. After a lifetime of doing work that he didn’t care about just to support his family, he’d finally found a job that he truly loved. And after eight years he’d lost it. He often said that he’d pay the company to let him work for them. He spent 12 hours a day driving huge, 18 wheel, belly dump trucks. They were usually filled with steaming, smelly asphalt or tons of crushed rock. He hauled this stuff all over the city and state to build roads and freeways with it. I never understood why he loved it but he did. The man had been to college for Pete’s sake! I remember once driving up the mountain on Highway 260 through a construction zone. There was a long line of trucks waiting to dump their black goo. State Patrolmen stopped traffic. Flaggers in their hard hats and orange vests waved cars through behind a pilot vehicle. As we passed the line of waiting trucks one driver jumped out to stand on the step next to his seat. He waved wildly and yelled, “Hey Babe! It is Babe isn’t it?” It was Larry. As I waved back all I could think was, “I don’t understand it but there goes a happy man.”
Anyway, this happy truck driver was also a diabetic. And twenty-five years of diabetes had finally taken its toll. He came home from work one Friday and on Saturday his retinas hemoraged. That was it. He couldn’t see. Big trucks were gone. Income was gone. Even simply hopping in the car to go to the store was gone. Total blindness was a distinct and terrifying possibility. Surgery was soon scheduled but the doctor said driving was over.
We were both scared about so many things. The fact that our income had just been cut in half was the least of them.
Anyway I’d asked the vision teacher to come in to see if she knew of some resources or programs that might help. Larry and I waited in my classroom silently, both thinking of dark possibilities. As I sat there my heart was breaking for this man I’d loved for so long.
In walks this bright and beaming blind lady carrying a huge suitcase. She started talking the minute she came through the door. “Wait til you see the goodies I have to show you!” she chirped. She pulled out all sorts of “gadgets for the blind” from devices to turn your TV into a huge print magnifying glass to pill bottles with braille markings. She kept pulling for a long time, chatting and explaining nonstop all the while. Then she informed us that she’d already made an appointment with a career counselor to start training for jobs that didn’t require sight. It would begin with aptitude testing and there were hundreds of career choices she assured us. I don’t think she stopped talking the whole hour that she was there. Seems there’s a whole world out there we knew nothing about. People who can’t see are actually working, going places, having families, living busy, happy and worthwhile lives. We hadn’t realized.
Then she said something that’s stayed with me ever since. Larry was telling her about his beloved big trucks. She put her hand gently on his arm and said brightly, “I know, I know. Driving big trucks was fun. But this will be fun too!”
Yes, she really said that. “This will be fun too.” She couldn’t be serious, I thought! Being blind and all the loss that meant. Being unemployed. Starting over after 55. That was going to be fun? I looked hard at her. I could tell she meant it!
Later on the way home, I realized that when she said that short sentence something changed. What changed was that I began to feel better.
Maybe everything wasn’t ending. Maybe, even if the worst happened, life could still be good. Maybe we could still have fun together. It looked like the worst had happened to this sweet lady and we’d seldom seen anyone so upbeat.
After she finished I offered to drive her home. She refused, saying that the city bus ride was very important to her. (Having to depend on public transportation was one of the bitterest possibilities for Larry, who had loved cars since he was 16.) She explained that being so busy it was the only time she had to listen to the audio books she got from the library. She was almost finished with one and couldn’t wait to see how it turned out. That was also when she studied audios for her ASU class.
So. Come what may and love it. Why is that important enough for Heavenly Father to have one of his apostles speak to the world about it?
Why? I thought hard. Well, I decided, maybe it’s because if you can do that you’ll be happy. And I know Father wants his children to be happy.
Every one of us will surely have some “stone” days coming our way. That’s a given. Those stones may even turn into weeks or years. Somehow this dear lady actually found joy in hers. What does the scripture say? “Man is that he might have joy.” I don’t think there’s a footnote that says, *This applies only when everything’s going well and you don’t have any really hard problems.
My colleague wasn’t a member of the Church. But she sure knew what Joseph Wirthlin was talking about. Think about it.