Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Bulb Lit!

The other day I wanted to give up.
I was trying to do something and it was too hard.
I'm not usually a quitter but lately throwing in the towel seems more and more like the only sensible thing to do. Then I remembered a student I once had,  many years ago,  whose "bulb lit."

I was teaching in a middle school classroom. We were working on some science concepts that one boy found really challenging. He raised his hand and said in frustration,  "Mrs. Wagher, I've read the pages in our book,  I've listened to you explain it,  I even asked my dad for help and I still don't get it and I never will!

I took a long breath and looked at him menacingly.

"Now you've done it!  I said in a loud and dramatic voice.   Now you've really gone and done it!"  Now the whole class has to get out of their study groups and get in their seats to listen to my high school chemistry story and the Kelley driving story."

Groans all around.  Muttered threats of retaliation directed to the boy.  I ignored them and proceeded.

"Back in the day, I was the smartest kid in my high school chemistry class," I began.  "Everybody knew it too.  I always had the answer.  But one week we were working on something that I just couldn't figure out for the life of me. I'd read the chapter, listened to the lecture,  and carefully studied the drawings on the board. Nothing. Everybody else understood it but me!  The kids who got "F"s were trying to help me.  The teacher left the critical diagrams on the board so he could see if I could explain them at the end of each class. Nothing worked.  Finally he said that I was to re-read the chapter, thinking hard all the while, every single night until I got it. Great.

Well, I did re-read and think hard, three times as a matter of fact. And that chapter was long and complicated too. I still didn't get it. Chemistry was like a millstone around my neck!

On the morning of the third try I walked into class ready for failure and humiliation again. I looked at the board, my teacher caught my eye and said, "Okay, Kathy, think and go for it."
I looked at the dreaded drawings.

But, Amazing Grace, I didn't have to think at all!
Some sort of magic switch flipped in my head, the light came on, and I understood!!!  I stopped every kid as they came in the door to explain it in detail before they got to their seat. One girl pinched me hard as she passed by.

In any case, class, my point being that you just have to think, and think, read and re-read until the light comes on. You can't give up just because it's hard."

Then there's the Kelley learning to drive story.

Larry taught our other kids, but somehow I was the one teaching the youngest to drive. Not exactly one of the most sought after parenting jobs, I can tell you.

Kelley was weird about it anyway. She was well over the age to have a driver's license but refused to learn.  She said she was way too busy to mess with it. Granted she was involved in a lot of activities at school and now even had a job at the bank in town. (All of which were 17 miles away from home up Highway 260, sometimes in snow and ice by the way.) Nevertheless to being busy, we were sick of dragging her wherever she needed to go at all hours of the day and night. So we put our feet down.
She was made to take the wheel whenever she and I drove anywhere, mostly on said highway, to and from town and school.

I carefully explained all the basics of driver's ed and off we went.

It was terrifying! The child was white knuckled all the way and you could tell she was barely in control of the car at all. Since the speed limit was 65 miles an hour I was white knuckled too. This went on for weeks.

I could not believe this! Here was an unusually bright kid who had never failed at anything she tried! She just couldn't get it! Why? What was wrong with her?  Could it possibly be her teacher?

I was going to be the parent of the only child living in the American southwest, land of multi-lane freeways and at least one automobile for every adult, who couldn't drive a car! There was no reliable public transportation in the desert. Or the mountains! For Pete's sake, this wasn't New York! She'll be handicapped all her life! People will blame her mother! Why?! Why?! Why?!

I looked up at her face in despair. I noticed her eyes looking over at the side of the road. All the time. Going 65. Eyes at the side.

"What are you looking at?" I almost yelled.

"I'm looking at the white line at the side,"  she said. "You told me to keep the car on this side of that line."

"What!   Yeah, keep the car on this side of the line but LOOK up the road!    Far up the road!   Don't look at the side!   Look at the top of that hill coming up!"

She did.

She drove a few hundred feet.

The white knuckles relaxed. The car came under control. She glanced over at me and said, "Why didn't you tell me this before!?"

A simple thing. She was looking at it wrong. A minor change and the light came on.

So students, let this be a lesson to you. Don't give up! Sometimes, after a lot of work and frustration the light will come on and you'll get it."

A few days later something happened that I'll always treasure as a teacher.

The class was quietly working on science.  Suddenly a chair toppled over loudly as my "challenged" student jumped up excitedly from his work.

"Mrs. Wagher!  Mrs. Wagher!  he shouted excitedly,  My bulb lit!!!"


What is it that the scriptures say?  Something about not being weary in well doing I think. That's good advice.  You never know how hard you may have to try before you get it.

Remember. Be not weary. Don't give up. Your bulb will light too.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What If?

This is for lovely Sarah who's out there trying to change the world.

Young people are full of it.

The sure sense that they can change the world, that is.
I was the same.  As a teenager, like so many other young people,  I too dreamed of changing the world. I even sent away for information on the Peace Corps with plans of joining someday.  Mankind would be better off because I was part of it, I just knew!  I was going to trudge off to Africa to build water treatment plants to help my brothers and sisters living in remote villages, or to bring medicine to sick babies living in places where there were no doctors.

Well, life got in the way of the plans, as it so often does.  Africa would have to be a better place because of somebody else. I'd have to do the best I could from where I was.

( Isn't it strange that your own family or your next door neighbor doesn't seem to count as your "fellow man?" I could have helped them all I wanted but somehow it just wasn't the same. I wonder why?)

Coincidentally, just out of my teens, married and with two children, missionaries knocked on our door and brought us eternal truths.

Flash forward.

The latest General Conference was amazing, as usual.
Isn't it wonderful that Heavenly Father inspires those who speak at Conference?  As a "raggedy old convert" I've sometimes had trouble figuring that out. Usually it's because I just can't believe that God keeps reminding his children to do things that are so simple. After all, the world's in such a terrible mess and getting worse by the day! Turmoil, much of it caused by our own hands, afflicts nations and individuals alike. Not even the innocent can escape from the fallout. It's painful even to watch the nightly news! With this much suffering can simple things really make a difference?

Could they even save the world? It doesn't seem possible.

We really need some advice from our Father right about now, don't you think? We're hanging on by a thread down here! What should we do? Tell us please!

Conference began. I listened intently.

I  expected any message from Father to be earthshaking at the very least.  Lightening and thunder or a burning bush should accompany it.
With this on my mind I recall several of those inspired speakers this conference asking members of the Lord's church to renew their missionary efforts.

That's one of Father's messages?  Be a better missionary?

With all the trouble the world's in we're supposed to reach out to friends, neighbors and co-workers and share the gospel?

In this gigantic mess that's what God wants us to do?
How's that going to help, I wondered? Where's the thunder and lightening?

Then I remembered. When my still "raggedy" brain doesn't get it,  if I just sit down and ponder a while, it sometimes comes to me.

Okay. What if?

What if all 15 million of us who knew the truth really made an effort to live it and share it with someone who doesn't. What if they recognized it and began to live it too. What if they shared it and so on. What if lots and lots and lots of people on earth were living the truth? What could happen?

Well, think about it.

Just for starters, alcohol pain, including the car crashes, deaths and ruined lives that go with it would decrease because people in the church know that drinking isn't wise. Same for drug addiction and tobacco. What would happen to crime rates if fewer people were addicts? How much cancer could be avoided if millions and millions more just didn't use tobacco?

What would happen to STD deaths if people were living chaste lives before marriage and keeping their sacred vows after?  How many children would be born to fatherless homes then? How many abortions would there be? How many men would make the sacrifices necessary to build stable homes if they were living the truths Heavenly Father taught? How many women would make home and family the most important thing in their lives if they knew? What would happen to divorce rates if billions were married for eternity and worked hard to make their marriages successful?

What would happen to children who grew up in such homes?

What would happen to gangs if the young people now in them went to Mutual and Scouting each week, and then went home to a mom and dad who loved them afterwards? What would the dropout rate be when children are taught from the earliest ages the importance of learning and who are encouraged by parents and Prophets to "get all the education possible." What would happen in developing countries if people had access to a "Perpetual Education" fund ?

What would happen to poverty and hunger if millions, even billions, of people were skipping two meals a month and sending the food or money to their bishop? What if everybody had home and visiting teachers who were checking on their welfare. What if they all had a bishop who cared about them personally and had access to these sacred donations given to help in an emergency.

What would happen after natural disasters if millions and millions more volunteers joined those already working to help all over the world when there's a need?

What if everyone, everywhere, were taught in their homes and from the pulpit to obey the "law of the land" wherever they lived,  to vote, and to be good citizens? What would happen to the crime rate and to prisons then?

What if everyone followed the advice in the revealed scriptures about eating fruits and vegetables in season, to eat meat sparingly, and that grain is good for man?

What would happen to welfare rolls if people learned from childhood the blessings that come to those who work hard and are self reliant?

What would happen in politics and government if every elected official had an interview with his or her bishop every two years and was asked to answer before God, "Are you honest?" What if stockbrokers and bankers had to answer the same question?

What would happen to racism if millions of people knew that every person they see is a child of God and literally their brother or sister?

What if they'd all read, "Thou shall not esteem one flesh above another." Would knowing this change the lives of women in places where they're now abused?

What if lots and lots of us believed in religious tolerance as taught in the Articles of Faith? What if everyone allowed all to worship God according to their own conscience? What would happen to "holy wars" then?

What would happen to billions of people's personal lives if they knew the plan of happiness? What if they knew that success, wealth, fame and power, while perhaps nice, won't bring it. What if they knew that only love will bring it.

It all reminds me of the miraculous promise of the apple seed. You know the one.
You can count the seeds in an apple, but not the apples in a seed.

Plant just one of the many seeds in a single apple, from the many apples on a single tree. Care for it and watch it bear fruit when it becomes a tree. Each apple it produces will have seeds, each seed the potential to become another tree,  each tree the promise of more apples and seeds......and on and on and on into eternity.
If you planted every seed from every apple that came from a single seed, it would never end. After a while it would take a galaxy to hold all those trees. Eventually, perhaps even a universe.

Could it change the world?  Could it change more than that?

Think about it.