I am what’s known in Mormon parlance as a Missionary Mom. No one else would capitalize the words, but I do. The fact that I have not seen my twenty-year-old son in the flesh for eighteen months has earned me the right to capitalize myself, if I want to.
This is not one of those posts written by one of the missionaries pictured. Actually, neither young man knows that he is making an appearance on my blog today.
Which is fine by me. From what I hear, they’re busy, these two. They belong temporarily to a species of do-gooder unlike any other. Both of these young men–and all the other young men and women in their mission besides–have put aside personal interests in order to focus on the interests, needs, challenges, and lives of the people with whom they collide. People of every faith, color, age, and attitude. Misplaced your confidence?–they’ll find it for you. Need to pack up and move somewhere?–they’re your truck loaders. Tearing out your garden and starting over?–they’re ready to get some real dirt under their nails. They will remember your name, do you a service, and remind you by the way they behave that young folks still keep their manners handy. The question you’ll hear over and over, straight from their mouths, will always be, “Is there anything we can do for you today?”
Is it easy, being a missionary? Are you totally kidding me? You want to get up at dark-thirty everyday, devote yourself to sincere prayer and study (not that there’s any other kind, when you do it right), and head out into the day, looking for that one person for whom life has become altogether lackluster? Or that family whose patterns of dysfunction have rendered them lost to each other? Over and over, you re-polish your message of hope and hold it out to people. Might happen at the gas pump, when someone sees your ministerial nametag and decides to download his life story to you, complete with the mistakes of tragic proportions. Might happen when you’re out just knocking doors, looking for anyone at all to listen to you, and you stumble onto someone who’s been busy soul-searching–the deep kind, where a person gets into the machinery of their choices and starts conducting inventory. As a missionary, you’re an ordained minister, a trustworthy friend of the highest order, and a bonafide, roll-up-your-sleeves yard work doer, if that’s what it comes to.
It’s hard, unremitting, sometimes lonely work that requires real character, which is why–if you’re a young man–you get two years to perfect the art of Being Selfless.
So why have I decided to post a picture sent to me by a Mom who fed my son (he’s on the right, with the beautifully wry smile) and his companion (on the left, with the beautifully big smile) a tasty, home-fashioned meal at the last minute? (Thank you Gina!) Because I just can’t get over those smiles. And I thought folks in my little corner of the world might enjoy a look at them, too.
Elder Davidson. Elder Shakespeare. Thanks for having the courage to just be all-out good. There it is.