Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Visiting Teaching: It's about Time

Being a consulting research analyst is a great career for a nerd who finds people unnecessarily complicated, messy, and confusing, because you can stay in your office and read and write papers making statements about people you would not care to meet in the street. One bad side effect of being a researcher is that you have a tendency to go down rabbit holes of facts into minutiae, failing to surface except for the occasional food or bathroom break. So it was that I found myself thinking about time when I encountered an early 20th century self-help book called "How to Live on 24 Hours a Day".  I downloaded the book (hey, it was free, and there are few things better than free books. Maybe free chocolate. Maybe.) and started reading, because another bad thing about being a researcher is that you'll read anything, and in the absence of anything to read, will start studying the backs of cereal boxes. But I digress. Which is another bad thing about being a researcher - you find yourself going off on tangents and having to pull yourself back. Like this.

The gist of the book was that back in 1910, people were always saying that they had too much to do. They constantly felt as if they didn't have time to accomplish everything required of them and fit in everything they wanted to do. They were tired, dyspeptic, angry, frustrated, guilt-ridden, and disorganized. The author sought to give some common sense practical advice on how to actually 'live', and cautioned against some of the pitfalls that can occur, such as failing at one thing and giving up on the whole enterprise. I ended up curious about his "90 minute per day self-improvement regimen" and being a researcher, I started doing some simple calculations of minutes per month (28, 30, and 31 day months) and the amount of time we spend working, commuting, etc.. What I discovered was this: we have a lot of time to get things done. The difference is how we choose, ultimately, to use it. That every month there is a point where I complain that I 'have no time' on the same day that I have 'grabbed a few minutes' to catch up on facebook. In reality, I could be doing more constructive things. I could even do two things at once; for example, if politicians are canvassing the neighborhood, I camp out on the floor hoping they don't know I'm home. Thus recumbent, I could be reading an uplifting poem or the Sunday school assignment, texting my sister to see if the cat has coughed up the sock he ate last night, or sorting laundry. Generally any kind of work will ward off politicians like the garlic wards off vampires, but just in case, I hide. Why not make the most of it?

Which brings us almost inexplicably to visiting teaching. First off, let's remember: VT isn't really a program. It's a way that Heavenly Father has given us to fulfill the covenants we have made with Him to dedicate ourselves to serving our sisters and by extension, those they love. And when we covenant with Him for anything, Heavenly Father isn't just making promises predicated upon our obedience; He is going to do everything we will allow him to do to help us succeed.

There is one thing he is not going to do for us, however, no matter how much we ask. He is not going to give us more than 24 hours in a day. And not only will he not give us more time; he won't compel us to use it wisely. We have to choose what we will do with the time he has given us.

Now I know a lot of those reading this will grumble "Easy for you to say. You don't have kids (or a steady job, etc.)" You're right.

Let’s think of some other ones:

My route is too spread out. Sitting in the car for that long gives me eczema on my bum.

I am afraid to drive into Schwenksville.

I am unable to control my Ikea urges and cannot visit teach anyone who lives in Conshohocken.

Sister A has dogs/cats/children and I am allergic to dogs/cats/children. Dog/cat/child dander gives me eczema on my bum.

Sister B collects molds, spores, and fungus. I collect containers of bleach. This relationship will never work.

I am very uncomfortable around other human beings who are, you know, breathing.

Sister C is a clean freak and in addition to making me feel like an inadequate homemaker, she covers all her furniture in bubble wrap which is hot and sweaty and gives me eczema on my bum.

There is a problem here, and not one that can be cured with Boudreux’s Baby Butt Paste (which, is an excellent treatment for . . . never mind).

The problem is a lack of creativity. Free your minds, sisters! You can accomplish your visiting teaching any number of ways, including visiting, texting, emailing, snail mailing, phone calls, smoke signals, semaphore, morse code, and interpretive dance. You can text while in the loo, you can visit at the zoo. You can call from here or there, you can text from a dentist’s chair.

Giving the monthly visiting teaching message is important, but what is more important is that your sisters know that you care enough about them to take 2 minutes out of your day to let them know that you are thinking about them. And what is most important (for you fans of Elder Oaks "Good, Better, Best" talk)? Finding ways for your visiting teaching efforts - whatever they may be from month to month - to help your sister feel the love of the Savior for her and help her develop a closer relationship to Him.

Now THAT’S successful visiting teaching. And we all have the time we need to accomplish it.

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