Friday, February 08, 2008

Blessings: my two cents

I met a French-speaking immigrant at a Stake Conference in my mom's ward shortly after I got home from my mission. I let him know that he could call me if he needed help with translations and such. His ward presidency contacted me the other day, and I was able to translate as some members of his ward, including the bishop and the Relief Society President, worked to determine his level of need for welfare. It was really something to participate as he explained his situation. The food stamps he gets each month for him and his wife and their grandson tend to last them two or three weeks. The money they get pays the rent on a humble apartment and the utility bills, but after that, "On manque même du savon." They can't even afford soap. Apparently they were doing all right back when he had a job, but he had some back problems that prevent him from doing heavy lifting and such now. He and his wife attend English classes daily to improve their communication skills, and the ward will undoubtedly see what they can do to find a job that will suit his condition, but in the meantime he told us how it breaks his heart to not be self-supporting. My mind kept returning to a few thoughts:
  • How fortunate I am to have so many things that he does not have: skills with computers, a command of the English language, a nice job, a nice apartment, a strong and healthy body, and so on.
  • How fortunate he is to have the few things he does have. Imagine how many nations in the world could not even attempt to support someone in his situation. Without food stamps and a means of paying the most basic bills, I cannot imagine that he and his wife could survive in most places.
  • How much good the church must do in the world. While I was there, they drew up a "shopping list" of everything that they might need in terms of food. They would go to the bishop's storehouse the next day and pick up all the stuff for free. They would meet again soon with a French-speaking leader from his former ward and discuss how to help him monetarily. How many similar cases must the church treat each year? It really is wonderful.
On a related vein, our ward has been given the responsibility of having Elders on call for priesthood blessings at the local hospital for the next few weeks. There is actually an entire branch that has been formed in order to provide spiritually for the patients there, complete with weekly sacrament meetings and volunteers that visit every single bed in the hospital every single day. Many of the patients there have worthy priesthood holders in their own family that they can ask for a blessing. But often enough there are people who ask the front desk to arrange to have somebody from the church come and give them a blessing. So the nearby wards have been called upon to provide emergency blessings as necessary. So far, I've been on call a few nights, but there were no requests those nights. At least one of the elders in our ward, however, had a couple of opportunities to give such blessings, along with one neat opportunity to speak to somebody who was interested to learn about the church. He referred her to the local full-time missionaries.

Our ward is also back to being in charge of keeping the snow cleared in front of the church: a less glorious, but probably equally necessary task, since the law requires that the walks be cleared. I'm back in charge of organizing the snow removal when necessary. I'm sure glad there are so many members around here--a lot of us are across the street or just down the block from the church building. I imagine they must do things a little differently in places where most members have to drive an hour or more to get to the nearest meetinghouse.

On a completely different topic, Liz and I had a great laugh over two bills her mom got the other day. Apparently the company printing the graduation announcements for Liz's twin brothers, Rick and Rob, realized that they had undercharged her. So, although she had paid the amount she was billed, she received two additional bills, in separately stamped envelopes, explaining that she needed to pay the remaining balance: two cents.

I'm not even joking. Have a good weekend, everyone.