25 July 2016

This happened today, thanks to Pokemon Go

A reunion three years in the making
I am getting the sense that TMFKATB is keenly aware that his time in the mission field is drawing to a close. His letters are arriving a little bit later each week and they have a familiar ring to them. I think he's trying to maximize his time with those he is serving and serving with as opposed to waxing poetic in emails home. Today's letter was nice, almost formulaic, but reassuring that all was well.

The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I were talking about his letter when are respective phones began noising off that each of us was getting a text. Quicker to open her text, SML let out a half-giggle / half whoop and said I needed to open my texts. Now.

There it was - TMFKATB with his buddy from here in the 'Stan, Cooper. They've not seen in each in three years. Cooper began his mission service in Rio de Janeiro a year before TMFKATB left, so their service has kept them apart. Until today. Cooper's family is behind the Zion Curtain, visiting their family in Mormon Mecca. TMFKATB and his companion were driving down a road in West Jordan when he saw, unbelievably, his buddy in a K-Mart (turns out there are still K-Marts that are open - who knew?!) parking lot playing, wait for it, Pokemon Go. They pulled over and a joyous reunion ensued! The best part is that Cooper was with his mom who immediately began texting us pictures and a blow-by-blow of the sudden reunion. To hear from someone who knows TMFKATB, who saw him when he was home sick from Mexico, and to have her say, "He looks so good!" was an absolute blessing for us. We loved getting the play-by-play. We loved seeing TMKATB see Cooper's dad. It really was terrific! Did it make us jealous? No, it made us so excited to know that we'll be seeing him in 23 days (but who's counting?!). We've been flying high all afternoon and into the evening as a result. Massive thanks to our sweet friends for making this happen today!

The world is so much smaller than we think. I'm grateful for this crazy technology that we have that allowed us to see and hear our boy today. We're grateful for friends that were able to give our boy more than a few hugs today.

I'm even grateful for Pokemon Go. Had Cooper not been playing it in that parking lot today, I'm not sure this reunion would have happened. Never in a thousand years did I think I'd be grateful for Pokemon Go. I suspect that this will be a one time thing.

Hear him for yourself!

24 July 2016

O Pioneers! (No, not the book)

Crossing the Sweetwater River
For the good residents ensconced behind the Zion Curtain, tomorrow is a day off. It's the official observance of the 24th of July state holiday. The state shuts down to celebrate that fateful day when Brother Brigham lifted himself from his sick bed in the back of wagon, looked over the uber-inviting barren desert wasteland splayed out before him that would one day become the Salt Lake Valley and declared, "This is the place!"

All along the Wasatch Front tomorrow there will be parades and massive consumption of fried foods. No doubt someone who is simply not right has figured out how to make "Deep Fried Funeral Potatoes" and served up they shall be. Because what better way to celebrate the sacrifice of thousands of people than gorging on foods that will hasten your death.

The legacy of the Mormon Pioneers looms large even today, nearly 170 years after their arrival into the Salt Lake Valley. Many of us can trace our heritage back to people who were in some of those original companies. The stories of those who died along that arduous trail are part of the fabric and ethos of many families today. They are stories that cannot, nor should not, be forgotten.

As I hear those stories, I know that there is no way I could have survived a trek across the continental United States, dragging a handcart or riding atop a wagon or simply walking, as many did. None. Consider my life: I have carried on active Twitter wars with our national rail provider over less than expected service. I have actively booked bizarre flight routings between two city pairs just to insure my First Class upgrade would clear. I was once more upset that I couldn't finish my chicken jeerza on a flight out of London because the flight attendants were preparing the cabin for an emergency landing than I was about the fact that our airplane was, wait for it, in mortal danger. When I was 18 years old and preparing to serve a mission, I was invited by some full-time missionaries to go out with them to get a feel for the work and I said no because I was afraid my new shoes would wind up looking like theirs (I was 18, remember, and it was the mid80s, so be kind).

So I am more than confident what I say that this whole pioneer thing would not have worked out for me. Also, had I survived and made it to the Great Salt Lake Valley, I'm afraid I would have taken one look at it and said, "Nope. I did not come all this way for this. I'm out. Seriously. I'm out. I've heard good things about that California place. Who's with me? Let's go." Of course, I would have promptly died somewhere in the desert but that's neither here nor there. I am able to honor my pioneer heritage today from the comfort of my home. I am humbled by what they did and what their sacrifice means.

But I'm just grateful it wasn't me.

22 July 2016

America the Dystopian?

Recognize this? Look like any part of the United States?
Yesterday, I got something in the mail I'd been anxiously awaiting. It was my new passport. In the 35 years since I got my first one, this passport is my 5th, maybe 6th. I burned through a couple of them during my most frequent travel years. My passports have allowed me to see the world and gain an appreciation for the physical beauty of this world as well as the goodness that is at the root of people, regardless of skin color, how or whom they worship, or their bank balances. It's also allowed me to appreciate what is to be an American citizen and to live in this country.

Apparently though, I, no all of us really, have been fooled. Unbeknownst to me, America has become a dystopian nightmare where violent crime, lawlessness, and general mayhem abounds. Apparently, to leave your house is to subject yourself to assault at any moment by illegal immigrants. Apparently, to leave your house is to subject yourself to terrorist attacks that are rampant and occurring every waking moment of every waking day. All of this because an African American man (clearly he did not know his place) had the testicular fortitude to be elected President and now it will only grow worse because a woman (A WOMAN!!!) is a candidate for the highest elected office in the nation.

This dystopian nightmare was brought front and center last night by the Republican Party's freshly nominated Presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump. What he pitched last night in his petulant scare tactic speech was a vision of an America that simply does not exist. Fact check his speech, as hundreds of sources already have, and you'll know it doesn't. Look around your neighborhoods and tell me you are living in a nightmare of lawless mayhem. You are not and you know you are not. He bloviated that he is my voice and the voice of Americans everywhere. No, no he is not. Here's just a few reasons why:

I am not a bully. I am not a philanderer.
I am not a misogynist. I am not a bigot.
I am not a liar. I am not getting my news from the National Enquirer.
I am not capable of bankrupting multiple businesses, multiple times, including a casino. A casino! People literally throw money at you in casinos. How do you bankrupt a casino?
I am not capable of engendering hate on a scale that will literally destroy a venerated American political party.
I am not endorsed by the current and former leaders of the KKK.
I am not so reviled that the only people I can get to vouch for me are my children, who just happen to be on my payroll too.

So, no, he is not my voice. But his voice is scary, stupefyingly so. Consider his performance last night and then let this gem sink in:

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

Hermann Goring, a Nazi (A NAZI!!!), said that. Goring helped Hitler assume power in Germany and was Hitler's number two man, until like any one of Trump's former wives (and for Melania, don't think for a second that the Michelle Obama cockup in her speech won't be included in the list of reasons that she'll be joining that "Ex"club), he no longer had use for him. Is anyone else utterly horrified that this quote seemed to be the central theme of the "Law and Order" candidate?

The Trump candidacy at first seemed like a bizarre little side show for a bombastic egomaniac. It's not funny anymore. It hasn't been funny for quite some time. With absolutely zero regard for international policy or for things like, oh I don't know, NATO, the specter of a nuclear armed Trump is beyond the pale. From his ghostwriter in a recent New Yorker article, "I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead the end of civilization."

Yikes. Just yikes. But, remember, it's America the Beautiful, not America the Dystopian.

18 July 2016

It's tough out here

Post-haircut shot. Mission life
is glamorous.
From time to time, the letters from TMFKATB have brought me to tears. Usually it's happened when he's shared an experience that was very similar to something I encountered when I served thirty-plus years ago. I could easily identify with his emotions and so mine were brought close to the surface. Today's letter brought me to tears smack in the middle of the ShopRite. Trust me when I tell you the only time it is justified to cry in that place is when you recognize just how much more we pay for food stuffs here in the 'Stan. It would drive the hardest of souls to tears.  But it wasn't the ridiculous prices that broke me down today, it truly was one of the best letters we've gotten in his nearly two years of service.

The bulk of his letter related the story of the miraculous events that led to the baptism of a Venezuelan family of five. His joy in their happiness and his recognition that he has been but an instrument in God's hands is what sent me into a spasm of tears. He has grown so much during these past two years. It's been amazing to watch.

It was a joyous letter but also indicative of that growth I mentioned. At the end of an exchange with me, he wrote:

A recent convert here that I was really close to got arrested and is getting deported this week. He called from jail and asked us to pray for him. His wife is a mess. It was weird for us twenty year olds to comfort them. It's tough out here. Even in America, people suffer.

He's right. It is tough out here and people do suffer here. Yet people continue to come here because as bad as it may be for them, it is far better than what they face in their home countries. The family that TMFKATB and his companion found so much joy in fled Venezuela just a few weeks ago because there is opportunity here.

It may be tough here, but there is hope here. There is opportunity here. There are people that care here. Sometimes they are twenty year olds who may not know exactly what to say but they find a way to bring comfort. There are lots of good people in this country of all stripes who are looking to make it a little less tough. And that is a good thing.