09 August 2015

Thirty years on

There are no words.
This past Thursday, I succumbed again to #tbt temptation, and posted a photo from my past. I went deep into the WayBack, or WABAC, Machine (all props to Mr. Peabody from 'The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show' for that cultural reference!) to find the gem found on the left that I posted on the Instagrams as well as the Facebook. Before we get around to the most disturbing element of the photo, my Mo'Fro (Mormon 'Fro), some context and other things to consider:

- This was thirty, 30, count 'em, thirty years ago.
- I was a brand-new missionary. The supremely white shirt is a dead give away. It had not yet been subjected to the searing, color-crushing heat found in dryers in any and all Miami-area laundromats at that time. They had one setting: "Heat equal to that of the surface of the sun." I suspect it was because heat like that made for easy destruction of blood stains, DNA miscellany, as well as leftover blow. Remember, this was Miami in 1985.
- This photo was taken in an alley in Miami. I have no idea why we were back there. Probably the best place to lock up our bikes.
- The white Swatch watch. Matched my white shirt. This was the extent of my cutting edge fashion style. As a reminder, it was 1985. Also, Swatch is still a thing. Who knew?!
- Was I trying to channel Jake Ryan from "Sixteen Candles"? Google Image it and you decide.
- Now for the Mo'Fro. Seriously, there are no words. There is no way that this was an allowable length. As an old friend who served with me all those years ago said on the Facebooks, "I can't believe Mangum (our mission president) didn't make you cut that..." I agree. I have no idea how I got away with it. I also have no idea how I managed the style. It looks like I threw some shellac, or industrial strength AquaNet, on my hair and then slammed my head repeatedly with a frying pan to get that gravity defying look. I could have had a family of Cuban refugees in that mop and no one would have been the wiser. By all that's holy...

So finding this picture sent me down a rabbit's hole of memories as I pulled out a tattered box of photos from mission. There are some other photos that exceed the glory of the one above that may or may not make there way into #tbt rotation. As I looked at these photos, there were some moments of abject horror (mostly because it was the 80's), but mostly, it was smile after smile that came over me as I looked at images of people I served and people I served with. I saw families who had literally given up everything they had, meager as it may have been, to fight there way to the United States. While I can no longer remember the specifics of their histories, what I still remember is the joy they felt being reunited in the US. It didn't matter that they were living in a two bedroom apartment or in a tattered mobile home in one of Miami's sketchiest neighborhoods (and for Miami then, that's saying something). They were together. As I saw images of those other young men that I served with, I remembered late night conversations as we worried about the people we were working with. How could we, as nineteen and twenty year olds, help them? I remembered prayers being answered and finding those ways. What's funny as I went through all those pictures, is that I don't think there were any bad times. I know there were challenging times. I grew in ways that I could never have imagined in those two years and growing does not come without its share of challenges and pain. Every day was not sunshine-filled (despite what the Florida Department of Tourism would have you believe). But I became a better man because of those challenging days and how could I not be grateful for that?

So were those two years the best two years of my life? Nope. Were they the best two years of preparing me for the rest of my life? Absolutely. Those two years played a key role in shaping who I've become. I wouldn't have traded it for the world. Would I do it again? You bet, in a heartbeat, yes. But I'd probably forgo the Mo'Fro the next time around. You're welcome.

No comments: