What is visiting teaching? It's the beautiful sound I just heard coming from my 87-year-old grandmother's private "living room," the sound of her eager, wobbly voice blended with the voices of two fresh young women in their early twenties, one a graceful ballroom dancer and student, the other an energetic early morning custodian getting her new Russian husband through a university degree in Physics. They came over tonight so my grandmother and Marilyn, the dancer, could have a social visit with Diane and also give her an uplifting message to encourage her on her way. This visiting happens every month--they come here because it's difficult for my grandmother to get out now that her health is poor. At this very moment they are singing along with the random tunes that are coming from a musical fountain which was a recent gift to Gram, from another woman whom Gram and Marilyn visit this way. When I first heard Gram and her company singing tonight, so softly together, it was to the old tune, "Let me call you sweetheart, I'm in love with you." The utter sweetness of their music stopped me dead in my tracks as I worked in the kitchen. Tears came to my eyes and are coming again as I write this. Can you understand why? How often do moments like this happen anymore in our society? As far as I can tell, not too often, not even among family members. My heart was so touched by just the simple goodness of that sound, and all the reaching across the vast divide of self it represented. I waited until they were done, then crept to the door and quietly clapped my hands. The three of them turned to me and they were already smiling, and the feeling of kind love in the room was tangible. Marilyn and Diane said they'd like to be adopted. It was such a small pretty moment, but I just can't get over it. I am so grateful that this sort of experience is part of my life. And part of Gram's.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshineYou make me happy when skies are greyYou'll never know, dear, how much I love youPlease don't take my sunshine away
I can remember one time this year I went visiting teaching with my own companion, Kathryn, who is one of the sweetest, most conscientious and intelligent people on the planet, and we went to see Rose, who has had a lifetime of difficulty overcoming a number of handicaps. Rose is one terrific, funny, special woman, though socially, she often completely overwhelms people to the point of panic--she's that different. Rose has a hard time focusing, particularly when we get to the spiritual message/time-to-concentrate-and-process part of our visit. Usually, we try to prepare just one simple, clear thought we can share with Rose, maybe a quote, maybe a single verse of a scripture, something that won't tax her but can help her feel encouraged. This one particular time I'm thinking of, Kathryn and I had a somewhat more complex message to share, and neither of us knew exactly how to simplify it so Rose could enjoy it and not struggle with being distracted. We ended up singing a very hopeful children's song together for our "lesson", one that was tied closely to the topic we wanted to teach. I'd brought a songbook with me and we all sat on Rose's bed in her tiny private room and sang together. The contrast between our experience that day and my grandmother's tonight is that Rose and Kathryn and I sounded like a pack of howling dogs. Really. If anyone in the next room overheard us and shed a tear, it was for pain and not joy! We seriously sounded miserable in the technical sense, but I have to say that real grace of that moment wasn't lost on me. It was a beautiful thing, the three of us concentrating together on something that was important to all of us, and however out of tune, singing words we all believed in. It was a unifying thing, and I felt a lot of love for those women then.
I'm glad for such interactions as visiting teaching. I'm glad to be part of the Relief Society.