Poring over a motion for summary judgment on Thursday in my office around 6:00 p.m., I glanced up as the janitor, Luciano, came in to empty my trash can. He is a great guy, a little younger than I am, an undergraduate from Brazil studying business just working as a janitor to get through school (not too shabby, by the way, to be hooked up as a janitor in this building). He is married and has two kids. I have spoken with him occasionally when I see him around.
When he entered my office, I was too preoccupied with writing this motion that I didn’t think twice about the fact that he was unshaven and sort of slumping a little. In retrospect, it was the first thing that entered my mind, almost a prompting for me to notice it so vividly, but I ejected it summarily, too eager to finish my mundane task. I simply greeted him and made a comment about the weather, without looking at him again.
In the hallway right outside my office door, Luciano began speaking with one of the staff on my floor who encountered him as he left my office. I heard her ask after his wife, how she was doing. I thought, that’s right–his wife’s expecting at the end of December, I’ll remember to ask him how she’s doing tomorrow when he comes for my trash. But even as I thought this, I overheard Luciano say that things weren’t well at all, that his wife had been rushed to the hospital that Tuesday. I heard him say that she received a priesthood blessing but that the baby was born dead shortly thereafter. The shock was obvious in the voice of the woman with whom he was speaking and she asked him how he is coping with it. He said it is very hard–he doesn’t know how he is coping or what he will do–but that this must be a lesson that he needs to learn.
I just couldn’t work on that motion anymore after overhearing that and rushed home to be with my wife and children. In reflecting on that experience, I am first disgusted by my own lack of sensitivity towards what he was facing. Things were obviously not status quo for him and I even noticed it. But I ignored it and didn’t take the time to speak with him. I don’t think I could have said anything that could haved eased his sadness, but I might have shown him that one more person cares about what his experiences are, especially with his and his wife’s families so far away in Brazil.
This also caused me to reflect on mortality and its adversity and trials. John S. Welch (Rosalynde’s husband) recently published an excellent article in BYU Studies that takes an innovative look at the problem of human suffering. John is a medical doctor and approached the question informed by his hands-on experience day in and day out with the suffering of those whom he tries to help. What is unique about John’s analysis is that he focuses on the role that chaos continues to play in mortal existence and in the plan of salvation generally. Essentially, the physical “creation” is not yet fully complete; chaos is still allowed to affect us and our existence and to shape us into one of God’s perfect creations as we experience its capriciousness.
Of course, this is all very removed from the actual suffering that Luciano and his wife are experiencing at this time, but this adversity will indeed teach them something about themselves, the plan of salvation, and perhaps many other things that are hard to discern at this stage for them. They will likely always carry an empty place in their hearts for this daughter they didn’t get to know. Chaos has struck and perhaps there is no reason in the sense that God caused it to happen that way; rather, it seems more likely that God allowed Chaos to take its course in this process of creation, even though it meant a tragedy for this one family. I hope that Luciano will seek the Lord in this time of hardship and that the Lord will succor him as He has promised to succor those who confess his name and who have entered into his covenant.
Stop on by Life According to Jordan for a report on current goings-on at the University of Michigan Graduate Employees’ Organization (the union Jordan belongs to).
The above quote comes from Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts by Joseph v. Eichendorff, a German romanticist. As I recently re-read this wonderful piece of literature, this line stood out to me. I contemplated moments when I, like the Taugenichts, also felt to say this phrase.
One such duration in my life came as I dated my wife. At that time it was always “mir . . . wie ein ewiger Sonntag im Gemuete.” The sun seemed warmer, the world seemed kinder- indeed heaven itself seemed to be smiling down on me.
The other day, walking through autumny colorful leaf-strewn Ann Arbor, I felt a similar feeling. My time in Ann Arbor is coming to an abrupt end when I graduate from Law School in just under two months. Life here has been good- we have learned and grown so much. Two of our three children were born here. Andrea and I both got a lot of experience in life, in the Church, in education, as parents. All in all, we feel as though heaven itself has been smiling down on us during our final life-preparatory time here in Ann Arbor for the last nearly five years.
Thus, although a beautiful autumn is underway, both in the air and in the duration of our time remaining in Ann Arbor, I felt compelled to say in my heart as I walked campus the other day that “mir war [meine Zeit in Ann Arbor] wie ein ewiger Sonntag im Gemuete.”
Indeed, as Eichendorff’s character sings in the next few lines:
Wem Gott will rechte Gunst erweisen,
Den schickt er in die weite Welt;
Dem will er seine Wunder weisen
In Berg und Wald und Strom und Feld.
Den lieben Gott laß ich nur walten;
Der Bächlein, Lerchen, Wald und Feld
Und Erd und Himmel will erhalten,
Hat auch mein Sach aufs best bestellt!
*note for those who don’t read German:
“mir war es wie ein ewiger Sonntag im Gemuete” = To me, it felt like an eternal Sunday in my countenance.
My translation of the poem, however, would not do it justice.
My Sunday School teacher quoted J. Golden Kimball today in her lesson about pondering the words of Christ and his doctrine. In a 1926 General Conference talk, Elder Kimball said:
Think of God. How many of us think of God thirty minutes out of twenty-four hours? There is not one out of five hundred that actually thinks of God and His Son Jesus Christ thirty minutes a day. I do; but the first thing I know, my mind wanders off on something else.
Last night at the first Bloggernacle gathering, which was held at my house in SLC and which was very enjoyable, those who came discussed the Bloggernacle in meta terms, wondering about its origins and more importantly, its future. When I heard this quote in SS this morning, it turned my mind to the time I spend in the Bloggernacle. Let me explain.
In the meta-blogging discussion, there were different views on the future of the Bloggernacle but I noticed that I really only had positive things to say about the Bloggernacle sites that I visit regularly. Of course, Times and Seasons figured prominently into the discussion since I assume that it is what brought most of us that were there at my house last night together. I have very much appreciated T&S as a forum to engage in discussions about a vast array of Gospel-centered topics (even in the overtly political threads, topics are analyzed in light of the Gospel). This is, in my estimation, a very positive opportunity for anyone interested in discussion about how the Gospel might apply to all areas of life and culture from many different perspectives.
My wife expressed some of her consternation at the time that I spend participating in the Boggernacle at last night’s gathering. She lurks on some of the blogs but never comments (so far). I want to accommodate her by spending less time online and more playing with the kids. But I also want to note that the exposure to great minds and debate in the Bloggernacle is in itself valuable. Today’s SS lesson helped me realize a little more why I enjoy participating in the Bloggernacle and why the time, for me, is well spent:
(1) I spend at least 30 minutes in the Boggernacle per day. J. Golden Kimball’s quote in SS made me realize that the time I spend in the Bloggernacle each day helps me to focus of Christ and his Gospel every single day for a sustained amount of time, much like Kimball’s 30 minutes.
(2) The people with whom I interact in the Bloggernacle are for the most part faithful Latter-day Saints and truly conform to Jesus’ words in 3 Nephi 12:13. In that verse, Jesus states
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.
As I sat with other fellow Bloggernackers at my house last night, I was struck that these people, each a Latter-day Saint with quite different perspectives and views from each other, really are the salt of the earth and I am grateful to be counted as a Latter-day Saint together with them. It was a savory evening, as are the discussions I have in the Bloggernacle.
I received this email a few days ago from Christian Vuissa, and old mission buddy turned filmmaker. Since it is a general kind of email, I wanted to post it here to stump for his movie. Perhaps the Baron has already seen it and could tell us his take on it:
I just wanted to let you know that my film “Baptists at Our Barbecue” is opening today in Utah! The film won the Best Picture Award at the Hope and Dreams Film Festival in New Jersey. It also won Best Comedy and Best of Festival at the Fiery Film Festival in New Mexico. This is a quirky, romantic comedy about charmingly flawed small town Mormons.
If you have a chance to see it this weekend in Utah, I’d love to hear your response. Some of the characters will probably remind you of people in our mission. I promise it’ll make you smile.
Anyways, I hope to hear from you!
(Elder) Christian Vuissa
Germany Leipzig Mission (1994-96)
P.S. If you’re not in Utah, look out for the film in the upcoming months. Also, there will a festival screening at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood this Saturday at 9.30 pm. The film will also play at festivals in Florida, Michigan and New Hampshire.
To see the trailer, theater listings and other info, go to the official
I am looking forward to seeing it! :)