12 February 2015


Many years ago, my grandpa was serving an LDS mission in England.  Near the end of his mission he was hoping to spend some time touring Europe before heading home.  This was the 1950s, after all - travel to Europe was more rare and time consuming.  So my resourceful Grandpa came up with a plan.  He went to his superiors and asked for permission to fly home instead of taking the boat.  He offered to pay the difference in ticket price, but was turned down.  No missionaries flew home at this point.  It just wasn't the way things were done.  Making an exception for my grandpa seemed, perhaps, unfair to everyone else.  I don't know.  Regardless - it was a circumstance under which he could legitimately have decided to whine and complain.  He came up with a solution, didn't he?  What difference did it make?

Not my grandpa.

Grandpa is waaaay too resourceful and smart for that.  So he called the airline company and explained the situation.  There were hundreds of missionaries all over the world in a relatively predictable rotation of traveling.  If the company would consider it, they could cut the church a deal on ticket prices and get a steady stream of commercial travelers crossing both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific.  The company apparently thought this was an awesome deal and the end result was my grandpa getting his tour of Europe and being among the first missionaries to fly home.

Decades later, my mom found out that the high school drama competition line up for the year included a musical theater group doing songs from The Book of Mormon musical.  The musical itself is hotly debated among the LDS community, some saying that it's crass but more or less complimentary and the others saying that no amount of compliment can cover the overt mocking of things that the LDS community holds sacred.

My mom could have emailed the school or called the school or stormed into the school in offense, demanding that the mentor for the group pick a different musical.

Instead she called and asked if she could come in and talk with them about what Mormons really believe.  She went in and answered questions, shared her testimony, and left.  The group still performed, my mom didn't protest or whine or say anything else about it.

A few years later, my sister ends up in a class where the teacher shows a movie that makes her uncomfortable on one of the first days of class.  My parents discussed their concerns with the school, pulled my sister from the class, and moved on with life.

These stories have been pretty striking in my mind recently.

I used to believe that when you were an adult you were blessed with rational, mature behavior.  The ability to discuss conflict, to let things go, to approach disagreement with kindness and the assumption that those who see things differently than you do must have good reasons for doing so.  For acknowledging natural consequences for actions.  I have, of course, since learned that adults by age are not always adults by behavior, and that high school drama doesn't get left behind by graduation.

So excuse the humblebrag for a second, but today I am crazy happy and grateful to have been given so many examples of rational problem solving.  No need to hunt down the other side and continually vilify them.  Maybe I've been watching too much of the news lately.  Maybe it's that teaching is sometimes not only a thankless job but an utterly infuriating one.  Maybe I'm just tired to the point of being more irritated than normal by what I perceive to be irrational behavior.  Whatever the inspiration - I'm glad that I was given examples of individuals who don't back down, but instead find positive and even constructive ways to deal with conflict.  I'm sure there are people who think I'm a complete hypocrite for promoting myself as a mature or rational creature, and there are times when I'm not, but at least I have positive examples in my life to emulate.  Thank goodness for that.