As an RM, I crave opportunities to feel like a missionary again. There honestly isn’t a day that I don’t ache to be back in the mission field, walking the streets of San Fernando with a companion, filled with that joy that only comes when you’re exhausted, but knowing that you’re exactly where the Lord needs you to be. At the beginning of the semester, I had the opportunity to have that feeling, and even though it’s been over two months, I’m still reflecting back on the whole occasion.
I had just been called as the secretary of the Relief Society. I was daunted by the task, but reassured by the blessing I received from the Bishop when I was set apart. I had no idea how things would play out, what role I needed to play, or exactly what in the world I was supposed to be doing. Honestly, there are still days when I have no clue (read: I rarely have a clue). Shoushig, who is the Relief Society president of the First Ward here in the YSA stake, and I were headed up to Roanoke to visit one of our girls who was in the hospital after taking a pretty bad hit in a soccer match.
Let me take a moment to describe Shoushig for you – she is one of the most incredible women I’ve ever met. She’s this beautiful, vibrant being who just radiates love and joy. She’s as loud as her heart is big, and I love her for it. We had the opportunity to reconnect as RMs this semester, and it has been such a blessing to have her in my life. Every day she teaches me something new, and I love that we have similar stories in the Gospel. Long story short, everyone needs a Shoushig in their life.
Shou and I (and Harrison, who’s a champ) were headed up to Roanoke to visit our girl, who we’d never actually met before. We chatted along the way, three Returned Missionaries swapping stories from the field and reminiscing on what we loved most about being full-time missionaries. Shoushig served in Armenia, and Harrison had just barely returned from his mission in Brazil. One of us remarked that life after a mission feels different – it’s like the world is a little brighter, a little clearer, a little richer. It’s pretty inexplicable. It was a comment, discussed briefly, and left behind as we trooped into the hospital.
Shou and I felt like we were back in the field, making a visit to a member or investigator, two sister missionaries with a stray elder tagging along. Talking to everyone on the way, hearts bursting with love for this girl we’d never met. I have no clue what our girl thought of us arriving, two strangers arriving with no idea who she was other than one of our girls who needed some extra love. We tag teamed, Shou and I, just like we would have if were in the field. Harrison chimed in like the perfect member present. For a moment I felt the weight of my badge over my heart, and I felt like I was back in my element for the first time in months.
Fast forward a month and a half, and that comment in passing made in the car as we drove to Roanoke keeps rattling around in my mind. Because it feels more true and more pressing than ever. Life is rich, it is bright, it is full. And it’s because of the people we share it with.
This past week has been one of intense gratitude for me. I’ve reread page after page of my journals and past blog posts, scrolled through photos on Instagram and Facebook, dug out old letters and postcards from the past few years. My heart has been full as I’ve thought of my friends, scattered across the globe, and the impact they’ve had on my life. Even now, I’m texting and messaging loved ones as I’m writing this. It’s midnight here, and I’m sitting cross-legged on my bed, wearing my socially unacceptable oversized sweater with my hair piled on top of my head, listening to music from my mission, surrounded by papers, books, albums, and the odds and ends of a blogger life (um… a huge bowl of chocolate ice cream drenched in peanut butter is balanced on my knee and there’s a bottle of coke at my elbow). I should be asleep – my days start at 5:30 am now. But I’m wide awake, thinking about all these people I have come to love.
They have taught me so much, I can’t even begin to truly express it. Most of the time, it’s not even what they say, but what they do. So this is my open postcard, my thank you note, my love letter to my friends.
Dear Friends –
I don’t say it in person enough. Part of it is because I don’t have the words in the moment, when I’m at your side, or on the phone with you. I’m not satisfied with what comes out of my mouth – I need to think about it, backspace, bite my lip and rewrite. I need to search for the right words, the right time. I’m not so good at emotions. My expressions are hard to read – you’ve all told me that plenty of times. But I understand. We’ll all agree that I’m a bit prickly. Kind of like a pineapple. How I look is different from how I feel. A bit prickly and not so friendly on the outside, but a bit of a softy on the inside.
My point is, here are the words. Here’s what I want to say every time I think of you, but don’t want to give you a heart attack with the emotions. I have to keep up appearances, you know? Because were I to start to get all teary on you, you’d probably keel over dead from shock.
So let’s get on with this, yeah?
Thanks for everything you are, everything you teach me, every word of encouragement, love, and laughter that’s been between us.
Thanks for teaching me through your example.
Thanks for loving me on my worst days.
Thanks for reminding me to smile, even when it made me want to punch you (that sheet of a hundred smiley faces, though…).
Thanks for crying with me, and for not judging my breaking points, freak outs, and meltdowns.
Thanks for being the light I needed most when I felt like a little kid afraid of the dark.
Thanks for fighting for me when I couldn’t do it myself.
Thanks for working miracles in the face of my own despair and doubt (that letter with a deadline comes to mind).
Thanks for being the pillar of strength I needed when I was at my weakest.
I hope one day I will be able to repay you for your kindness, compassion, love, and patience. You taught me to love and to go beyond myself. You let me live a piece of your life, learn from your mistakes, from your triumphs, from your pain, and from your joy. You’ve shared your story, your fears, your worries. You’ve been so patient with me and the bundle of crazy that I am. You’ve taken the time to listen. To understand. To put aside your problems that are probably harder and more important than mine to simply be there. You’ve made me smile when all I wanted to do was burst into tears. You’ve rejoiced with me, laughed with me, and mourned with me. You’ve commiserated, empathized, and problem-solved with me. You’ve built me up, you’ve humbled me. You’ve forgiven me. You love me when I can’t love myself.
I don’t tell you enough what you mean to me, and how thankful I am that the Lord saw fit to cross our paths. I marvel at the details of it. For some of you, He took the both of us thousands of miles from our homes and put us in the same place. For others, He perked up your ears or mine to hear some comment that made us look up, our eyes meet, and a smile or smirk be shared. It’s like we were made to be friends from the beginning, like we’re really just siblings that were born to different parents (oh, hey, I do have a brother or two after all I suppose). People laugh at our friendship. Our relationship blew people’s minds because it was so unexpected. Some people got freaked out at how similar we are. Heck, it freaks me out sometimes.
Some of our relationships started out rocky. You drove me insane. I offended you. Then overnight, something clicked, and I realized I’d be lost without you (you know who you are). We might have hit a rough patch or two, but at the end of the day, we’re still in it for the long haul. We’ve thrown some punches, but we’ve also knelt to stitch each other up. We’ve broken down barriers of culture, language, belief, and personality to forge a friendship that was unexpected (you also know who you are). There’s been months of radio silence, then it’s like we never stopped talking.
You’re in the next house over. You’re back home in New England. You’re in Samoa, Korea, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, California, New York, the Philippines, Hawaii, Georgia, Canada, hell, you’re in heaven. You’re pale as snow, you’re tattooed up, you’re twice my size, I’m twice yours. My sweater is too big on you, your hand can envelope two of mine. You’re more graceful than I am, I’m rougher around the edges than you are. I’ve known you for ten years, you’ve known me for two months. We met in school, we met in a meeting, we met through a mutual friend, we were forced together, we met purely by chance. I was your companion, you were my district leader. You make fun of me because I can’t dance, I tease you because no matter how hard you try, you can’t whistle. You invade my space, and I dodge your hugs. I punched you once (still feel bad about that). You pushed me to the brink of yelling. You scared the living daylights out of me and wouldn’t stop laughing about it, and I cussed you out. We bonded over food, but you were insulted when I refused to like that one dish that was your favorite. You accidentally poisoned me with coconut and I made you listen to me babble while I was high on Benadryl. I sat through your music, you hated mine. You cleaned me up when I thought I would pass out from the sight of my own blood. I made you drink horrible tasting medicine because I was afraid you’d get sicker than you already were (I never told you, but I didn’t sleep until you came home from the hospital). We fought, we forgave, we served, we loved, we talked, we competed, we gave up, we defied the odds, we proved them wrong, we lost, we won, we put each other through the wringer, we built each other up. We pulled each other through, even when one of us was the dead weight and wanted to be left to our own devices.
No matter who you are, or how we met, or what we bonded (or fought) over, you all taught me at least one thing that’s the same across the board. We’re here to walk each other home. That’s why our paths crossed, perhaps for a short time, but you got me a step closer to our Heavenly Home than I was at the start. I hope I helped you. You taught me an invaluable lesson. I can’t thank you enough for it. It doesn’t matter what comes up, what trials we face, we’ll pull through because we have each other. We are a thread in each other’s tapestry, a brushstroke in the painting, a pane in the stained glass window (I might be the crack in your windshield… sorry ’bout it!).
You’ve changed me. You’ve helped me. You’ve made my life brighter, clearer, richer. You’ve helped make me who I am. You’ve been the messenger I needed (and wanted to shoot, sometimes). I pray for you. I think about you. I laugh over the memories I have of us. I ache when I think of your struggles. I am so proud of you for all you’ve done, all you’ve become. I want nothing more than to be at your side when you need me. I’m your cheerleader (minus the pom-poms, plus a megaphone). I’ll be honest with you, even when you might not like what I have to say. Just know it’s because I love you. That I want what’s best for you. Don’t settle. It breaks my heart. Especially you boys. Please. That kills me. I will fight for you, even if I’m the only one. When you thought no one else believed in you, I was putting on the gloves. I prayed and cried over you. I was terrified for you. My loyalty won’t falter. I will always be right here. I’m not going anywhere.
I want to walk with you. I will run to you. I want to head home with you. Because that’s why the Lord put us in each other’s lives, for however short the time was or will be. I don’t forget you though. Your name and the lessons you taught me are etched on my heart. We are meant to fight for each other, to push each other to be our best selves. We are meant to walk each other home.
I’m not so good at showing it, but I do love you. I thank God every day for you. I want what’s best for you – I want you to find peace, have joy, not just in this life but in eternity. I want to be by your side. I want to walk beside you.
Let’s walk home together.
What d’you say?