|In The Village by Orson Scott Card||Print | Back|
|By Orson Scott Card||September 4, 2008|
If you're old, like me, you remember "cry rooms." Usually they were off to the side of the chapel, with a large double-paned window allowing the parents of fussy babies to see and hear sacrament meeting while the caterwauling was safely contained. Like nuclear waste.
We don't have those rooms anymore. In one-ward meetinghouses, there might be a classroom with piped-in sound from the chapel, where parents of noisy children can go for refuge, but that doesn't work if another ward is holding classes during your sacrament meeting.
All that's left, for the parents who actually notice their child is making a deafening uproar and feel moved to take the source of the noise out of sacrament meeting, is the foyer.
Usually there are semi-nice couches to sit on, lovingly chosen to blend in with the decor of the lobby of a Courtyard by Marriott. And, during sacrament meeting, there are teeming masses of little children.
Children running free. Playing with toys, mashing Cheerios into the carpet, wiping their hands on the windows.
Also adults, carrying on conversations so loud that you can't hear the talks being broadcast from the pulpit.
A lovely place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
Then sacrament meeting ends, and the whole chapel becomes just like the foyer, as people hurry to talk with or hand things to whomever they didn't get to speak to or hand things to before sacrament meeting started.
That's as it should be. In wards and branches outside of Utah, sacrament meeting is the only time when the whole village is assembled in one place. Reverence is nice, when you can get it, but there are things that have to be said and done while everybody's right there within easy reach.
So as I came to church last Sunday, I was unsurprised to find some of the flotsam from the previous ward's romper room session still lingering in the foyer; to wit: three scraps of torn paper, each about an inch square, lying near the main couch.
The fact that there were only three scraps suggested that some adult had frantically picked up all the other scraps but missed a few. I instantly pictured some mom, loaded down with a paper-tearing toddler, a baby in a carrier, and a huge diaper, toy, and snack bag, dragging her burdens away from the couch, only to notice the scraps she had missed and think, I just can't set anything down to clean those up. Somebody else will have to do it.
That somebody else was me.
How did I know it was my job? Because the scraps were still there, and I saw them.
How did I know it wasn't any of the 180 people who entered the chapel before me? Because the scraps were still there.
How did I know it wasn't any of the 19 people who entered the chapel after me? Because after me, the scraps weren't there any more.
Wow. I'm such a hero of cleanliness!
(For those who care, our sacrament meeting attendance this week -- the first meeting after the ward was divided -- was exactly 200. I try to get these facts right.)
The people who walked on by probably didn't even see the scraps. They were busy focusing on faces, greeting people, and hurrying in to get a good seat.
I had already passed through the foyer myself without seeing the scraps. Then someone returned our copy of Stephenie Meyer's The Host, and I took it out to the car so I wasn't carrying a novel around from meeting to meeting.
I was in no particular hurry as I entered the foyer -- our family pew (third row on the right-hand side; it's been in our family for sixteen years; don't you dare sit there unless you leave plenty of room for us and our stuff) was fully staked out by my wife and daughter.
The bishop was just starting to welcome people, but I wasn't actually late, since my scriptures were already seated in the chapel. I was alone, not talking to anybody, not in a rush, and so I was probably the first person who had noticed the scraps and had time to do something about them.
I bent over. I picked them up. I walked ten steps to the garbage can tucked up under the never-used coat rack, deposited the scraps, and then walked into the chapel just in time to help the usher open the folding curtain to the pass through and help set up chairs because somebody had decided not to put any back in the overflow after the youth dance in the cultural hall the night before.
I finally got to my seat in time for the last verse of the opening hymn.
My calling in our ward is not "foyer trash police" or "guy who interrupts the other ward's gospel doctrine class in order to get chairs out from under the stage in the cultural hall," but I did those jobs this past Sunday.
Because they needed doing. Nobody cared that I did them. The only reason I remember is because I knew I was going to write this essay.
We sometimes think that our callings consist of the slot that we've been assigned to fill -- the job that gives us our ward identity.
But that's not so. Our calling is to do whatever needs doing that we have the authority to do.
We talk about the Church being restored by God, and that's true.
But it's also re-created, week after week, by the actions of individual Saints, doing what we've been assigned, and also whatever we notice needs to be done.
It's created by the playing babies and chattering adults in the foyer, by the hurried greetings during the prelude and postlude music in the chapel before and after sacrament meeting, as well as by the people who speak and perform and officiate.
It's created by the guys who jumped up to set up chairs. The men from the other ward's gospel doctrine class who helped so it would go faster. The teacher who patiently waited to start her lesson until we had stopped making noise.
Do you want to see the Kingdom of God on earth? It's there in our chapels and classrooms and foyers, and it consists of ... us. Friends and fellow-servants in his house.
Copyright © 2008 by Orson Scott Card
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