Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Moan of the Day

Religious intolerance is alive and well, and I'm still reeling from discovering this. Two weeks ago I encountered a struggling family, and offered to help; three days ago I was told that my help was not required because of my religion.

At the school gates I got chatting to a couple in their late seventies who had found themselves, through no fault of their own, having to bring up their three young grandchildren, two of whom were in the same classes as two of my children. The grandmother sorrowfully told me how exhausted they were, that their only income was their state pension and they had no respite care at all - no holidays, no support.

I had been looking for some sort of service I could perform, and whilst not in a position to offer financial help, I offered to collect the children from school one afternoon a week, feed them their tea, and deliver them at home before bedtime, giving the grandparents a free day once a week. Unfortunately there were no weekday afternoons which were convenient due to the children's various commitments, and Saturday is our family day, so I offered Sunday afternoons. I added that if they wanted a whole day free then the children could come to church with us on Sunday morning too. They were thrilled at the prospect of a restful Sunday to catch up with the washing, and readily accepted.

Illness halted the plans for a week, but on Friday I chatted with the grandmother at the school gates, giving her directions to the church so that she could drop the children off there since we didn't have room in our car to take them all. On Saturday the grandfather telephoned to say that the children would not be coming to church, or to my house, ever. They - he and his wife - didn't trust me, and didn't want to speak to me again, and would I kindly have nothing more to do with them.

I was, naturally, very upset. I struggled to understand how my efforts to help could go so very badly wrong. I wondered what I had said to offend them. I arranged for my husband to take our children to and from school so that I could respect this couple's wish not to have to see me.

The light dawned when I confided my distress to a good friend who pointed out that something major had changed from my initial, well received offer. I had identified which church it was I would be taking the children to. And now all the prejudices about Mormons were playing against me, and this couple were convinced that each Sunday my sister wives and I would be indoctrinating their children to be racist, worship the dead and bow down before icons of Joseph Smith.

Sometimes it's an uphill battle being a Latter-day Saint in a country where only 10% of the population ever go to any place of worship, and many of those that do are taught at their churches to mistrust Mormons. But I don't have pioneer ancestors, so perhaps it's times like this that remind me that I am, with my family, forging my way to the promised Zion. Not a physical place, but a time when the Church is understood and respected within the community, and the love, service and kindnesses of its members are accepted in the spirit they are given.

Sorry if this post isn't as uplifting and heart-warming as the contributions of my fellow-bloggers, but I will try harder next time, I promise! (And Mother's Day here was in March, so I don't have that subject to ruminate on.)


Jennie said...

Oh, Anna, at least you tried. I feel sorry for those people, but they've created their own difficult position. Bias and bigotry are indeed alive and well. It's like this swine flu thing. Many people and countries are treating Hispanics as though its all their fault and they're all contaminated. China is blaming the US too, of course, since we have a large Hispanic population. Some countries like Egypt are killing pigs as if that would protect anyone from a disease spread by people. Isn't ignorance an amazing thing?

Gale Sears said...

Dear Anna,
Thank you for your wonderful and uplifting post. I am sorry that you had to encounter such overt bigotry, but it strengthened my testimony and increased my resolve to continue on and be joyful in my faith. I feel so sorry for the elderly couple who've missed a grand opportunity for a rest, and, more importantly, the chance to get to know wonderful you, and to be touched by your testimony.
Hang in there! The gospel is true!

Jeri Gilchrist said...

Oh Anna, I truly admire your efforts in trying so hard to do the right thing by others. I hope you find comfort in the knowledge that the time will come when they will see the error of their ways. Until then, I am sorry that they did not get to benefit from your testimony of living the Gospel teachings. Hang in there and keep up the good work.

Valerie said...

It's situations like this that remind me how brilliant JK Rowling was when she created the healing response to an encounter with Dementors--chocolate. And experience with ignorance and judgment and prejudice can do the same thing (as the Dementors, not the chocolate)--suck some of the life from you. In some of my encouters with people's ignorance, I confess I thought of the people who had to deal with the Nazis, and that awful evil disregard for human life. I think ignorance is a form of evil, or maybe evil takes advantage of ignorance (nature abhors a vacuum and all that, so Satan fills a vacuum with negativity). And when we encounter that, we feel that negativity.

Yes, you are a pioneer and doing a very significant work even when it seems like the prejudice and ignorance are all around. I believe that Latter-day Saints in countries all around the world are making inroads into that ignorance, day after day, choice after choice, act after act. Just like pioneers taking step after step when the distance seemed so long and a step seemed very insignificant. I'm glad you have a lovely family to surround yourself with and beautiful children and a husband to gather strength from.