Monday, October 15, 2012

Allow Me to Wax Philosophical #1

Bear with me on this one.

I've been thinking a lot lately. My life is busy. I work part time as a teacher, I go to school full time, dating as well as other social commitments, I have a volunteer responsibility in my local church which takes up huge amounts of time, and this longboard project just adds to it. Quite a considerable amount too. I wonder occasionally, "Why am I doing this longboard for charity thing? What am I thinking? I've got way to much on my plate without having to worry about this too. I don't have time to blog, to contact schools, to get sponsors. Why did I decide to do this?"

I was pondering on this the other day while mowing the lawn (mowing the lawn and taking a shower seems to be the moments of meditation where most of life's insights come to you. The Shower Principle) and I realized why I want to go one this adventure. Rather than give you a huge rant few will ever read, I've decided to give you my thoughts in parts. This is installation #1 of the motivations of service and adventure.

I've talked before about my desire to go on an adventure and why I want to serve a cause in this adventure. One reason why I want to go on this trip is, will be a lot of fun. Lots of hard work and pushing a board, but traveling in a beautiful place, camping, talking to people. Sounds like a blast! However, like I've said before, doing something of this magnitude and commitment just for kicks isn't a good enough reason.

Recently, my church just had something we call General Conference. For one weekend all the members attend or watch series of meetings where the Prophet, Apostles and other church leaders speak to us. They teach doctrine and share what they think the church members need to know. I really enjoy this semi-annual meeting, and, this time especially, two talks really stuck out to me. I will discuss one of those in this post and the other at a later date.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared some thoughts. In his talk entitled "Of Regrets and Resolutions" he spoke about regrets many people in hospitals express as they reach the end of their lives. He says, "[A] regret of those who knew they were dying may be somewhat surprising. They wished they had let themselves be happier. So often we get caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness: a better family situation, a better financial situation, or the end of a challenging trial. The older we get, the more we look back and realize that external circumstances don’t really matter or determine our happiness.
          "We do matter.We determine our happiness.You and I are ultimately in charge of our own happiness.
          "My wife, Harriet, and I love riding our bicycles. It is wonderful to get out and enjoy the beauties of nature. We have certain routes we like to bike, but we don’t pay too much attention to how far we go or how fast we travel in comparison with other riders.
           "However, occasionally I think we should be a bit more competitive. I even think we could get a better time or ride at a higher speed if only we pushed ourselves a little more. And then sometimes I even make the big mistake of mentioning this idea to my wonderful wife. Her typical reaction to my suggestions of this nature is always very kind, very clear, and very direct. She smiles and says, “Dieter, it’s not a race; it’s a journey. Enjoy the moment.”
         "How right she is!
          "Sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey. I don’t go cycling with my wife because I’m excited about finishing. I go because the experience of being with her is sweet and enjoyable.
         "Doesn’t it seem foolish to spoil sweet and joyful experiences because we are constantly anticipating the moment when they will end?
          "Do we listen to beautiful music waiting for the final note to fade before we allow ourselves to truly enjoy it? No. We listen and connect to the variations of melody, rhythm, and harmony throughout the composition.
          "Do we say our prayers with only the “amen” or the end in mind? Of course not. We pray to be close to our Heavenly Father, to receive His Spirit and feel His love.
         "We shouldn’t wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover that happiness was already available—all the time! Life is not meant to be appreciated only in retrospect. “This is the day which the Lord hath made … ,” the Psalmist wrote. “Rejoice and be glad in it.”"

I often see myself and other people making this mistake. We say, "I'll be happy when I graduate, or when I get married, or after the semester, after this midterm. I will be happy sometime, but not right now." When I start feeling this way, I feel the need to pause and look at my life, my wonderful family, my friends, my life situation which is such a precious gift. I have many blessings, and I need to remember that. I need to remember that I can be happy now. There are things I can do now that can bring joy. One reason I wanted to do something out of the box is to shake myself from the routine, and from focusing on being happy when I graduate college, or when I get married, or when I catch up on sleep. Because the reality is, I'm at a wonderful time in life and I can enjoy that time and have great experiences. I don't want to get caught up in the routine grind of things and forget to enjoy life.

Another regret President Uchtdorf explained was that, "Perhaps the most universal regret dying patients expressed was that they wished they had spent more time with the people they love. Men in particular sang this universal lament: they “deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the [daily] treadmill of … work.” Many had lost out on choice memories that come from spending time with family and friends. They missed developing a deep connection with those who meant the most to them. Isn’t it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life.
         "Is it?"

This is a sentiment President Uchtdorf speaks of a lot. That we would do well to slow down and take a moment for the things that matter most. I have a friend who is quite an accomplished young lady. Smart, pretty, capable. She is quite impressive, however, she is so busy, and she wears this as a badge of honor. I think she is really great person, but we are only capable of a very shallow friendship. Whenever we get together she only has time enough to hang out for an hour maximum and I hear much about the things that keep her busy, and when we talk she forgets things I've said to her and forgets things she has told me. She is with me, but not really there with me as she is distracted by her many things in life. She has a lot of growing up to do. At first I thought I may just be boring to her, but other friends of hers have expressed the exact same sentiments, that they felt they weren't as important to her as her busy life, outward image, and accomplishments she so dearly desires to have. Her friends feel this way up until they no longer desire to be her friend. Its sad how we lose sight of that which matters most, meaning, other people. 

This also frightens me because I'm busy. President Uctdorf continues to say, "I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem. I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished. I can’t see it. Instead I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day. When He interacted with those around Him, they felt important and loved. He knew the infinite value of the people He met. He blessed them, ministered to them. He lifted them up, healed them. He gave them the precious gift of His time."

So the thought is to spend time with people we love. So how does adding one more responsibility to my life give me more time for the people I love? Well, by doing this project I get to spend time and effort on people I love; other people, most especially the Romanian people. I also had the chance to make more friends with people who have found my blog and asked for help in learning to longboard. I've spend time with family and friends as they help me with this endeavor. Its been fun.

Also, I've found that it can be easy, especially in my stage of life, for a person to become fully focused on oneself. My schooling, my education  my grades, my grocery shopping, my entertainment, my time etc. etc. This is the norm, look out for #1 right? This project helps me to look outside of myself towards others. I am very anxious to be able to raise enough money to hire a tutor for the abandoned children. I've met many during my time in Romania and they need this help. Stopping and helping others allows me to stop and appreciate my own life. I've been blessed in a way that is almost stupid. Life is been charmed it seems. Its hard, its difficult, but I eat, I have home and clothes, I have family and friends, I have an education. This evaluation helps me be grateful, and to be grateful is to enrich ones life. 

In conclusion, the first reason for why we serve is to slow down from our daily hustle and bustle and find some joy in a moment we spend outside of ourselves, as we focus on someone or something that we love. As we do so we become more grateful, we develop meaningful relationships and our lives are further enriched.

What do you think? Why do we serve other people?


Sora Lundberg said...

Nice, Mason. I love your blog and this post. Let me know what we can do to support this effort.

Mason said...

Thanks Sister Lundberg. I was actually wondering if I could get some pictures from the race to talk about it. I took a few of my own but the ones Brita took looked better.