Monday, May 7, 2012

Why There are Missions

So, I had a very cool experience this last weekend. It involves some of the missionaries that taught my family. Oh yeah, also if you didn't know, I'm a member of the LDS church.

Let me give you a little bit of background. You see, both my parents were sort-of Catholics, which meant we went to mass on big holidays, mainly Christmas and Easter. I was taught very spiritual principles from a young age though. I could bust out the Lord's Prayer faster than the alphabet. My grandmother gave me a cross that I cherished, I had a small statue of the Virgin Mary I kept in my room, and I remember wondering many times about the nature of God, the purpose of life, etc. Well, insofar as an elementary school student can delve into these questions. Then, one Sunday in October, our whole family was in the backyard raking up leaves and we hear a knock on the fence. There were two guys standing there in suits who both had the first name "Elder". I can remember this like it was yesterday. We invited them to come back later that week (since we were all covered in leaves).

Well anyway, it took us a while, but eventually we all joined the LDS church and my whole family has stayed active since. My brother served a mission, and I graduated from BYU. I have often thought about the missionaries that taught us. I could remember their faces, their spirit, their sincerity and hard work. But I could not remember their names and I had no idea where they were or what they were doing. I guess part of me also didn't even think that teaching and baptizing my family was something they'd remember very well so long after it had happened. Well, I went several years thinking about getting ahold of the missionaries, but never really trying very hard. Then, a couple weeks ago, a friend told me I really should do it, that it would be something that the former missionaries would really appreciate, and that I should start off looking for the mission president at the time and go from there. I thought that was a great idea... but I kept telling myself I'd do it later (which, if you've ever changed my car's oil, you know that for me 'later' means up to 8 months in the future). It did keep nagging at me though. It wasn't until the CES devotional, which was held up by the Sacramento temple, my temple, that I suddenly realized it was something I really needed to do, like now.

So, I went on the internet, and within 10 minutes I found a way to contact the one missionary whose name I remembered. The one who was there working with my family the longest. I sent him a message, just kind of updating how we all were and saying thank you. I did get a little sentimental, I'll admit. I'm kind of a huge sap that way. A few hours later, I got an email back from him saying how he'd been trying to find contact information for years on my family, how he wanted to take his family down to his old mission and to meet mine, and how he thought about and spoke about us often. I can't tell you how awesome this was to hear. If you have been on a mission or even just touched someone's life, let them know what it meant to you too. That's the fabulous thing about doing something for someone else. Not only do you help them out, but they help you too. If it was something big enough, take the time to let them know how much that opportunity to serve has effected your life too. I originally thought that getting in contact with our missionaries was something nice I could do for them, but it ended up being very meaningful to me.

Getting Sealed at the Oakland Temple
I apologize for the cheese, it's my dad's birthday so maybe my emotional side is coming out.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Ahh, text messages. There are few things on the planet that I hate/love/adore/despise as much as SMS. In many ways, my life has been thoroughly blessed by this little invention. It can make communication much more convenient, accessible, and non-imposing. If I need to borrow Jose's banjo, I don't have to call Jose and get through 45 seconds of pleasantries before demanding it of him. I can just pick up my phone, type a few letters, and call it good. It really is an introvert's dream. Naturally however, this double edged sword comes with a price.

Let me give you an example:

Person 1: HEY! CoNgRaTs on winning the chess tournament!!!!!!1 :) ! :)
Person 2: thanks.

Now, person 1 may interpret the lack of excessive smileys, exclamation points, or capitalization in person 2's response as a dismissal and may dejectedly never speak to person 2 again. Perhaps person 2 really was annoyed. Although, maybe person 2 is just not the most effusive texter. Person 1 may never know.

See, I'm sure this is an issue we have all faced at least once in the last 10 years. The main issue when it comes to texts, is the absence of tone. Sometimes the inherently sarcastic will take a comment to be flippant, when in reality it was meant with all sincerity:

Person 3: What'd you think of my exhibition on underwater metallic basket weaving?
Person 4: Yeah, it was totally great.
Person 3: Okay. Thanks a lot, "friend".
Person 4: Wait, why are you using quotations? What?
Person 3: You know why!

Here we have person 3 taking person 4's genuine compliment to have a sarcastic tone. Thus, person 3 is offended and a friendship just died.

Conversely, a person lacking in pretense or satire may miss the telltale rolling of the eyes or dry delivery that would normally tip them off to the tongue-in-cheek nature of someone's comment:

Person 5: I am having the best month of my life.
Person 4: Yay!
Person 5: Ya, turns out I have hepatitis.
Person 4: Oh, ok!
Person 5: It was probably because of the hypodermic needle I got stabbed with when I was carjacked last week.
Person 4: Wait.. so why is this month so great? Is it your birthday??

It is sometimes impossible to tell whether one is being facetious or not.

Another problem with text messaging are the conversation enders. The best text messaging experiences I've had are when they just naturally flow on for days, much like a normal conversation. A conversation consisting of 160 characters or less and responses varying between hours and seconds that is. I personally hate being the last one to respond, it makes me feel like I have said something so incommunicable that the other person is at a loss for words. Or just really doesn't care. Although, I also hate to leave someone else's response just hanging out there... in the wind. It is a true paradox. There is literally no way to win.

Sometimes, when you've hit a lull in the conversation, apparently you're supposed to just let the conversation die. I hate watching things die. I will usually do all I can to attempt to resuscitate anything about to give up the ghost... the duct taped cell phone, the nearly drowned ant, the wilting cactus, and the directionless text message conversation. I remember one time specifically when I asked my roommate if I should try to keep an exchange going, or if it would just be 'beating a dead horse', to which she replied "I think you beat that poor horse to death a long time ago". I feel like when you are actually speaking to someone, this issue does not come up nearly as often. Maybe it's because social decorum necessitates our endurance of boring topics or maybe it just isn't as noticeable who stopped talking when and why if your words aren't recorded and readable.

This is not even going into the riskiness of using sometimes unreliable cell phones to communicate. Are you really sending a message to friend A about boy D? Or are you accidentally sending boy D a message about boy D? Sometimes cell phones are evil and take on a life of their own. Regardless, I will continue my conflicted utilization of this blessing/curse of technology. Maybe one day I will master it, but until then it will continue to be the bane/blessing of my existence.