Saturday, March 18, 2006

Happiness

I have been absent on the blog entries more than usual lately. Our ward's Relief Society President took about five weeks off, we are about half way through those five weeks, things have been...what's the word???

In her absence, the Bishop assigned the other counselor and myself as co-presidents. His exact words were: "In ____absence, you two are in charge. Find things that need to be done. Find a way to fix them. If you think I need to know about it, call me. Let me know if you want changes or if something comes up that a Bishop needs to know. DO NOT call _____. If she calls you, just tell her things are fine and ask about her trip. Change the subject. If she does not go out of town and you see her in the store, ignore the fact that she is still here. She will "be gone" for at least 5 weeks; here or otherwise. She knows I am putting you two in change while she is gone and she should expect things to run smoothly, but with changes while she is gone. You are not going behind her back or over her head. You two are in effect the President. Call me and report when you need to." And at that point my co-partner and I fell to our knees.

Well, let me start out by saying that originally our ward was the ward to live in. It is the ward from which all other wards sprang. It is now the ward in which the newly wed or nearly dead flock to because of the cost of housing. It is also the best place to "hide". Both in the church and out, if you don't want people to find you - this is a good place to move. It has the largest square mileage of any of the wards within the stake and happens to have what are described by those in the know as "fuzzy borders", meaning there is only one strong definitive street while the other borders are mountains or rivers or landmarks which constitute you have gone over the edge -so to speak into another ward.

Our ward, because of those fuzzy borders and economic structure has the largest number of members; and the largest number (per capita, percentage wise, and by the regular numbers) of inactive or less active members. This reality means that literally half of our Relief Society sisters are on a "letter only" visiting teaching list and there are about 15 or so "DO NOT CONTACT"s as well. An example: When I was in Y.W. our part of the stake was reorganized and formed into new wards and realigned ward borders. When this happened, our ward lost 5 active girls and gained 7 inactive, 3 of those were "DO NOT CONTACT"s. We gained no active girls. This was typical of what happened to our ward families also. Prior to the ward change the majority of the stake leaders came from our ward, now, our ward has so few leadership possibilities that only the bare minimum is represented from our ward. Our stake leaders are advised not to call stake leaders from our ward unless absolutely no one else can be called simply because their are so few capable or worthy to hold leadership positions within the ward itself. The ward cannot afford to lose what leadership it has to the stake.

Within our stake we have the largest number of families on Church Welfare and assistance, some of whom are considered "life time" recipients because of their circumstances. We also have the largest number of members who qualify for LDS Social Services (read: psychological counseling on a weekly basis). It is a daunting fact to read through the ward list and check off literally one half of our sisters as having clinical depression or other psychological problems, some who have been institutionalized for a period of time. When considering the spouses of these sisters you realize that there isn't a lot of support or understanding with most (not all) of the male counterparts in these homes. We also have brethren who have these same mental health issues.

For those of you who have read this blog from the beginning know that I used to write about how literally one half of our Primary was considered "special needs" due to mental illness or retardation. We are not talking about children who are behind or who struggle with ADD/ADHD. Add those to the mix and the numbers rise.

We have 178 sisters in our Relief Society. Out of our ward I can count 17 sisters who do not work to help support the family; 6 of those 17 are sisters over the age of 55- which brings the stay at home moms to 11. (If you are calculating... realize that most of our senior sisters also have to work to make ends meet.) Most of the folks in our ward who work, work with at least a 3 hour per day commute, some even more. This means both parents are out of the home for at least 11 hours each day. Some of these families decide that it is better to just "stay at work during the week" (meaning they find a hotel or other place to stay) because the commute doesn't equal the gas money spent or the hours just do not allow for the drive time. This means at least one parent without any physical contact with their children for at least 5 days a week. When the week end comes, usually it is clean up and chore time; time to finish all the stuff that didn't get done late at night during the week. Family time is still limited or consumed with other activity.

It has been a very sad battle for quite some time. I am not sure what to do except pray, and pray I do; hard. It is sad for me to face Sunday knowing the strife that comes with sisters who are so burdened with chronic illness, death, family struggles, depression, rejection, over work, neglect, poverty, and yes, the mentally ill -some of whom wreak havoc on a weekly basis.

Relief Society is, at best, a gamble each Sunday. Or as Forrest Gump's mother said, like a box of chocolates in that we never know what we will get. Even from some of the teachers, week to week is a stress filled surprise for me. I sit on the edge of my seat each week hoping, praying that no one says something hurtful or anti-doctrinal. Most weeks, we spend 20-40 minutes after the block trying to heal an offence that has occurred during a lesson.

I pray that the stress will be lifted from these women. I pray that the leadership we do have is strong enough to gently correct when need be and to lovingly forgive the same offenders over and over, and to encourage others to as well. I pray for inspiration and compassion. I pray for strength and endurance. I will be honest, I am weary of it all. I want normal again. I want easy. I want all the sisters to have what I think I have, happiness.

I am not sure what or why. I do know I am supposed to be learning something and that in the long run I will be thankful for all the things I am learning. My biggest fear is that somehow this is preparing me for even more frenzy and conflict. I am not good with confrontation and contention; had enough of that while I was a kid. But perhaps all that prepared me enough to go through this now and help balance the feelings in Relief Society. I sing to myself happy songs and try to find the positives in each week, and the motivations behind the hurt in the sisters. I come home most weeks and cry. But I keep going back because I know there is something I am not learning. I keep hearing in my head, "Be still, and know that I am God." It brings me a smile and hope and a warm feeling that I am not in this alone but with Heavenly Father, and it will be o.k.

It also brings to mind that only through the Fullness of the Gospel are we truly happy. Sometimes it is hard to be happy when surrounded by those who refuse to be or who are incapable of it. But being happy is mostly as gift we gift ourselves, an attitude, a goal of the heart and mind.

I am happy today for the sunshine, for the skies of gray or blue; for within my heart is the song of life: "I'll live, I'll work, I'll do!" No cloud can cast a shadow over courage such as mine; and I'll sing a song as I go along, "I'll live, I'll work, I'll do!" -Mr. & Mrs. N.W. Christiansen, Sing With Me! G-19

add to sk*rt

8 comments:

Susan M said...

Wow that is quite a challenge. I can understand why the RSP needs a few weeks off! I've lived in a ward like that before--it's really hard. Try not to get burnt out.

s'mee said...

Actually the RSP is one of those with uber stress and a disfunctional family, plus severe depression and health issues. It is literally a case of the blind leading the blind.

Thanks for writing... it's good to know that someone else has survived this kind of a situation.

Jewel said...

Dearest S'mee,

With you I will pray. It is hard isn't it?

I am so lucky, fortunate, blessed...to be home with my chili's.

What a challenge.

Thank you for sharing it with us.

keep us posted.

Jewel said...

Oh geez... that was me Lisa M.

I was making a change for my sister on her blog, and didn't log out apparently.

Yipes.

Jamie J said...

Wow, what a challenge. Sounds like the Spirit is with you to give you comfort though and I'm sure that helps. Hang in there!
btw found you by way of lds women blogs!

chronicler said...

You are a greater person than me. I'd sell the house and move, like everyone else has.

holli jo said...

Wow. Your post is profound, and very humbling. You are a great example for me. Thanks for sharing.

s'mee said...

Thanks to all of you for writing and for your support. It *is* hard, challenging, humbling and a way to make me more obedient. I wish I could move, but with finances and houseing what they are we would probably just end up in a similar circumstance, so here we stay.

We do pray for "move-ins", people who will come into the ward with strong testamonies and the Spirit. When they come we recognise them right away... we just need more of them to balance out the situation.

Again, thanks to you all, it means a lot.