Thursday, May 17, 2012
Visiting AND teaching
I have been thinking about writing this for a while, but I've put it off because I wasn't sure exactly how to write it. It's kind of a delicate topic within the church, but after a fellow blogger tackled the topic of modesty a week ago, I decided I can broach this one.
You've probably noticed, if you've read my blog for a while, that I tend to write about things I really love and am passionate about -- and then about things that really piss me off. This falls into the latter category.
Way before I ever turned 18 and went into Relief Society, I would go visiting teaching with my mom. She was often paired with a companion who was "too busy" to go (something that I've found is very common), so she brought me along to visit the sisters in the ward -- and I am so glad she did. From visiting teaching with my mom, I learned an important lesson: Sometimes visiting is more important than teaching.
Though my mom was a homemaker and people wrongfully assumed that she had loads of time on her hands to do whatever she wanted, she is one of the busiest people I know. She was always helping someone in the ward with a crisis, taking care of her family or helping my brothers mow lawns to earn money for their missions -- and when I was in junior high, she took a job as an elementary school librarian on top of it. My mom does not have a lot of time to spare. But she always made time for visiting teaching and taught me that it was a priority.
Even when she was assigned inactive sisters who didn't want a lesson or women who were really "busy" (can you tell I hate that word?) and would never answer calls or try to get in touch with us, my mom would still make an effort to visit them. In fact, some of my fondest memories of people in my home ward are those that I visit taught with my mom. We came to their homes and got to know them personally. We taught them the lessons in the Ensign and they taught us about their lives and shared memories and experiences with them. We got so much more from visiting them than they probably got from our visits.
Unfortunately, too many women don't realize the importance of visiting when they go visiting teaching. I remember feeling so depressed in our last ward because my visiting teacher -- who lived across the street -- had only come to our apartment once. She did make an effort every few months to ask me to take a walk with her and her baby to the park, but what she didn't know was that I was incredibly lonely in the ward and really just wanted someone to visit me at my home -- a home that Andrew and I worked very hard to improve and make ours. I wanted someone to stop by and say hello, even for just 10 minutes, so I felt like someone cared.
Now, in a brand-new ward, I'm facing the same issue -- the "drive-by" visiting teacher. I don't have time to visit you, but here's a loaf of bread or a plate of cookies [insert food item here] and I'll visit you next month. She lives in the building next to ours, literally a minute away from our door.
And my companion, who lives in the same building as my visiting teacher (who, coincidentally, we also visit teach -- which is never a good arrangement) texted me one day last week at 10 p.m. to tell me she and her husband had made too many treats to eat themselves and they were going to drop them off the next day and "count that" for our visiting teaching for the month.
Visiting teaching is not "drop-off" teaching, "drive-by" teaching or "go-to-lunch-with-them-to-be-casual-and-call-it-good" teaching. The word visiting is there because you actually make the effort to stop by sisters' homes and see how they're doing!
I'm not saying that small gifts or even handwritten notes are a bad idea or are wrong. Some women really don't like to be visited at their homes or prefer to receive letters or just talk on the phone. But if you don't get to know the women you visit, how will you ever know what they need? Dropping off cookies in laziness to someone who really needs a friend to connect with is just as bad as not doing your visiting teaching at all.
On the other hand, if you don't tell your visiting teacher that you need something or their preferred message of dropping treats off isn't working for you, you don't solve the problem either.
So here's my plan. I'm going to be more honest about visiting teaching, both about doing it myself and being visited (or not). I'm going to be more dedicated to making the women I visit feel loved, like my mom does, and never make them feel like they're another thing to check off the list each month. And I'm going to focus on connecting with people in the ward so I don't feel lonely and don't have to rely on a visiting teacher who may or may not come around.
Do any of you have suggestions for making visiting teaching better? I'd love to hear them!