Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Power of Friendship

Jeff & Alice Walker in 1983
When they came with us to the
Washington DC Temple
One of the last things we did before leaving the USA was go visit our dear friends in Orem, Jeff and Alice Walker.   We love their family more than we can say!

We first met the Walkers in 1982 when we were both living in Ohio.   They were my very first LDS friends.  

Although I was raised in the church and was baptized when I was eight, my family was not strong in the church and I fell away in my youth.   From the time I was 13 until around 24, I really didn't think of myself as being "Mormon" at all.  Had anyone asked me, I would have said that was my mother's church.  I did not think it would ever have anything to do with me.

However, when Larry and I got together, Ray Bigler - the Bishop who married us - gave us a subscription to Ensign magazine as a wedding present.   Always an avid reader, I was happy to receive it and took interest in the articles each month.   Knowing my new husband came from a strong LDS family with pioneer heritage, I was interested to learn more about his beliefs.

Over time I started reading other LDS information and books.   I still did not have any real belief in the teachings, but I was ready to learn more.  By the time we moved from Arizona to Ohio in February of 1982 my curiosity had begun to open up to a genuine desire to know if the things I was learning about were more than just interesting stories.  I wanted to know if it was true.

However, having been living apart from the church for such a long time, I wasn't at all sure how comfortable I would be with the the Latter-day Saint people socially.  My approach to life had been very, very different than LDS Church standards.  My beliefs, habits, and overall outlook had taken me down a very different road.  No matter what I came to think about the teachings of the faith, would I ever feel like I "fit in" with these people?    I definitely had my doubts.

And then I met Jeff and Alice Walker.   To say that I was "rough around the edges" is a gross understatement for that period of my life.  Yet they welcomed me into their home and into their hearts.  Alice and I became close friends right from the start.   We did not have a lot in common.  But it didn't matter.  She was my spiritual sister.  She was my dear friend.   And that has never changed.

The Walker Family
Red headed "Dawn" was a babe in arms when our friendship began

Though we both have moved to different parts of the country and have gone through a lot of ups and downs in our lives since those early days back in Ohio, sometimes going years between speaking to one another, the torch of our friendship has continued burning bright.

And now there is another layer to that friendship.  When I met Alice, her daughter, A. Dawn, was just a baby in arm.   Today that little baby has grown up into a remarkable woman with children of her own.   I enjoy all of Jeff and Alice's children very much.  Dawn, however, is the "marker baby" that has always been the line in time of how long we've known their family.  Beyond that she's just a genuinely nice person who I have enjoyed getting to know as an adult.   Having the chance to visit with her too while we were in Orem was icing on the cake.

As Elder Bennett and I rode the train back to Salt Lake from Orem I was reflecting a lot over the power this friendship has had on my life over the years.

In speaking about what new members of LDS faith require in order to continue in the gospel, Gordon B. Hinkley once said: 
"Every one of them needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with “the good word of God” (Moro. 6:4). It is our duty and opportunity to provide these things."  (April 1997)

I know that for me, all of those things mattered a lot.   I do not know that I would have had the strength to make the transition from my worldly ways to living the standards of the LDS faith without the love and acceptance of my good friend Alice.   She has truly been a pivotal person in my life.

I have been blessed over the years to have her in my heart.  Jeff and Alice went with us as witnesses when Elder Bennett and I were sealed for time and all eternity in the Washington DC temple.   We were there for them (spiritually and emotionally if not always in person) during some of the big challenges they faced.    Through all our long, convoluted journeys of life, this friendship has mattered tremendously.

During the 20 years I was teaching sociology in various community colleges across the country I used to tell my students that human beings are "hard wired" to require social relationships.  Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, to some degree or another, we all need other people.  I need them ferociously.   Friends matter a lot to me in order for me to feel at peace in this world.   I have been so fortunate to have found some mighty good friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment