On Being Useless

Saturday, as we drove carefully down off the mountain on which The Master’s Mission perches, I found myself experiencing two regrets—the same two regrets from which I’ve suffered virtually every time we’ve visited in the last 25 years or so.

The first one is the regret that I am so useless to the work of the mission. In the early days, before I had kids, I was young and strong enough to help with the physical jobs that are so important up there. Once my first child came along, though, I always had one or more kids to look after. Sometimes I was able to help in the kitchen, which was at least something.  But I often felt that they were humoring me more than anything. And of course, as I’ve gotten older, my physical problems have multiplied.

Eight years ago when we went, for the first time there was a real job for me to do. I sewed new table mats for the dining room. I sewed and sewed and sewed. I worked longer hours than all the outdoor work crews! I was so thrilled to be making something they actually needed though. This time around, I was happy to see that the mats seem to be holding up pretty well.

I assumed this time that I’d at least be able to help in the kitchen, but the few times I asked, there never seemed to be anything for me to do, so I stopped asking, especially after I lost my transportation. There are plenty of teenage girls up there now who are a great help in the kitchen and elsewhere. My extreme joint pain made it difficult to stand up even for a couple of minutes.

So, my only contributions were doing laundry every day (for my own family) and praying for the safety of the work crews. I hasten to add that we took this trip at our own expense–no one’s contribution was wasted to pay for me being a freeloader. Still, I wish I could have helped. Walter thought maybe I could have talked to the trainees about home schooling, but really there are already some great experts up there.

Next time Walter wants to take the family up there, I will feel guilty if I go, even though I do enjoy it so much.

The other regret that I always have is the missed opportunity for meaningful conversations. In the early days, we really looked up to Paul and Betty Lou Teasdale as mentors (and still do), but once the mission really got up and running they did not have much time to devote to answering our questions and discussing issues that weighed heavy on our minds. It seems like every time we visited, there was something I really hoped to talk about with them, but the opportunity never arose.

That has held true with every visit. No matter whom I hope to talk to, it never works out. Now you must understand that I’m an introvert, and the last thing I’ll ever do is follow someone around and pester them until they are forced to notice me and respond to my hope for a conversation. I can see that everyone up there is very busy, and I know that the group I’m with is the primary reason they’re so busy, so I can’t expect them to stop being busy and find time to sit and talk over my problems with me! As a result, every departure from the mountain is flavored with several different kinds of regret, knowing, as I do, that it may be many years until I return.

Today I was more focused on preparing for my class and praying for various people. One friend had cancer surgery today. The father of two of my students injured himself this morning and had to have surgery, so the girls weren’t able to be in class. My husband is getting sick.

Still, we made it through class and another driving lesson with Lucy! Today she got to use the gas pedal for the first time.

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