Squareboy

I freely admit to being a lazy home teacher. I suppose part of it is the realization that some of the families really don’t want me to come over, and even some of the active ones are indifferent at best about it. (I certainly don’t blame them, as I myself am indifferent about whether home teachers come over to visit me.) And the logistics can be a challenge. Normally I’m assigned to someone who doesn’t want to go, and it is hard to figure out how much effort I should put into getting him to go versus just going ahead and going by myself. So like a lot of elders, more often than not I just let this little duty slip by unperformed.

(The only time I can recall being a really good home teacher was when the father of a family I home taught died unexpectedly, and then my involvement wasn’t a tedious afterthought but necessary to the survival of that little family. I have to admit it felt great to actually be needed for a change.)

So anyway, a few months ago I was assigned a new Home Teaching companion. His name is Willie. He is a convert of about a year, and he is black. And he really wanted to go home teaching. Our one active family that would allow it was out of pocket over the holidays, but we finally made arrangements to go and visit them last Sunday. As it turns out, the wife and son were away visiting home (in Switzerland), so just the dad was there.

I went to pick Willie up (he doesn’t have a car), and on the drive got to know him a little bit. He came from the south side of Chicago, and told me how hard life was there. Joining the Church had been a godsend, both for him and for a little family for which he is a kind of surrogate father, a woman and two children, who also moved from the south side and joined the Church at the same time.

When he joined the Church, he stopped drinking. And he stopped smoking. Cold turkey, just like that. He cleaned up. I see him wearing a suit every Sunday. He rooms with a brother from our ward.

He told me that when he goes back and visits his old buddies on the south side, they call him “Squareboy” because of all the changes he has made in his life. And he said he doesn’t care at all.

We sat in the living room and chatted a bit. Willie had wanted to give the lesson, so when it was about time to do so I suggested that he get started. He pulled out the Ensign and started reading the First Presidency message. He quickly asked my help on a word. I hadn’t brought my reading glasses and the light wasn’t the best, so I was having a hard time seeing. He needed help on another word, and another. So I suggested that I switch places with the father we were there to teach, so he could better help Willie, and we did so. He needed help on about every fifth word all the way through. He apologized, and explained that among all the other changes in his life he had been learning to read.

So he haltingly read most of the First Presidency message, with the father of that family sitting next to him and helping him along the way.

It was the best home teaching lesson ever.

Comments

  1. StillConfused says:

    That is so beautiful and wonderful. Home teaching serves so many purposes and brings people together in ways that otherwise may never have been. I know that when I was single (been married for 10 days now), I used to always ask for home teachers so that my son could have a man in his life. My requests were never granted and that was very hard. Even though we sometimes think our acts of service are not noticed… often times they have a greater impact than we could ever know.

    Squareboy is an inspiration!

  2. Best ever indeed Kevin. Reminds me of this verse:

    But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. (Luke 22: 33)

    In this case it was three converted brethren strengthening each other through mutual service. Good stuff.

  3. Awesome story. Thanks for sharing.

    I try to be a good home teacher, and as I am part of the EQ presidency in our ward, I get to see the other great examples that some of our brethren are. Our stake has us do monthly stewardship interviews on Fast Sunday. It makes a difference to people when they know that you’re going to be checking up on them regularly. I think 50% of home teaching is follow-up by the leaders.

    The biggest thing about home teaching that I’ve found is that if you just go and try to be friends with people (not Insta-Friends™, just honest get-to-know-you) that it opens up doors some people thought they had welded shut. I’ve been party to seeing two separate less active people come back into activity and attend the temple. When I first started going, they were okay with my companion and I coming over, but over time we became friends. It didn’t happen overnight, but over many months. When you get to see someone welcome you in as a friend and look forward to your visits, you know you’re making a difference.

    I think everyone has stories of home teachers that didn’t come, or people who were just checking a box, but I believe what ETB said in a talk Apr 4, 1987, “Home teaching is not to be undertaken casually. A home teaching call is to be accepted as if extended to you personally by the Lord Jesus Christ.” I just can’t always remind myself of that when I’m tired, or I’d rather just watch TV, or blog on BCC (I actually left late to an appointment once because of something Ronan said…)

    We just don’t know the impact we can have as being good home teachers. Good = we show up and are sincere when we say that we want to help and really mean it. Sincerity wins more friends and respect than almost anything else.

  4. Thanks for your sincerity about HT, and the personal touch, Kevin. Beautiful post.

  5. also, check out this Visiting Teaching video on YouTube. We got permission from our bishop to show it at a recent joint-Sunday meeting on effective ways to minister as HT/VTs.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSRs1K8Hl54

  6. That’s just plain wonderful.

  7. Wonderful story, thanks for sharing it.

    I have a lot of great home teaching stories I could share. My husband was inactive for years and we had a lot of terrific home teachers during that time. Currently our home teacher is a guy who is more of a friend than anything, and I actually forget he’s our home teacher. We just had dinner with his family last night.

  8. Great experience, Kevin, and thanks for sharing. Let Willie know I was touched by your story, and humbled. He’ll be in my thoughts and prayers as I go to stake conference this afternoon.

  9. Ariel,

    Do you mind me asking how you got that video to play in the church? Were you able to download it to a DVD?

  10. Wonderful, Kevin. I was trying not to cry as I read the last few paragraphs. I echo kevinf’s sentiment. If you feel it appropriate, please tell Willie that his actions touched the heart of an old fart who takes HT for granted too often. Tell him he and others like him are an inspiration.

    kevinf, the similarities are getting more eerie all the time. I just got back from Stake Conference this afternoon.

  11. Melissa, it was downloaded and put onto a DVD. We ran it through a conventional DVD player.

  12. I don’t mean to threadjack, but I have been trying to figure out how to download youtube videos on to a DVD for months. Would you mind emailing me with some specifics. I would be very grateful!

    mssmit4@ilstu.edu

    (I am not sure of it is okay to post my email address, but I am not sure how else to talk to you offlist)

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Melissa, is that Illinois State University? If so, I’m just a couple hours north of you!

  14. Wonderful, Kevin. Thank you.

  15. Awesome story Kevin. Thanks for sharing it.

    There are two things that together will kill hometeaching very quickly, especially if they occur simultaneously:

    a) a family is indifferent to hometeaching
    b) a hometeaching companion is indifferent to hometeaching

  16. Kevin,

    I’d like your permission to share this story with some folks in our stake who could benefit from this perspective on home teaching. May I?

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    Sure, kevinf, feel free.

  18. Thanks

  19. Yep! I am here at Illinois State doing my PhD. It seems there are quite a few people from this area (Illinois) on the blog scene, but I am pretty new at all this–I just follow BCC and FMH.

  20. great insights, thanks for sharing. One of the strongest families and most service-oriented families in our ward is due to a strong ht who visited the spouse who was less active at the time- the visits led to the baptism of the wife who wasn’t LDS at the time. Thank Heavenly Father they had a good, faithful strong home teacher and wife who supported him in that duty. (funny but true: his wife said when they got married that the husband told her sometimes people from his church might leave cookies,etc)

  21. Melissa, I wasn’t the one who did it, but I can ask how they did and let you know. Request someone else offer email assist. Will do my best and let you know.

  22. Melissa, just fyi, it is much better to spell out your e-mail address in a public forum – like this:

    mssmit4 at ilstu dot edu

  23. Wonderful story, Kevin. Hearing experiences like this does far more to make me want to actually do my visiting teaching than just listening to the usual rhetoric about it.

  24. Thanks for sharing that experience. Mutual support is what hometeaching is all about.

    I currently have a similar individual in my ward. A man who just got baptized in August moved into our ward from a neighboring ward. Too caught up, perhaps, in the routine of hometeaching ebbs and flows, I was caught off guard when he approached me to enthusiastically ask to be given a hometeaching companion and assignment, and to be assigned home teachers. It nudged me a little out of my complacency with hometeaching, I hope.

  25. How beautiful. This is what it should all be about — the teachers being taught and a circle of service.

  26. #9, #21 – Regarding The Visiting Teaching Movie, use the contact link at mormonwebtv.com and I can send a link for you to download the .mov file which can be burned to a DVD.

    And Kevin, thank you for the wonderful post. The Lord clearly has use for even us “lazy” hometeachers–a belief that keeps me listening for His promptings, even when my technical execution from month to month is less than ideal.

  27. I adore having good home teachers. Currently, I like one better than his partner – the partner has only come once, and he spent the whole time talking to the other home teacher. I could have left the room and it wouldn’t have changed his dialog one bit.

    But when the good home teacher comes, he listens to me, gives career advice without the pressure from my dad, followed up with ward leaders to request a calling for me, and generally makes me feel like I am not in a vaccuum in the ward. I love it.

    I’m a lifelong member and faithfully active in my own callings, but I still need it. It matters to me.

  28. I scared off my home teachers months ago (purely by accident! Apparently they scare easily), so they don’t try to visit anymore. I despise small-talk, though, so I admit I haven’t been sad about their lack of visits. However, one of them has shoveled my driveway for me a few times this winter, and it has been so incredibly nice. Because of that, I’ve felt much kindness towards him, so when I see him drive by (he lives down the street from me) I wave a hello and smile. I even dared to call him and ask for help several weeks ago when I had a large and very heavy box that I needed to move from my car to my house, and after 10 minutes of trying decided I couldn’t do it alone. I consider him a very good home teacher.

  29. I just remembered one of my parents’ home teachers. My father has schizophrenia, and as a result doesn’t exactly get out much or have friends. This one home teacher took time to get to know my father and actually befriend him. This home teacher has a jeep, and he invited my dad to just go for a ride in the mountains with him. My dad agreed, and they learned that this is something my dad loves to do. So for the last few years this kind home teacher (who has actually moved to a nearby town and is no longer their home teacher, but still does this anyway; truly a good man) has come by my parents’ house a couple times a month to pick up my dad and just take him for a drive in the mountains.

    This may not be the most obvious act of kindness, but it really is something that has made a difference.

  30. Nice article. This web site is certainly making a difference, especially when you start getting quoted on other web sites such as this: http://heartissuesforlds.wordpress.com/

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  31. Great experience! Thanks for sharing.

    I can relate with your perspective. I dislike the artificial mechanics of hometeaching (mandatory monthly reporting, compulsary nature of program which often has sub-optimal results and consequences). However, I do like making a difference to a family who needs and wants help. Or a companion who is steadying their feet in the gospel.

    In my view, you exemplify the essential virtues of a good hometeacher (a sincere heart)…

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