First, watch this video: (Prose version here.)
I assume that we are in total agreement that this is outrageously inappropriate behavior between brothers in Christ, and in a church. Good. Now watch this video:
Ok, it’s not a video, I’m just going to tell you a story. About two years ago, I was in a ward that I loved and loved me back. We had knit our lives together over several years–sacrificed, worshiped, cleaned, cried and celebrated together. Like a good marriage, we had our ups and downs but we were one in a beautiful way.
We were also united against a common foe: the other ward in our building. Those stuck-up jerks thought that just because they were richer than us, they could just do whatever they wanted–park the aisles of the parking lot, leave their programs and snacks all over our pews, talk loudly in the foyer during our Sacrament Meetings. They let their Nursery kids play with play dough every week, and every week we found bits of it ground into the Nursery room carpet. Don’t they know you can’t do that! There’s like a rule, I’m sure, look it up. And if there isn’t, well, there ought to be. They took too long to vacate rooms, rudely chattering away. In sum, they acted like they owned the place–everything was always about them, and they were too self-centered to think about how this all was affecting us. We even put little memos on the windshields of offending aisle-parked cars. They still parked there. So intolerable, so unchristian, that other ward.
About two years ago, a tiny bit of our ward including our family was carved out and added to that other ward, proving that God is a fan of The Twilight Zone. I was shocked. Of course we’d heard the rumors about upcoming boundary changes, but I just couldn’t believe it. That other ward?
That they quickly won me over despite my horror at being moved is a testament to their unmatched charm and Christian spirits. I am now convinced that that other ward–my ward–is as close to Zion as any in all of the stakes of Zion. (Just ask my fellow BCCers, who must tire of the frequent emails I send gushing about how much I love this ward.) My kids who loathed Nursery, and never wanted to go? Well, with that play dough to greet them they couldn’t run there fast enough. The endless chattering after Relief Society hour was over and then some? It was now this circle of sisters showing welcome and warmth to me. Oh dear, so this is what it feels like to be in a Twilight Zone episode.
Though their hearts are huge and true, I do occasionally hear little curses against that other ward, my previous ward. Sometimes they’ll realize that it was my ward and catch themselves, or give a disclaimer. “I know that used to be your ward, and you know them, but…do they really need to take up so much more than their share of wall space in the Primary room? Ugh!” It breaks my heart.
This past week another round of boundary changes added a new ward to our building and we’ll be three wards instead of two. I assume this just means more little conflicts, and in fact I’ve already seen it. I assume many of your wards have seen a spike in that-other-ward grumbling this month as time slot swaps expose a host of new issues.
There’s a lot of baggage underlying some of these conflicts that we could unpack. Benson unpacked a good deal of it in his speech on Pride, and that talk is a huge first step in thinking about solutions to what I have observed.
What can each of us do in our own little lives to create change in how we think about and talk about the other wards in our buildings? Of course the first step is to censor our own tongues, then our own minds. Next, we can resolve (it’s still January!) to speak up when we hear others speaking unkindly about the other ward. If we know individuals involved, we can offer positive details about them and their families to give others a more complete view and encourage thinking about them as real people. When we bend down to clean up their messes, we can imagine worthy, or at least sympathetic, reasons why these messes may have come about instead of assuming the worst. Most of all, we can stop taking everything so personally. People in that other ward are not doing these things out of spite, really they aren’t.
I just want to close with a plea, from someone traveling through a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind, that we treat our building-mates with the same love, empathy, long-suffering and tenderness with which we treat our own ward members. If for no other reason than because someday, they might be. And then, like me, you’ll have a lot of repenting to do.