He started the talk by saying he was son of ________ (whom most people would know, and of course, I do not yet know). He said he didn't know his father was going to ask him to talk. He said he wasn't prepared (even though he had in his hand exhaustive notes) and he said perhaps he would have some prepared talks ready in case his father surprised him by asking him to give talks in the future. He is the son of a Stake High Counselor, which means he is not from here but a guest giving a talk at this Ward. He said he was a returning Iraq veteran (my words, he said he had been to Iraq in a forward infantry function). He said he wasn't sure he wanted to tell the story, was still trying to make up his mind, and even now he is not sure if he will tell the story.
He has talked of kindness, that is the theme of his talk. He begins the story. Of returning from a military mission and meeting an Iraqi woman with a young girl child. Of offering the little girl a candy bar and the girl being too uncertain and shy to accept it. Of coaxing her that it was okay and the little girl's mother giving her the nod of approval to accept the candy. Of how delighted the little girl was and how much it delighted him to see her so pleased. Of going on another military mission and returning and seeing the same woman and little girl. Of how the little girl recognized him and came to him hugging his leg tightly and not wanting to let go. And he stopped the story right there. But the tears began for me, for I already knew the rest of his story.
He spoke then of kindness, small acts of kindness and gave examples of representations of being known for being Morman by acts of kindness. The rest of his kindness theme was not extraordinary, yet I knew it was. I knew what he did not say or would not say. I cried through the rest of his talk and it took a long while to regain enough composure to look up again.
When the service was finished, I sought him out and explained that I have a son-in-law who is a two time returning Iraq veteran and is currently in Afghanistan. I told him his talk meant a great deal to me and he said yes, he could see how it would be quite personal for me. Did the girl die, I asked. Yes, he said quietly in almost a whisper.
How, I wondered, would I get through the next two classes. By then people were talking to us, welcoming us, introducing themselves and I was still trying to regain enough composure to be present. Normally we would have our somewhat private investigator lesson, but the other two newbies weren't there, so we agreed to have the Gospel Doctrine Class with the rest of the adults. Most disappointing, and I won't spend a lot of time belaboring my disappointment with the structure of that lesson. It rather felt like how a person might instruct a kindergarden class. But this was not a room full of children, it was a room full of adults. I earnestly hope this is not slated for my future when the investigator lessons (which I like as they are more spontaneous) have concluded and we are assimilated into the Gospel Doctrine Class. I will be hopeful instead that it is the stylings of the current volunteer instructor of the class. And I earnestly hope that the instructor will feel the blessings of the challenge of personal growth in fulfilling this calling.
Off to the Relief Society class and one of the women there whom I had just met the evening of the Dance, wanted to escort me to the class. She confided, or so it seemed as she said it quietly, that her son had been to Iraq three times, and she understood how difficult it was for me, speaking of her own 24 hour a day vigil waiting to hear from her son. I know enough about the deployments to know that three deployments would have been short bursts and not the extended 'stop-loss' 15 month deployments my daughter's family experienced. We shared something in common in that heightened sense of wary watchfulness each family who has a loved one deployed goes through while they are gone. She shared her take on why we were in Iraq and I explained to her that I was very much on the other side of the fence on that one, yet we still had a commonality despite different viewpoints. Enough said on that for the time being.
After meetings concluded, I sought out the young Iraq veteran as I wanted to tell him that his talk had made a difference for me, that it mattered, and that it pretty much sealed the deal for me. He hugged me saying that makes him almost want to cry.
In a strange kind of way, the experience of today was akin to God reaching out to me personally and singularly using a language I could relate to with the story the returning Iraq veteran told in part. I don't think I was getting the message many in LDS culture would interpret as being told that this was the true church. I've been among returning Iraq veterans before, but it is rare where we live, there are very few that I know about among our small population and citizenry who have deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan. Of course, this was not about me nor singular to me, I know that, and even so, somehow it touched me in a spiritual place as if Jesus was issuing a gentle challenge to me that I do not yet understand, and yet this is the place I heard the whisper of that challenge. It affirms or reaffirms for me that God talks to people in language he knows they can hear and understand, and the threads of that seek out the ear even amongst the words not intended for that ear but for the ears of others. I don't always understand the language that touches others, nor am I supposed to, any more than others understand the language that touches me. I liken it to music in that there are notes that sound in the ears and touch such a deep place sometimes captured only in the beauty of music, art, and dance. Sometimes in the gifted crafting of a wordsmith painting pictures using words.
This part of the journey is the private part, the part not well described in the traditional words I hear used in the LDS culture. My dear husband would recognize it as the place I speak of from time to time - the place of no words.