They scarcely had time to compliment my carpet and settle themselves onto the couch before I said, “I want to learn everything you can teach me. I don’t want a surface relationship. I need your wisdom.”
My new visiting teachers laughed and leaned back against the couch as we shared our stories. Between the two of them they’ve had nearly 150 years on this earth: both have buried children and suffered numerous heartbreaks, they’ve also nurtured happy marriages and are pillars of good in our community. They share a silly sense of humor and are devoted to their children and grandchildren. By the end of the hour we’d finished a box of Kleenexes and parted in a flurry of hugs and “I love you”s.
Lucky for me, they are assigned to visit me each month, just as every Mormon woman visits two or three others in her area. In the year since their first visit, Coleen and Evelyn have offered wise and generous advice, hilarious anecdotes and even left a basket of food on my porch when my beestung face was too horrifying for the grocery store. More than simply asking after me, they tell me of their own struggles. And I love that, I value deep conversations; I love people who share their hearts.
Their friendship doesn’t end at my doorstep. At church, Evelyn calls me over for a hug or a compliment about my children; she saves a seat for me in Relief Society. Treating me like a true friend, Coleen calls me into her house to meet one of her children or college friends– who also tell me their stories. I can always count on Coleen and her husband Dean for a hug and a smile and a bit of parental love.
Visiting Teaching goes both ways. It’s just as important to be receptive to the women who visit as it is for them to show up each month. I haven’t always been good about that– sometimes I’ve begged off as being too busy or assured them I’m fine– I wonder what friendships and knowledge I’ve missed? I’m grateful for the women I visit who open their homes and hearts to me. Sometimes a surface visit– how do you do? how was your trip? this is the lesson– is just right. Not everyone craves close relationships. But I am so grateful for these beautiful, strong women who have embraced me with arms and hearts.