one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the world actually belongs to the LDS church (a shocker i’m sure to all the mis-informed people out there who think the mormons are a bunch of old men who discriminate against women). the Relief Society was established in 1842 by Joseph Smith while the Saints were in Nauvoo, Illinois. the organization strives to be a force for good in homes and communities through service.
aside from meeting on sundays (one of the three hours of mormon church is dedicated to Relief Society) and activities throughout the month, a big part of the group is a responsibility called “visiting teaching.” women are paired off and given several other women from the congregation to visit monthly. you strive to fellowship those women, give service where needed or just be their friends.
in washington dc my partner was a senator’s wife… we visited a graduate student, a widow and a young mother of two. all of us were so vastly different and yet i found ways to learn from each. and to serve them… even if it was just lunch in georgetown, a visit at a country club or my free babysitting skills.
yesterday my partner invited me over for lunch… she planned to have one of our ladies i hadn’t met there. i left straight from work and drove on some back country roads. i took the last gravel stretch slowly.
sitting in the kitchen was our Visting Teachee… a slender woman, wearing camouflage capris and a tank top. a heart was tattooed on her left arm. her accent revealed that she had grown up in the valley… as i watched the two women talk, i realized that she knew just about everyone at church although she rarely attends.
she prefers to go to church in Norfolk, “something’s different there. the military influence makes people more accepting… even if you smoke and drink,” she says. i guiltily remembered how quickly my glance had found her tattoo. after lunch she’d slip out back to smoke a cigarette… apologizing as she returned for the smell.
my partner’s three little girls were very eager to meet and perform for the new visitors… they took turns wearing my shoes and asking me questions. after lunch the red-headed four year old sat very still on my lap… all three little ladies feeling very much like they were part of the grown up conversation.
at one point that same little four year old grabbed my hands and stared at my rings…
“why are they white?” she asked.
“they’re not white, they’re silver.”
“which one is your wedding ring?”
“i don’t have one” i said. big blue eyes looked first confused, then shocked.
“you don’t have one!? why not?!?!”
“i’m not married.” now those eyes seemed to be horrified.
“you’re not married?!” her mom quickly tried to change the subject … worried that i’d be offended. i told her that that was nothing compared to my little sister.
talk quickly turned to men and she told us about her new military man. four hours passed before i was able to find my shoes and my keys that tiny hands had hidden. i said good-bye about ten different times and carefully drove back down that gravel road.
i was glad i had kept that lunch date.