Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Visiting Teaching--The Good, the Bad and the Indifferent

I need to share two experiences--one good and one bad. The bad first; it will shed light on why I have such fond memories of the other.

Here we are in the middle of a job hunt, a few weeks from baby, potentially needing to move and school ending. It is a little stressful right now. My VT calls me and apologizes for missing last month (I've seen her twice in the last year) and asks if I'm available Thursday. Well, no, thank you, I'm actually not. I have to go to the doctor, my husband is working in the evenings, and on days when I don't see my kids before 5 pm it is really hard to commit to anything else. She says, "Well, I guess (insert partner's name here) will try to follow up then later in the month."

"I'm free all next week," I'm nothing if not accomodating.

"We're moving next week."

"Oh, great; husband is done with school then?"

"No, he has a while to go."

"Are you changing schools?"

"No, just moving to a different apartment."

"Where at?" I'm still very friendly at this point, trying to get to know this woman who has made no effort to know me.

She then gives an address about six blocks from here. I hate to complain, but she has no children, until recently didn't work, her husband works evenings and she has been a student. Is she really so busy that she cannot come to visit? And, despite Sunday being their last official Sunday, is it so hard to stop by for 20 minutes next Wednesday afternoon to say, "You must be having a really difficult time right now. How can we help transition you to your new visiting teachers so that you have some help?"

I'd like to walk a mile in her shoes, but I'm swelling out of my own so badly I'm afraid I would just ruin hers and she'd have one more reason to dislike me.

Good experience:

Champions Ward split just two weeks before the Poopy Pirate was born. I remember this time vividly for some other events that happened. I also remember sitting through nearly two hours of "Sacrament meeting" in the heat of the gymnasium while my feet swelled through my shoes to find out which ward we'd be in. Because the ward was new, everyone was officially released. Yet, Jenny Scharman, my visiting teacher in shining armor who didn't miss a month in over two (or was it three?) years despite nearly alwasy coming by herself was there every step of the way. She stayed overnight with ManCub when it was hospital time despite the last minute notice. She made sure we had meals arranged for over a week when I came home, just days before Christmas. And were these officially "Parkway" women? NO! They were women who loved me and had supported me. In addition to Jenny's love, Sarah Berry was there to help with my delivery and take the most beautiful newborn pictures anyone ever saw. She called every day for a week to make sure I was okay.

Did any of them do any of this because they had been assigned? Again, a resounding NO! They did it because these special women understood in a remarkable way that Relief Society is not something you attend; it is something you belong to. It is not about ward boundaries and callings, it is about Christ entering your heart and changing who you are down so deep that you desire above all else to love and serve. In those few short days after my second son's birth, I learned about true sisterhood.

Granted, my less than stellar VT here in this ward is very young, and I doubt she has ever lived outside of Utah. She has probably never had a need for such service. Having not experienced such a time she is unable to understand the importance of lending that support to others. Perhaps one day she will, and she will never blow off a sister in need just because she moved two blocks too far to the south.


Desmama said...

STM--I am so sorry about your VTer. I recently posted the following about VTing on someone's else's blog who had a remarkably similar experience to yours.

"I haven't had visiting teachers since we moved here over a year ago. I know who they are--they've even told me they're my VTers. One actually lives just across the hall from me. They've never visited or called.

As I've thought about it, I realize that I'm probably not the "type" of person they think really needs help. I'm generally pretty upbeat, husband is the good ol' EQP and I'm the faithful, always-at-church-fifteen-minutes early type. I think they probably think I'm doing just fine and I don't need friends.

How little they know."

The ironic thing is that one of the gals who is my VTer is the same one that I VT. I know, it's kind of weird, but in a branch as small as ours, you do the best you can. So, every month, I faithfully visit her with my companion, give a lesson, ask if there is anything I can do. I've taught her Primary class when asked on Saturday night, I've left goodies for holidays and birthdays. I really do appreciate visiting with her. Yet I always get the impression that she'd just rather not take time for us.

It's hard not to feel angry, I'll admit. VTing, when done right, can really be such a great thing. Sisters getting together, talking, getting to know each other, laughing--sounds great to me! And yet I just don't get why it's so hard for some people to do. When I was the RS presidency in our BYU ward, we had sisters complain that those they visit taught just "didn't have anything in common with them." I am still seething over those comments.

scienceteachermommy said...

I had the same VT comp for 3 years in TX. We became so close. When we first started she was blunt, "I'm not sure I buy into the whole VT thing. It is like being assigned friends. I will go because I have committed to, but my attitude toward it is not great."

By the end of our time together, her testimony (and mine)of the goodness VT can do had grown immensely. I sometimes think we did more for each other than anyone we taught, but I think that is a part of its purpose too.

My own in Texas was so golden. Because I had no car, I hung out for her visits as a chance for adult conversation. I sometimes felt guilty about the hour she had to clear from her schedule to come, but she never begrudged a minute. She even played power of attorney for a day to go to our house closing in our stead and sign the papers. That was EIGHT months after we moved. She taught me more about service than anyone I have ever known.

Maybe you and I are different from others but, personally, I like that someone is assigned to find out how I am doing every month and to make sure my needs are met. In all honesty, her companion is much better, but she leaves in a week and a half to go to Germany for two months. I'll be at a complete loss for whom to call when little Garrick is born.

You know, it is the whole "What's in it for me?" thing. I'm thinking "I go every month and do any extra I'm asked. Why don't I get good visiting teachers?" Of course, this attitude fails to recognize why we are asked to go in the first place . . .

on.the.run said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
forecast calls for rain said...

I can't believe I missed this post. I'm so sorry about the crappy one you've got now. I wish I lived close to you and could steal those cute boys of yours away to rescue you from time to time. Or sit on the couch with you and eat a variety of dips as you know I love.

Doreen said...

Did I ever tell you about the time another sister we VT showed up on my doorstep, crying, in the middle of the day because she needed help cleaning her house after her move? I called N that evening to see if she could come help clean for a little while (after others had already been there in the afternoon), and she said she only had half an hour before study group, so she couldn't come. Well, gee, I could have gone home at 9:30 instead of 10 that night if she had come for just that half hour. I was a bit upset. I'm sorry we never managed to be there for you more, I'm sure you can see how frustrating it was for me every month to try and get her going. I always felt like she thought I should just take care of it, since after all I didn't have to deal with school and studying. I'm sure once she has 3 kids, she'll come to realize that going to school was a walk in the park compared to staying home with the munchkins. :p