The Sunday my oldest child was blessed, I stood up in our ward’s fast and testimony meeting and gave my own blessing of sorts to this little boy who had come barreling into the world. In that blessing I quoted the first part of the Prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
By any measure, my George is a quirky little boy–prone to anxiety and rigidity of thinking. But I also have never seen a boy his age take so much interest in the people around him. He remembers intricate details and facts about the people he comes into contact with, even those he is only tangentially connected to. When I gave him that blessing all those years ago, I had visions of him being a lone warrior for justice and love. And, indeed, that is a romantic notion but one that as I have grown over the years, I have come to understand is really besides the point. Especially for George.
George is eight now and last month he was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I know for many people this rite of passage can be complicated, but knowing my little boy as I do, I am profoundly grateful that, if he chooses, he will have a community that will surround him and embrace him. As I sat there watching my little boy take this step, I thought about the community he was joining. I had been struggling that week to balance George’s birthday, our extended family who were in town and the baptism. During the times I felt I was dropping all of the pieces I was supposed to juggle, people from our ward would call or stop by and ask what they could do to help. From picking up white underwear for George to be baptized in to talking me off the ledge of quitting my job because the pressure was too much, these members of my community were there to support me in my hour of need.
I was given the opportunity to conduct the service which, I must note, I was only allowed to do because of the benevolence of my husband who serves as bishop. As I was closing the baptism I felt the overwhelming need to tell George this story. To tell him of all the people who loved him and our family so much that they lifted us over the gaps that we couldn’t navigate. I told him of my blessing for him as a baby–that I hoped he would be an instrument of God’s love. And then I read him the second half of St. Francis’ prayer:
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
I had never noticed before how close it is to our own baptismal covenant where we promise to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. George now gets to be a part of this community where he will seek to console, to be understood and to love. And hopefully those same virtues will be rewarded to him when he needs it. Being a member of this community is complicated, especially for those of us who don’t entirely fit. But on that day and because of my boy whose soul craves human connection, I was reminded how wonderful it is to have a people to love.