The summer after my freshman year in undergrad, I worked at a summer camp for children with disabilities in Texas. It would be my first experience away from Utah for any extended period of time. I packed my bags, complete with extra copies of the Book of Mormon, and headed off to the hill country of Texas, confident that my knee-length shorts and well-covered clavicles would proclaim that I was a Good Person. I had ideas in my head, planted by many a lesson in Young Women’s and Seminary, of being a shining example to all of those “nonmembers” who saw me. My goodness and light would be a beacon and they would all want to know about my religion. Soon after my arrival, I was befriended by Corrinne*, who was to challenge my judgmental and narrow views of what it meant to be a good person. Not only did she wear tank tops (which to my naïve sensibilities was practically a mortal sin), she was quite rough around the edges and cursed like a sailor. Something of a tomboy, Corrinne was markedly unfeminine and had a lumbering gait. She was in the Army Reserve and would leave some weekends for boot camp. She’d had a rough life, but shrugged it off as no big deal. I remember one day when she described a scene from a pornographic video as if she were talking about the weather (I sat in stunned silence).
Despite many aspects of Corrinne that were, frankly, shocking to the immature girl that I was, I quickly came to see that she was one of the most caring, selfless, genuine people I had ever met. To this day I’ve met few like her. One could never question her motives. Even when Corrinne wasn’t on duty, she would spend time with the children, entertaining them, listening to them, playing with them. I was off to the staff lounge for a break any chance I got. When I had a weekend off, Corrinne generously offered me the keys to her beloved truck. I fear I would not have done the same. I never once saw Corrinne do anything self-centered. She was constantly giving, to the children, to others, to me, wanting nothing in return.
I learned many important lessons that summer. I had gone to Texas (I’m ashamed to admit) with a misguided sense of moral superiority. I saw that the state of another woman’s heart –so open, so giving, so caring and seemingly incapable of passing judgment– was a far better measure of goodness than my outward “modesty” and piety. Even more importantly, I learned to see the goodness in all people. I met many people, some religious, some not; each was trying to do their best in their own way. Everywhere I looked there were compassionate and generous people. A crack was forming in my stark divisions of “us” and “them.” Over time I have come to view my self as part of the great family of humanity rather than a member of a privileged few. I am glad to have met Corrinne, a true diamond-in-the-rough, who taught me to see past a gruff exterior and helped me begin to work toward truly seeing people rather than my notions of what I thought they were.