Today is the 30th of the month. I pick up a bar of dark chocolate at CVS on my way home from work, contemplating an appropriately warm and playful message to attach to it. When I reach home, I realize someone else had the same impulse: a cute pumpkin card is taped to my door. I finish my card and zip over to my neighbor’s house for a brief, unannounced hello and chocolate delivery. I remember how much I like this woman. I wish I knew her better. Speed-visiting teaching complete.
I am not a great visiting teacher. The whole process often feels awkward, imposing, or inconvenient. But I can’t dismiss this program – as much as it would ameliorate my guilt when I forget to call two months in a row — because visiting teaching has meant something to me at unexpected, irreplaceable moments.
In honor of the end of the month, here are three (of many more than I deserve) memories:
Every few months, I receive a handwritten letter from a young woman who joined the church as a college freshman during my years in Boston. As she’s quick to remind me, I was her first visiting teaching companion. One woman on our route lived in a rough part of town – nearly an hour away by train. Every month, my companion made some improbable treat in the creative confines of her dorm room, and we talked our way into friendship as we switched from the Green Line to the Red Line. Some memories have a tangible quality – I can see us leaning against the bars in a crowded train, sprinting to our visiting teachee’s apartment in the rain, returning home at 10pm to a pile of homework.
During one of “those periods” of bone-wearying busy-ness and worry, I returned from work to find five paper bags, each packed with an inventive, nutritious lunch. I hadn’t been shopping for days, and I was working through lunch and dinner most days. I sat down on my couch and cried. I saw one of the women who packed these lunches at the Exponent II retreat this year. Eight years later, I still felt a rush of gratitude.
Same time period: I was much too busy and emotionally exhausted to be a visiting teacher, but I accepted a route anyway. I could tell my introverted new companion wasn’t always comfortable with this calling, but she was more conscientious than me at making appointments. I was her ride. Driving back from a visit one day (and I cannot tell you the name of a single woman we visited in our year together) I inexplicably broke down in tears. My companion waited with indescribably patient compassion. I could feel it permeate the car. So we talked. And talked and talked. A few years later, she was maid of honor at my wedding.
So I try to do my visiting teaching — or at least drop off dark chocolate and keep the door open for more moments of grace.