Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Women We Visit Teach

For thirty years, I have been a Visiting Teacher. What this means is, I have the responsibility, the privilege, of looking out for the needs of other women in my religious community. The women I visit teach may need a ride to the doctor, or help with packing. She may have had surgery and would appreciate help with her home or a homemade meal. The service may only fulfill the need for friendship.

When I was a little girl, my mom was a Visiting Teacher  and she had Visiting Teachers who came to visit her once a month to deliver a short spiritual message and inquire as to her needs. They came unannounced wearing dresses with pantyhose and conservative heels. They saw themselves as representatives of the church.

I saw my mother as the Visiting Teacher to women who didn't want to be bothered with a visit. Mom still felt a connection, and I remember her dropping off a monthly loaf of pumpkin bread, muffins, extra lemons, or a cheerful note. Her love of service is memorable.

Times have shifted since the 1960s, 70s, 80s...Today, it would be hard to stop by on a weekday afternoon and expect a woman to be home with enough time to invite a visiting teacher in for a chat. My life is such that when my Visiting Teacher asked how she could best serve my needs, I said, "Please don't visit me." We both laughed and decided to paddle board together in the summer.

For the past two years, my visiting teaching partner and I have visited a woman half our age, and with more variations from us than a color chart. After two years of visiting consistency, of going through her kidney transplant and other complex health issues, the woman is like a daughter to me. I love her. But she is woman who doesn't want a spiritual message--and so we've become the Movie Club!

Last Wednesday night, there were four of us--and I anticipate our numbers will grow. It's beyond just visiting teaching. It's having fun and including anyone who would like to go. Part of the joy is being around women of diverse interests and personalities. One woman drives for Uber and has just returned to school. One woman just married; two are single. One woman is sarcastic, another sweet-sweet. One of us works full time--the rest are part-timers. We are grandmas and women witout children. One of the women was a beauty queen. And then there is me, the one who borrows a bigger car to chauffeur around the ladies.

The movie we chose to see didn't start until 9:00 p.m. and ended at 11:25. For us older women, the late night movie was a stretch to our regular habits. But because we love and care for each other, we mustered the courage to pretend we were young and vigorous and capable of staying out until midnight with our young friend--the woman we visit teach.