Yesterday I was reading an article in the news about a crime that was so unthinkable and horrific that after reading the graphic details, I suddenly felt light-headed. I had to sit down and put my head between my knees to stop the ringing in my ears and the spinning of the room around me. My reaction reminded me of the way I felt after I changed my first ostomy bag after graduating from nursing school. Even though the crime had happened years ago, it was as if the sun shone a little darker for the rest of the day. The man convicted of the crime was to be executed this morning. It's a humbling thing to think that as I write these very words, he is likely meeting his Maker.
Last night I watched a clip about a boy who had lived his whole life feeling rejected by others. He hid his pain through a terrifying outward appearance which only led to further isolation. He wasn't good at anything, he said stoically. And I suddenly I saw my own little boys in him and the tears began to flow. This wasn't just some creep who made mothers with children in tow cross to the other side of the street as they some him approach, this was someone's son- just as special to another mother as mine are to me. He had once played with trucks and squealed over fruit snacks as my boys do now.
A week before that, as Dennis and I drove out with a group of people from our ward to scout out the route we would be taking for an upcoming youth trek, our bishop told us in non-specific terms (keeping everything very anonymous and confidential of course) about some of the tragic things he had witnessed in his few years as serving as a bishop. My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach as I thought of the darkness and sadness that exists all around me, often behind closed doors as people suffer in silence. I had to turn my head to keep the tears from coming as I thought of the shattered lives and the heartache of people living in all around me as I sit blissfully ignorant in my posh little life.
As I looked out the window as we drove to the Owyhee's for our trek excursion, I saw the fields coming to life with color as the sun rose in the eastern sky. I saw the snow-kissed mountain tops in the western horizon and the majestic Snake River winding it's way quietly through the characteristic rimrock mountains of southwest Idaho. It was breath-taking. The contrast of what my ears were hearing in our conversation and what my eyes beheld was stark. This, what I was seeing, was God, not the calamities or the blunders of men.
Gordon B. Hinckley, who is one of my favorite optimists said, "I see so many good people everywhere-- and there's so much good in them. And the world is good. Wonderful things are happening in this world. This is the greatest age in the history of the earth... We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy is around us, yes. Problems everywhere, yes... You can't, you don't build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen."
This past weekend Dennis and I ran the Sawtooth Relay with his brother, two cousins, and one of his aunts. It was one of my favorite races I have ever done. It was an all out blizzard most of the time as we trudged through the snow in the 62 miles from Stanley to Ketchum. As I ran my two legs of the race, I struggled to keep my mind off the discomfort of my body adjusting to the altitude and the soreness in my hips. I looked up and saw the snow coming down, felt it's wetness on my face, and saw the expanse of the road ahead of me. This was why I chose to come to Earth- to feel it all from the wonders to the grief and the pain. I thought of people who would give their right arm to be able to do this even if they had to endure these uncomfortable elements to do it. After the race was over, we all agreed that part of what made it so memorable was the snow and the wind, and the fact that through it all we really enjoyed ourselves and even wanted to do it again. Even in the thick of the snow and the freezing temperatures, the comraderie among the racers was still there. I wish I could tuck away that ability to always enjoy the race amid the storms.
Somewhere between the beauty of the scenes that I beheld in the Owyhees and the Sawtooths and the atrocities of what I had read is where life unfolds itself. Yes, heaven is on earth, we just have to open our eyes to know where to find it. And more often than not, it's right under our noses.