As a Visiting Teacher, I’ve had my ups and downs. I got started off on the wrong foot during my freshman year of college, when I was assigned to visit the Relief Society president’s roommate, who was a new convert. If I didn’t make an appointment the first week of the month, the Relief Society president would come by my room to remind me. And because I can be passive aggressive (and because the RS president had a crush on my boyfriend), I started keeping the door closed, and my roommate and I would hide under our desks and pretend we weren’t home whenever we heard her forceful and distinctive knocking (yes, the hiding under the desks was entirely gratuitous because you couldn’t see through the door, but we were eighteen, and it was funny). Anyway, the real loser was the new convert, because my passive aggressiveness won out and she didn’t get the blessing of being graced with my presence once a month, and I suppose me, because I’ve always struggled with visiting teaching.
What followed was a decade and a half of hills and valleys. With certain companions, I’d go every month. I’d prepare lessons and make treats and call the sisters to make appointments. I’d keep them in my prayers. I’d call them on their birthdays. I’d host their baby showers. I’d make sure that my kids didn’t destroy their houses, and if they did, I’d make sure they cleaned up before we left. And this was often in places where I lived relatively far from the people I taught, or where those sisters might be in very different life situations than I was.
There were other times when I felt less inspired. My companion and I might make it to the end of the month before we called each other and said, “When can you go?” Other months we might miss entirely, and avert our eyes from each other as we passed in the hall of the church on the first Sunday of the month. We might send a postcard on a month when we were particularly busy. And I would often sigh in relief if one of the sisters we visited called to cancel.
I’ve had great visiting teachers, and great examples of visiting teachers. My mom is a fantastic visiting teacher– she never misses a month, and recently, when she had a less-active sister on her roster, she would stop by the thrift shop where the woman worked a couple of times a month to bring her lunch. She bakes her sisters birthday cakes and holds luncheons in their honor. She drives them to doctors appointments and runs out and buys them toilet paper at Costco when they need a jumbo-size package of TP. Somehow I inherited my father’s reticence instead of my mother’s confidence when it comes to inviting myself over to the home of someone I barely know to talk about spiritual things and probe into the details of their lives.
Right now, I have no excuse not to be a good visiting teacher. My companion is a good friend who is about my age and has similar interests. We visit three women, also young moms, who are home during the day. And none of us lives more than half a mile from each other. But here’s an example of how bad things have gotten. I was sitting at the pool the other day with one of the women I visit and her husband. She paid me a compliment, and I deflected it by saying, “Well, I can’t be that great; I’m a terrible visiting teacher.”
Her husband said, “No you’re not. You brought us dinner when our son was born.”
Their son will be TWO in a couple of weeks. And other than dropping off hot fudge at Christmas, talking in the halls at church and ward activities, and waving when we pass on the street, that’s almost all the interaction we’ve had.
I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t feel terror that I haven’t made an appointment on the last day of the month.
I don’t answer the phone when the visiting teaching coordinator calls.
I may even have turned the other way when I saw one of the women I’m supposed to teach at the grocery store a few weeks ago.
I don’t understand why it’s so hard right now. I do have two toddlers I’d have to pack with me, but that didn’t stop me in the past. My companion and I were put together just about the time I started graduate school, and I think that she sort of gave me a free pass when I was in school, but I graduated more than a year ago.
The really terrible thing is that I can think of a hundred justifications for why I shouldn’t visit teach. It’s not in my introverted nature. This companionship is doomed. I feel like an intruder. I don’t want to force friendships or make a mess in these women’s homes. I’m 100% ambivalent when my own visiting teachers come to visit, even though I like them. And now, it’s just too embarrassing to even think about visiting these women after not making an effort for the last three years.
But deep, deep down, I do feel guilty.
So here’s my last ditch effort– convince me or help me feel confident in my justifications.
The Worst Visiting Teacher in the World
P.S.– While you’re at it– what do you think of the picture?