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Heck Is Other People

By Karen Austin

I have started to rejoin society now that cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19 have plummet in my region. However, I am still adjusting to being around people.

After spending several months primarily with just two other people, I find that I am a bit overstimulated by crowds.  Also, studying history and reading the news has convinced me–to paraphrase Sartre–“Heck is other people.”

True, it is difficult to transcend the gulf that divides people. We all have our own perspective, developed by our own experiences, inner dialogues, and ideals.  It takes a lot of time, effort, compromise, and good will to build a shared reality with other people.

Because my son and husband prefer a lot of alone time, I have had the luxury of living primarily in a world of my own making.

I’m now rejoining society by attending church, rejoining the gym, and volunteering with the Girl Scouts.  My forays into society feel tense and awkward. Clearly, I have to relearn how to interact with others.

Fortunately, the scriptures provide some guidance.

First of all, Paul agrees that it’s hard to understand other people when he writes, “we see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). He imbeds this observation, however, within his discourse on charity. He testifies that charity—or the pure love of Christ—is the only way to transcend the gulf between people, and it’s more important than knowledge or even acts of service–if performed without love.

Also, Matthew describes how gathering with fellow saints can invite the spirit when he writes, “For when two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

Other quick examples include King Benjamin noting that when we serve others, we serve God. This is similarly expressed by Matthew’s account about serving the sick, the imprisoned, the stranger, the homeless. These are all ways we serve God, by serving the vulnerable among us.  I guess this means that I can’t describe “liking” social media posts as service towards others.   While there are some great forms of service that we can perform online, I have the mobility, the health, and the transportation to serve people in person.

Dang it.  So comes to a close my months of binge watching British detective shows and eating baked goods.

Finally, I am reminded of Alma’s discourse about baptism and how we covenant:

“Ye are . . . willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; year, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18: 8-9).

While it is certain that I am going to make some mistakes while interacting with others, I need to have faith that the benefits will outweigh the costs to my easily bruised ego and the adjustments I need to make to the world I construct in my head.

Again, it takes time, effort, and sacrifice to build a shared world. However, doing not only helps us to connect with other people; relating to others in a healthy way helps us to connect with the Divine.

 

About Karen Austin

After living in UT, HI, CA, VA, DC, WI, WV & KS, Karen now lives in Newburgh, IN with her husband and two children. She's been a BYU writing tutor, an English teacher, technical writer, director of academic support services, and aging studies adjunct. She's reinventing herself--again. New role still pending, but mature athlete, thrift store fashionista, and court jester are strong candidates. She maintains the blog The Generation Above Me.

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