Home Teaching, (sort of)

A few years ago a group of Mormons eager to show that members of the church were not the dour drones often pictured in the media and also eager to make enough money to pay a higher tithing put out a series of fluffy funny movies about our culture.

One of these was a slapstick comedy about home teachers. Home teachers are men and older boys called in pairs to look to the needs of families assigned to them. At least once a month they bring an uplifting message and offer their services for whatever needs the family has. My experience both in being a home teacher, and in having home teachers visit us is that the system works pretty well given the foibles of people. But that is a large given sometimes. Probably the main challenge is overcoming inertia on the part of the home teachers and scheduling a time with the “teachees” in our busy world of today.

But there is also such a thing as too much enthusiasm, and being too prompt in visiting. .How do I know? Been there done that, as the saying goes. My companion and I often get so involved in conversation with the family we are visiting that we are late for our next appointment.  But not this time. This time for some reason we were early, surprisingly early. So early that our next family was still having dinner with friends they had invited over. A perfect time for us to reschedule and slip away for a few minutes and return.

Option two was to barge in and enhance their festivities. We chose option two. I had even brought my guitar along as a special treat. I offered to play background music for their meal like a gypsy violinist at a swank restaurant. My offer moved them deeply. Their guests were so moved they moved from the dinner table down the hall, and escaped out the bathroom window I assume. We never saw them again.

Undeterred I broke out my guitar and began to play. The mother of the home was so touched by my performance that she could not speak—or breathe. My companion correctly diagnosed that my music while probably a contributing factor was not the sole cause. In her haste to be cordial to us, and her friends she had swallowed something that stuck in her throat. Ever anxious to serve, my companion stepped behind her and executed the Heimlich maneuver. The choke still stuck. He tried again a little harder. She is not a really big woman. He is built like an NFL linebacker. After the second crush of her rib cage, she waved the stop signal and staggered out of his reach, coughing, but breathing. Down the hall she weaved maybe headed for the bathroom window. No. She soon returned. Gracious and hospitable, but subject to short coughing spasms.

Her husband remained calm. When you have fought in the jungles of Viet Nam, made a career as a security officer in the States and abroad, and are standing on one knee you were born with, and one manufactured by physicians and necessitated by a terrorist bomb in Afghanistan, a little domestic drama doesn’t raise your heart rate.

Meanwhile I had picked up the pace on my guitar, then shortened our message so we could let this family finish their dinner and cough in private.

We apologized that we had interrupted their peaceful afternoon and chased off their friends. But the wife was gracious as usual. Without realizing it, she also had the best line of the whole encounter. She said, “It’s alright. They are members of the church. They have home teachers too.”