I believe in teaching.
Two and a half years ago, I would have told you that I hate teaching, that I am incapable of it. I was far from possessing even the remotest desire to expound my limited knowledge to anyone. Heck, I was too shy to say hi to a classmate. Why would I want to embarrass myself trying to show them how to do something they could probably figure out on their own?
That all changed when I put on my white shirt, tie, and black badge and was suddenly called, “Elder,” an office in the LDS church made up of men who are assigned to teach the church’s beliefs.
That’s right. Teach. I – of all people – left my home to wander the hectic streets of Southern California and teach the people there, having been opposed to teaching my entire life.
I remember meeting Diem, a happy, smiling Vietnamese woman and the first woman I taught. I was still lost and scared out of my mind. I kept looking at Fox, my trainer, expecting to see him glare at me disapprovingly as I tried to share what I believed with her. But he never gave me that look. Somehow, what we each said flowed together. It sounded right. It was exciting.
I remember going back to teach her along with her husband and daughter, and how close to them I came to feel. I wasn’t afraid of them! We smiled, we laughed, and spoke of those spiritual concerns that had become the most important things in our lives.
I remember a letter she gave me, in which she said she was impressed by my ability to teach people. I couldn’t believe what I was reading! I reflected on the short time I’d worked as a missionary at that point, and what I could learn from my experiences. I realized that teaching had done something for me that I never expected it would. It had turned around and taught me how to open up, to care about those around me. As I taught them, Diem and her family became the single most important group of people in my life for the seven months I was assigned to teach in their city. I forgot myself and my sorrows, including my grandma’s death, for that time.
I will never forget the time I spent in sunny California. For the remainder of my two years as a missionary, I relished the opportunities to share my beliefs and knowledge with the amazing people I met each day. I didn’t care when a man tried to throw my friends and me in prison for teaching what I believed. It didn’t shake me when a man hurled a broken glass beer bottle at me from his truck while I rode my bike down the street. I was willing to wear my badge and endure hot persecution to share what I had come to give – teaching had taught me that my life isn’t all about me.