Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Princess behind the Salad Bar

"Hey Sister Jameson!" I said to the young woman behind the lunch counter. "How are you today?"

Sister Jameson has down syndrome. Twenty-something, sweet, and spunky, she wanted to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That's what brought her to be a volunteer service missionary in the employee cafeteria, giving me the pleasure of chatting with her each day.

We normally talk about upcoming fun events or our weekend plans, but today was different.

"This morning when I was in the bathroom I realized something" Sister Jameson responded thoughtfully to my question.

"What's that?" I asked as I placed a tong-ful of spinach from her carefully maintained salad bar onto my plate.

"I realized that I am a child of God." she responded earnestly. "And that means...I'm a princess. Because of that, I have something really important I need to do."

She paused, and I stepped out of the salad bar line to avoid blocking it as the two of us chatted.

"I looked at myself in the mirror", she continued, "and told myself 'YOU have an important work!'"

I felt my eyes becoming moist.

"I just don't know what my important work IS yet." she said reflectively.

"You might have several missions in life....things that only you can do, because of who you are." I suggested. "Maybe you'll find them over time--as you finish one mission, you'll discover your next important work."

That idea resonated with her. "I'll be right back" she said as she stepped away to serve chicken and cheesy potatoes to the next customer.

We chatted for a few minutes between customers, as she thoughtfully explored what her next important work might be.

And I wondered if part of her mission was to have that very conversation with me, to remind me of who it is I interact with each day.

I've thought about Sister Jameson all weekend, and was reminded of two of my favorite quotes about who we and others truly are.

The first comes from Hugh Hewitt's interview of my hero Neal Maxwell for the "Searching for God in America" PBS series. Elder Maxwell was asked how he deals with people who have "hardened hearts" and oppose him, and he responded:
I think it's a matter of loving and appreciating people whether they are doubters or agnostics. They are all the children of Heavenly Father. That's one of the great things that the plan of salvation tells us: who we and they are. They don't know who they are, but I do; and I must learn to love them, even if I disagree with them or they disagree with me. Even if they are critical of me, because they are my brothers and sisters. So I've got a transcendental relationship with them that goes beyond the tactical moments down here on earth as we may be colliding over some issue.

I love that.

The next is from C.S. Lewis' Weight of Glory:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

Thank you, Sister Jameson, for sharing your light with me. You can check "mission accomplished" on one more item on the long list of important work you will do in your life.


Paige said...

I just got back from a similar experience -- a "sort of" relative one step back from the brink of death. She looks just awful, but I saw something glorious there all covered in tubes. Thanks for writing something that resonates so well for my own life today.

David Terry said...

Wow, what a profound message. Thanks for sharing!

Lori said...

I needed this today. Thanks...

Angie said...

I love working with Sister Jameson. She is an inspiration to me everyday. The way she takes care of everybody is absolutely amazing. I am grateful to have met Sister Jameson in this lifetime. She is one awesome gal. :)

Marsha said...

What a wonderful thoughts, I especially like this part of the quote by Maxwell "That's one of the great things that the plan of salvation tells us: who we and they are. They don't know who they are, but I do" I DO. That is so important. I can be in awe and treat them as such.

kj said...

Wow. I might have to direct everyone I know to your blog to read this.

Susan Michael-Vickers said...

Your story reminds us that each one of us has the ability to enrich the lives of others. Beautiful, that one will stay with me, thanks.