No One Can Help Everyone, But Everyone Can Help Someone
This week I have been privileged to volunteer at the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple Open House. For those not of my faith, a quick explanation. A temple is literally “The House of the Lord”, which means we use the very best materials, workmanship, and artistry in a temple that isn’t found in our everyday meetinghouses. Our meetinghouses are where we meet together on Sundays for worship and anyone who wants to may walk in off the street and attend a meeting. We also have youth activities, congregational and community events hosted at our meetinghouses. Right now, there are over 18,000 meetinghouses around the world!
Our temples, however, are a LOT more sacred to us. In fact, once a temple has had its dedication, where special prayers are said, it becomes a sacred space for those of our faith. Once dedicated, only those adhering to the highest standards of our faith may enter our temples.
We have opened a new temple here in Philly, so we are hosting an open house to the public, free of charge, for anyone to come in and see the beauty of the temple and to step away from the pressures of life to feel of the peace in a temple.
It is an incredible experience! Behind the scenes there is a LOT of work! As I have worked there, I have been so humbled by the examples of service around me. I have also been stunned by the examples of entitlement and arrogance as well. People who seem to feel that because of who they are related to or where the Lord has asked them to serve it has somehow given them a right to treat others as less than.
Actually it reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book The Sneetches, where the poor Plain-Belly Sneetches are treated as lesser than the Star-Belly Sneetches. In the story, the situation reaches a point where an inventive Sneetch creates a machine that will put stars onto bellies which allows formerly Plain-Belly Sneetches to now have stars upon their bellies. This makes them equal to the other Star-Belly Sneetches. Well, that can’t be allowed, so the original Star-Belly Sneetches bet the stars taken off their bellies, so they can again be different, thus better, than the other Sneetches. It goes round and round until the Sneetches no longer know who is who and everyone accepts everyone as they are, star-bellied or not.
How I wish I could create such a machine as I watch someone with a clear sense of entitlement waltz in and expect sycophantic and pandering treatment. A machine that will cause everyone to see each of us as we really are. (*hmm … seems like that would be the message of Christ, His gospel, right?)
Then have been the inspiring, humbling examples of service that make me want to be a better person, simply because I am privileged to associate with such greatness. I have watched leaders tirelessly work from 5am until long past midnight, trying to ensure that everyone coming to the Lord’s House feels loved and knows that our Savior knows and loves them. The details and work happening behind-the-scenes to make everything run smoothly are overwhelming in their complexity and these leaders are tirelessly cheerful as they go without sleep, grab bites of granola bars and sandwiches to make everything happen.
I was stationed one day next to another volunteer. As we chatted together, I learned that he was a veteran of the Gulf War and had broken his back as a paratrooper. Yet, there he stood, smiling and welcoming everyone coming in as he worked security. As we continued to get to know one another, I learned that because he wanted to be very sure the snarl of traffic coming into Philly every morning didn’t make him late, he came the night before … and slept in his truck. He SLEPT in his truck on the streets of Philly so that he could VOLUNTEER all day as a security guard. Because he so loved the temple and the city he had grown up in that he wanted to share its beauty with everyone.
Then there are the teenagers, giving up summer vacation time to sit for 5 hour shifts placing shoe coverings over visitor’s shoes as they enter the temple. (This is to protect the new carpet. It has no religious meaning. With over 150 thousand visitors expected during this open house, we need to try to keep the carpet clean!) So, we have teenagers sitting, ready to help slip shoe coverings over shoes. Not chasing imaginary creatures around in a game of Pokemon Go! Teenagers serving with smiles and happy countenances.
What a wonderful, living testimony to what religion lived with integrity can do in the life of a generation of youth that are so often viewed as self-centered and lazy. These youth are hard-working, selfless, and a joy to visit with!
Yesterday, I was checking off names at my spot and my co-volunteer shared that she was having trouble reading the names. When I looked confused, she shared that she had eye cancer and was going in for treatment. The NEXT day!?! She was there working and had worked the day before, even though she had cancer and was going in for radiation treatment that would leave her quarantined for four days. Why? Because she, too, like the security guard, loved the temple and wanted to help others experience the peace and joy she felt there.
How can I not serve with my all when surrounded by such quiet, dignified examples of discipleship surrounding me? How can I not contrast these incredibly selfless people with those who waltz in and expect a red carpet treatment? Those who expect the red carpet are so obviously living off of an image, a tenuous, fragile, ego-driven image that will crack at the first trial.
The quiet volunteers are dealing with adversity and still serve those around them, with no thought of recognition or reward, but simply because they love the Lord. They know who they are and they know the Lord knows who they are. Because of that knowledge, they know where to turn for peace and strength. That knowledge makes them want to share that same peace with everyone, even complete strangers. I am privileged to serve by their sides.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.