“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” What does this old adage mean to you?
For me, it’s meant different things. My teachers have been nouns of every condition—person, place, or thing. I’ve been taught by situations, emotions, creatures, sceneries, and nothingness. When I’m ready, all things can be a teacher. And so I pray for readiness and for teachers and wisdom to receive every lesson.
On some occasions, a teacher appears who far surpasses my perceived readiness. I recognize the opportunity, but flounder in my self-judgment and inadequacies, ultimately sabotaging the opportunity in overzealous awkwardness or fear of action.
A Teacher Appears
I met my currently most influential teacher in 2012 while working as an ordinance worker in the Laie Hawaii Temple on the Wednesday afternoon shift. During training meetings or at posts, I noticed a man, a sealer, whose presence changed the energy of a room. I knew he far surpassed my readiness, so I just watched from afar.
I observed how he observed people. He greeted everyone like a lifelong friend. Many of them were lifelong friends, but others he’d just met in the hallway as he passed by, like me one day when I happened to be in the right place at the right time.
I was grieving the loss of my longest term pregnancy. I felt alone in my faith. I wondered if God remembered me. I felt like maybe my offering, maybe I, wasn’t enough.
He took my hand and looked deep into my eyes. “I’ve noticed your beautiful smile,” he said. “You always greet everyone with a smile.” He patted my arm and moved on down the hallway. I’d read his name tag: David Hannemann.
My grandfathers both died when I was young, so I never really experienced the grandpa relationship. I felt such love and acceptance from Brother Hannemann that I mentally adopted him as my grandfather that very moment. I looked forward to greeting him at the temple and my appreciation for his Christlike love, warmth, and acceptance to everyone grew.
Because I like connecting the dots, I discovered the two Hannemann brothers in my ward were his nephews and then later, his granddaughter moved into the ward about the time that Anthony and I moved back to the mainland in 2013.
Hawaii whispered to us in our dreams and Anthony began work on Oahu in May 2015. I joined him in September and began my weekly pilgrimage to the temple from Waikiki and then Ewa Beach. I tried various days and times, but found that Thursday mornings worked best for my schedule, so I became a Thursday regular.
My first week on my Thursday schedule, I saw Brother Hannemann! He was still characteristically warm, greeting all, and sharing the Savior’s love. I didn’t expect him to remember me. I only knew him for a few passing moments, occasionally, two and a half years before.
But I smiled at him as we began to pass in the hall. He stopped and looked right at me. He said, “I know you. I know that smile.”
Have you ever met someone who without knowing you just accepted you with unconditional love? It’s overwhelming.
The world is full of walls and fears and suspicions and warns us to protect ourselves and resist vulnerability. It’s hard to be authentic because sometimes we’ve forgotten who we actually authentically are.
To meet people who are so purely themselves that they accept all without judgment or pretense is a gift. To be that kind of person has been an intentional spiritual gift I’ve sought for years, maybe my whole lifetime. To meet people who’ve perfected that spiritual gift reminds me to keep seeking, reaching, cleansing, and applying the Savior’s atonement.
Discovering This Teacher
Thursday became my friend Kim’s best temple day and we began attending together. She first met Brother Hannemann in the Celestial Room as he waited for sealing patrons. She immediately felt what I had. On the way home, I Googled his name to show her how to spell it and THAT was the moment I discovered who he was.
Before the Polynesian Cultural Center’s construction completed (or even a name was chosen), the First Presidency approved David Hannemann’s employ as operations manager, and first paid employee, for the PCC. 40 million people have visited the PCC! He spearheaded many longlasting attractions like the canoe pageant and luau. He retired from the PCC when he and his wife Carolyn received the call to serve as President and Matron of the Laie Hawaii Temple. Then he returned to the PCC as a volunteer for the next 20 years! He just “retired” again in December 2017 at 92 years old.
He was “famous” in almost every way a Latter-day Saint could be famous. Yet his extraordinary life accomplishments, service, and career did not overshadow the light of his soul It enhanced it, purified it maybe, but he expresses his identity through his relationship with Deity and family.
The past two years of “Brother Hannemann time” have been so joyful to me as I see how faithfully he endures to the end. He’s sat with us and shared his stories of life in Samoa and how he and his family accepted the Gospel. He began his mission in Hawaii in the Kalaupapa leper colony and learned Hawaiian there. He shared, with a twinkle in his eye, how he met his beloved Carolyn. He’s shared humorous and tragic family stories. He loves his children and grandchildren with his whole soul. He’s casually told us about his good friends—prophets and general authorities and how they impacted the temple and PCC. We’ve learned stories of the temple construction and PCC miracles.
We’ve met Sister Hannemann, who is a perfect match of extraordinary talent and goodness. Her art is captivating and her conversation enlivening. Their zest for life, optimism, and joy show me God’s plan is a plan of happiness, peace, and love.
“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”
President Spencer W. Kimball expressed the adage a little differently.
God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom. The people of the Church need each other’s strength, support, and leadership in a community of believers as an enclave of disciples.
In the Doctrine and Covenants we read about how important it is to “… succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:5.) So often, our acts of service consist of simple encouragement or of giving mundane help with mundane tasks, but what glorious consequences can flow from mundane acts and from small but deliberate deeds!
As the contrasts between the ways of the world and the ways of God become sharpened by circumstance, the faith of the members of the Church will be tried even more severely. One of the most vital things we can do is to express our testimonies through service, which will, in turn, produce spiritual growth, greater commitment, and a greater capacity to keep the commandments.
President Kimball’s challenge testifies that one person can make a difference. One testimony shared in its unique way matters. When one person encourages, others do the same. The ripple effect is eternal.
As teachers and friends, the Hannemanns have done all of these things for me, beginning with a simple, warm greeting at the right place at the right time.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.