My wife and I are facing some changes in the next few months. Like many families we know, this summer means a move. We will be moving to a new state, new jobs, and plenty of exciting new opportunities. and as much as we feel blessed about our future, I can’t help but think about what I am leaving behind. And an old camping question comes to mind: Did I leave the site in better condition than when I found it?I can remember, as a missionary, that several elders and sisters were abusing apartments (not intentionally) and leaving behind broken kitchen taps, cracked bathroom sinks, and even burned living room carpets. The mission president had to send out a mission-wide call to “repentance.” We were instructed to make a change in the way we treated our apartments; by the time we left an apartment, we should be able to say that we left it in better condition than when we found it.
That mandate stuck with me, and influenced the way I treated the many, many apartments I lived in as a undergrad. But as I got older, I began to extend that camping motto beyong apartments and I applied it to my jobs, my social environments, and even my family and friends. I began to ask myself, “When I leave my jobs/roommates/friends, are they better off than before?” This was a tough question for a man who almost prided himself in social non-involvement. But as my testimony in the gospel grows, more and more I begin to believe that part of our mission on Earth is to ensure that when we part ways with others, we need to be able to say that those friends are better off having known us.
I have really enjoyed my job. It’s the only thing that got me through graduate school. And now as I move on to a new position, I ask myself the same question: Are my employers and coworkers better off through their interactions with me? Thankfully, I think the answer is yes. Yet, I can think of one or two situations were I did not show enough kindness, or attention, and even one situation where I should have used more discretion in talking about an employee’s evaluation. I hope that I take these lessons with me, because although I feel that I am leaving my workplace “campsite” in better condition than when I found it, I can still see a couple trampled bushes that I stepped on while busying myself with career advancement.
And what about my ward? I hope that I can say that I am a faithful member of the church and that I am worthy of my temple recommend. But I struggle to appreciate church social involvement. I admit that I prefer to keep my church associations limited to Sunday, and live my own life the other six days of the week. Cleary I have some growing to do there. But when I ask myself the question, “Am I leaving my ward in better condition than I found it?” I think that I can answer “yes” honestly. I worked with the youth and I strived hard to get to know them and help them teach one aother as we learned the scriptures and the gospel together. I left the ward campsite in better condition than when I found it, but there is so much more I could have done to plant new trees, clean out polluted rivers, and tend to wiltering flora.
Finally, my participation in this blogging group has me evaluating my participation in the lds-ssa community. It was only upon moving here that I began to finally meet other lds-ssa men. Have my interactions with them met the campsite motto standards? Are they better off given their association with me? This may be the hardest question of the three. As you can gather from my previous comments, I’m not much of a social butterfly; in general, I don’t like people. And I really have little patience and goodwill for those who are self-indulgent, or just need someone to show them some brotherly kindness and attention.
When I first moved here, I made a some lds-ssa friends, and although I appreciated knowing that I was not the only faithful preisthood holder who dealt with this issue, I think that I turned up my nose at many of these of the young men. In my opinion, they had “more problems” than I had, and rather than see what I could do to help them improve their own campsites, I moved on and took my camping skills elsewhere. What’s worse, is that some may have sensed my feelings of superiority as I crossed through their site, leaving a disheartened friend in my wake.
In fact, aside from my spotty participation in this blogging community, I have little interaction with the lds-ssa commmunity. And although I make no claims about what valuable contributions I could make, sometimes I wonder whether I should do more to try. The thing about camping is, that in truth, it does more for me than I do for it. Whether it be at work, in my wards, or among friends and family, when I serve and do my best to help those around me, I gain more than I give. And I hope that as I move on to a new environment, that I can do more to improve those around me and become a more responsible camper.