Thursday, January 31, 2008

Those Who Make a Difference

Did you miss me? I missed you all. I feel out of the loop as I've been bad at checking blogs. But I must say that five days without posting felt rather liberating. While I enjoy blogging, the pressure of once-a-day posting was getting to me more than I thought it was.

So, I'm the new blogging war thanks to Chaos.

But what I really wanted to post about all week was him:

President Gordon B. Hinckley was sustained as prophet of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on March 12, 1995, my 14th birthday. During all those important years when we figure out "Who We Are" in all our adolescent and young adult confusion, President Hinckley has been my prophet. And that is how I see him: as MY prophet.

During high school I lived in Alaska. Our small ward had a display with a picture of a temple on it and the gist of the message was to do missionary work. Missionary work brought more numbers which meant more stakes and wards which meant we might get a temple closer to home. The members of my ward up to that point had to travel to Seattle in order to visit a temple. It was always a sacrifice. I remember when President Hinckley announced his plan for small temples and Anchorage, Alaska was one of the temples he announced. This new temple, so close, was inspired. It was one of those moments when I felt that nudging that reminded me he was in cahoots with the big guy.

Flash forward a few more years. I sat in an institute building for a Sunday evening CES fireside broadcast. President Hinckley was to be the speaker that evening. It was his famous "Be" speech. I remember how touched I felt by that talk. All the love a prophet has for the youth of his church was felt in me that evening. But the part that stood out to me wasn't the list of Be's, as much as a story he told of train tracks:

Many years ago I worked for a railroad in the central offices in Denver. I was in charge of what is called head-end traffic. That was in the days when nearly everyone rode passenger trains. One morning I received a call from my counterpart in Newark, New Jersey. He said, “Train number such-and-such has arrived, but it has no baggage car. Somewhere, 300 passengers have lost their baggage, and they are mad.”

I went immediately to work to find out where it may have gone. I found it had been properly loaded and properly trained in Oakland, California. It had been moved to our railroad in Salt Lake City, been carried to Denver, down to Pueblo, put on another line, and moved to St. Louis. There it was to be handled by another railroad which would take it to Newark, New Jersey. But some thoughtless switchman in the St. Louis yards moved a small piece of steel just three inches, a switch point, then pulled the lever to uncouple the car. We discovered that a baggage car that belonged in Newark, New Jersey, was in fact in New Orleans, Louisiana—1,500 miles from its destination. Just the three-inch movement of the switch in the St. Louis yard by a careless employee had started it on the wrong track, and the distance from its true destination increased dramatically. That is the way it is with our lives. Instead of following a steady course, we are pulled by some mistaken idea in another direction. The movement away from our original destination may be ever so small, but, if continued, that very small movement becomes a great gap and we find ourselves far from where we intended to go.

Have you ever looked at one of those 16-foot farm gates? When it is opened, it swings very wide. The end at the hinges moves ever so slightly, while out at the perimeter the movement is great. It is the little things upon which life turns that make the big difference in our lives, my dear young friends.

I cannot be incredibly eloquent in all of this. I only know that those words at that time in my life have always stuck with me: a small three inches. The decisions I have made since then have at times been wise and at others have shown my pure stupidity. But President Hinckley impacted me as only a prophet can. He, along with many others, helped me to keep a steady course during the important years when one is setting up her life. And that has made all the difference.

I will miss him. I am grateful for all the years he inspired and uplifted. I know he will continue to do good things. Because that is just the way he is.


Lanie Painie said...

Thank you for sharing that story with us. I will carry it with me . . .

Cowboy and Indian said...

That was really powerful, it's good to have you back. I was with Chaos in having severe withdrawals, your five days felt like forever.

Blackeyedsue said...

I am tearing up. I too will take that story with me. It was very powerful.

Alice said...

Thank you for sharing. President Hinckley was an incredible man, and his teachings and example will be chrished for a long time.

I too remember that "three inches" story. So true...kind of scary in some ways really :)