Sunday, August 28, 2011


Talk for University 3rd Ward Sacrament Meeting
Elizabeth Willis Barrett
August 28, 2011

Just for a moment, open up the eyes of your imagination and consider this question. What would our University 3rd Ward be like if every member were exactly like you? Awesome? Cool? Hot? Kind? Shy? Quiet? Self-conscious? Happy? Miserable? If everyone were exactly like you, would there be anyone to teach Sunday School? Help with the music? Organize the sports? Bring dessert for the ward parties? If everyone were like you, would there be any parties? Would the Visiting Teaching get done? If everyone were like you, would you feel the love of our ward family? Would there be anyone who could forget about themselves long enough to reach out to you and become your friend?

I know how I felt last year when we were first called to this position. It was scary. All of these strange, yet beautiful--of course--faces and names that had to be put with them. Some of you have come from out of state not knowing anyone. I admire you greatly for your courage. The entity that will make your experience here a wonderful one is friendship.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism.’” And according to Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy: “That thought ought to inspire and motivate all of us because friendship is a fundamental need of our world. In all of us there is a profound longing for and a deep yearning for the satisfaction and security that close and lasting relationships can give.”

Friendship is what has made our University 3rd Ward the wonderful ward it has become in its first year of existence and Friendship will keep it that way through the years. Each person in our ward needs to feel surrounded by love and friendship. That can only happen when we each forget ourselves and reach out to someone else. I know it’s hard. It’s really hard for me.

For one thing, we are all really busy. That will probably never change. There was only one time in my life when I felt like I was ahead of the game. That was when my two youngest children were in their car seats looking out the back window as we sped along the freeway. As they saw all the cars racing behind us they said with excitement, “Hey, Mom, you’re winning!”

If you are a good friend now, most likely you will be a good friend later in your life. But if you are too busy to share the love of friends now, you’re not going to have any more time later to be a good friend.

I know, you don’t believe me! I thought that I would have time just hanging around waiting for me to do all the things I ever wanted to do when I got to this stage of life. But I don’t and neither will you. It’s rather a shock!

Besides the lack of time, the lack of charity can get in the way of befriending others. We might discount someone because of one thing we find objectionable in them and then we won’t take the opportunity to know that person better. What a loss!

At times we might put ourselves and others into classes: rich, not so rich, gorgeous, not so gorgeous, brilliant, not so brilliant. And then feel like we need to stay in our own preconceived circles. Many chances for friendships are lost that way, too.

If we are taking time to analyze and find fault with others, we won’t have as much time or desire to look for and see the good.

Perhaps we have finally found a group of our own that we feel comfortable with and we don’t want to rock the boat of acceptance by opening up the group to let someone else in.

One of the greatest inhibitors of friendship could possibly be our own shyness or our own self-consciousness. We are so concerned about our own deficiencies that it is hard to worry about anybody else.

As Elder Jensen said: “How selfish we can be. How unwilling to be inconvenienced, to give, to bless and be blessed. What kind of parents or neighbors or servants of the Lord Jesus Christ can we be without being a friend?
“The power,” he said, “is in each one of us to be a friend. Old and young, rich and poor, educated and humble, in every language and country, we all have the capacity to be a friend.”

Being a friend takes time and effort, but think of the great benefits. Here are eight pointers on how to be a good friend.

First: forget about yourself. Maybe you didn’t have time to do your hair just like you wanted, maybe you spilled ketchup on your tie, maybe you couldn’t find just the right thing to wear but you are not the only one. Each person here has something about themselves that they don’t feel so great about. So forget about you and find someone that you can help and include. Be aware of other people and what they might be feeling. Be sincerely interested in others, and more people will be interested in you.

Second: “act as though.” C. S. Lewis said it so well: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”

You learn to love others by investing in others.

Another way to “act as though,” is to assume that the people around you actually like you. Sometimes we expect someone to snub us or talk about us or reject us and we’re looking for anything in their actions that will prove us right so we can say, “See, I told you he didn’t like me!” Often that person is just reacting to our own action of insecurity or rudeness. Act as though everyone likes you. They probably do! How could they help it, right?

Just as you are trying to “read” other people, they are trying to “read” you. Sometimes you get it wrong.

“Act as though” you’re not shy and self-conscious. Most people here didn’t know you in high school. They didn’t even know you last month. You can remake yourself. Thinking more about others than about yourself is a good start.

Get out of your comfort zone. Stretch a little. Charity, the pure love of Christ, will help you do that.

So that’s the Third thing you can do when working on friendships: Pray for charity. Pray that you will be helped to think about others and what they need. Then you can forget about your mind that goes blank when you try to think of something clever to say and you can forget about your tongue that gets thick when you’re attempting to express yourself.

Keep in mind the message that the Savior taught us over and over in His actions and words: Love one another as I have loved you.

As Mother Teresa said, “It is not how much you do, but how much Love you put into the doing that matters.”

According to an Ensign Article by Shirleen Meek: “Our Father in Heaven can give you the courage to talk to others, the motivation to try something new, or the desire to go out of your way when you just don’t feel like it. And he can comfort you when your efforts don’t turn out quite as you had hoped.”

One of my favorite quotes is from the author Willa Cather, “Where there is great love there are always miracles.”

Fourth: Live the Gospel. A true friend makes it easier for you to live the gospel when you are with him or her.

Fifth: Get involved. Make the effort. Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and good things will happen in your life. There are so many activities in our ward and stake. That doesn’t happen in home wards. The goal here is to bring young people together often to meet each other, learn from each other and to make memorable friendships. And to help get some eternal families going, of course. You never know, your one and only may be at the fireside that you are trying to decide whether to go to or not or at the FHE that you are just too tired to attend. Get up, get going, make your life happen.

Sixth: Remember what people tell you so it will give you something to talk about when you meet again. And be sure to compliment those around you even if you think they already know they look great or taught well. They probably don’t know it already and everyone needs praise.

As Garrison Keillor of Lake Wobegon fame said:
“They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad that I’m going to miss mine by just a few days.”

Seventh: Learn everyone’s name. That won’t be easy. You’ll have to work at it. But as you know, nothing is as sweet as the sound of your own name. And besides, it would really help me if I asked you what someone’s name was and you could tell me. Can you imagine the positive impact it would have on our ward if everyone knew everyone’s name?

We are a ward family: some brothers and sisters, a mother and father and a few loving aunts and uncles thrown in. We help each other. Sometimes we have to take out the garbage. Sometimes we have to clean our rooms. Sometimes we are needed to share rides or to comfort and uplift and encourage.

Hopefully, in this ward and in the many wards you’ll be in in your life, you will choose to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

As it says in Romans 12:5: “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

And it helps to be one when we know each other’s names.

Eighth: and last: Be your best self. President Spencer W. Kimball once said: “What are your eccentricities, if any? I think nearly all people have some. If so, then go to work. Classify them, weigh them, corral them, and eliminate them one at a time.”

That, too, will take time and effort but know that we are all striving to grow to be a better people, a better ward family. We can learn from and help each other.

Our Bishop and his counselors love you. I know that each of them would call each of you “friend” and so would the other adults assigned to this ward.

What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.

You enrich my days and I am very grateful for your friendship. Thank you for your love and devotion to each other. May you be willing to reach out to those you don’t know yet and help them feel the outpouring of love from this ward. Be a friend!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kinder Garten

Elizabeth Willis Barrett
August 8, 2011

I have two grandchildren that will be starting kindergarten this year--Barrett and Claire. I pray that they will each be blessed with a teacher who loves them and wants them to become the best they can be. After all, kindergarten is the gateway to years of education and Barrett’s and Claire’s experiences in this school year could possibly color the rest of their lives. I hope these experiences will be the color of roses and not of fog.

I especially wish for these children a more positive experience with kindergarten than I had, because kindergarten at Emerson Elementary in the school year of 1954-55 left a little to be desired. In fact, I am surprised that after my year of kindergarten I didn’t cower behind my Mom’s skirts and refuse to ever set foot in another educational facility.

In case you didn’t know, according to Webster’s 17th edition of the dictionary, the word kindergarten comes from the German language. The word kinder means children and garten means garden. In English, this translates into a garden of children. So wouldn’t you think kindergarten would be a very loving, nurturing place? It conjures up thoughts of watering and cultivating and carefully assisting lovely young plants to grow and progress.

Well, my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Hill, was not cut from the cloth of a gardener and she was definitely not cut from the cloth of a kindergarten teacher. Her Maker must have grabbed the wrong fabric when she came down the assembly line. I think He got mixed up with a Nazi general when He reached for the material for Mrs. Hill. She was not made from a soft, supple, warm fabric but from a scratchy, unrelenting, cold one.

Mrs. Hill’s birthday was on February 29th which, obviously, only comes every four years. “I am only twelve years old,” she’d tell us. I think to a kindergartener, anybody older than five, even an aging adult, could easily have been twelve. What did we know?

Maybe being a leap year baby was at the root of her problem. Maybe she felt a need to inflict her frustration of only having a birthday every four years on very unsuspecting first year students. None of us had gone to preschool. I don’t know when preschool became a necessary prerequisite to kindergarten. So this was our very first experience with education.

We each had brought a little rug from home to take naps on. Naps! We were only in kindergarten for half a day. Claire and Barrett will be in school all day but I don’t think they’ll be napping on home-brought rugs. But in my half-day kindergarten, we would each take out our little rugs and lie down on them halfway through our daily time there. Without pillows! Who could lie down on a hard floor and have a restful rest without a pillow? And we were to be quiet while lying on those rugs. We wouldn’t even think of making a peep and being brought to Mrs. Hill’s attention. Not because she would gently reprimand us or send a note home to our parents. No. Remember, she was cut from the rough scratchy cloth of a Nazi. If you crossed her discipline radar, you could very well end up in the closet with a gag over your mouth. That’s what happened to Danny on more than one occasion. I know that sounds like a lie but it isn’t. You can ask anybody in the black and white picture enshrining my fellow classmates of the Emerson Kindergarten Class of 1955 if I’m telling you the truth. Any one of them will tell you that Mrs. Hill had no business masquerading as a kindergarten teacher. She belonged to a different age and time, and should have been marshaling a ragtag bunch of unruly soldiers and not attempting to teach a budding group of tender and tiny five year olds. (Actually, I was never tiny, but that is fodder for another story.)

On one occasion Mrs. Hill took a student and bound his hands before she put him in the closet. That atrocity happened to a boy named Jack who would often come to school without shoes. We didn’t live in the rural olden days when going to school without shoes was more common than going to school with shoes. I’m sure Jack didn’t need to be humiliated any further than he already was, but Mrs. Hill didn’t seem to know that. I don’t remember Jack at all in later years. He might have been a kindergarten drop-out. I’m surprised more of us didn’t fall into that category.

Once Mom was giving a Relief Society lesson in the good old days when our Church Relief Society was held every Wednesday morning. All the women in the Mesa 8th Ward attended without fail just to have that wonderful association with great women. Mom wanted me to add to her lesson by reciting the poem, The Owl and the Pussycat. I was very willing, especially when I knew that I would miss kindergarten that day. Even when I was told on my return to the trenches that I had missed a class party, I still didn’t mind. Any day away from kindergarten was a day to be treasured.

There might have been one or two favorable highlights that year. Once Mrs. Hill wrote “bananas are good” on the blackboard (no white boards then!). She pointed to the words and said, “bananas, blank, blank” and I was the one who could fill in the blanks correctly with the words “are good.” I was actually quite smart if I do say so myself. But that good memory is offset with the bad memory of having to spend time in the corner because I was talking to Jeanine.

Mrs. Hill made a statement one day that was very disturbing to my young mind. We were all being overly noisy and she said that if we didn’t behave, the principle would fire her. “Fire?” I only had one interpretation for that word: the principle would light a match and burn her up. I became very quiet. We all did. Maybe the others had constructed the same horrible mental picture.

It really is too bad that she hadn’t been fired--in the real meaning of the word, I mean. She should never have been a kindergarten teacher. Her antics would certainly get her fired today. Fired and sued and perhaps arrested. Surprisingly, in spite of Mrs. Hill, I went on to love school and thrive in its environment.

My prayer for Claire and Barrett and my other fourteen grandchildren is that they too will thrive. I hope they will always receive excellent gardeners in their “garden of children.” But even if, along the way, they have to suffer through a teacher who should never have become a teacher, I pray that they will prosper anyway, knowing who they are and Whose they are. May they be great learners in this wonderful world and love the learning.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 2: The Blues Before the Cruise

July 10, 2011
Elizabeth Willis Barrett

New Orleans--what a great place to begin and end a cruise. It is extremely warm, which sounds rather critical for someone who lives in Gilbert, Arizona, where it can be 110 degrees all day and all night. But I will definitely take our warm to New Orleans’ warm with its sticky high humidity. I have been apologizing to guests who have had to weather our weather for August weddings or mis-planned visits for a long time now. But Arizona heat is looking pretty good to me at the moment.

Last night Brad and I and Sam and Leona--2 of the 22 that make up our very congenial group--made our slow and uncomfortable way down the New Orleans streets to get a bit of the flavor of this very unique city. At Mother’s, a small and popular restaurant, we had heaping plates of red beans and rice along with cabbage and roast beef. It looked sloppy and monochromatic and would never have placed in a gourmet contest, but it tasted delicious and New Orleans-ish. Then we walked down the very decadent Bourbon Street which I have done on two other occasions and don’t have on my bucket list to do again. We found a relatively peaceful place to sit and listen to Jazz and Blues and eat beignets, which made the sweltering walk quite worth it.

This morning Brad and I headed off to Jackson Square to go to Mass with Wally and Nancy. Unfortunately we didn’t get our directions straight and went out of our way which wasn’t too fun in this exquisite heat. Then in talking to a corner tour vendor we discovered that St. Thomas Cathedral personnel might not let Brad into Mass wearing shorts. So Brad raced back to the hotel to change and left me sitting alone on a bench a little nervous after the above mentioned vendor had told of the looting and beating up of innocents that happened during Hurricane Katrina. He didn’t make New Orleans sound like a kind and loving city.

During my apprehensive wait, Brad called my cell phone to say that I should walk on to Jackson Square and he would meet me there. I raced off keeping my phone in my hand to ward off any attackers who would want to rob me of my jean purse and all its contents including 50 $1 bills and this journal that would undoubtedly bring a great price if sold on the black market.

I made it into the St. Thomas Cathedral with the last of the Mass-welcoming bells. I felt a little like Maria in The Sound of Music running down from the mountain and into the cloister at breakneck speed as the bells chimed. Thankfully the Delecki’s caught me before I walked clear up to the alter. There are several warnings to turn off cell phones which of course wouldn’t have been issued when this gorgeous edifice was built between the years of 1789 and 1850. Interestingly, this is the oldest continuously operating cathedral in the United States.

Before I could turn off my extremely modern I Phone 4, it rang and I quickly hit the decline button. It was Brad wondering where to find us. I tried to quietly text him but then he called again and again I cut him off. Mass began with a song--a rather loud one that the congregation needed to stand up and sing. That gave me the opportunity to scrunch on my bench, call Brad’s cell and whisper to him where we were sitting. He had practically run all the way--not from the hotel because he never made it to the hotel. He had mis-calculated his way and gone about eight blocks out of it. So he was still in his shorts when he panted into the cathedral. Thankfully, he was not turned away as weren’t the other 100 men in shorts.

We enjoyed the Mass. Nancy guided us through it in the booklet that is printed every quarter, I believe. The music was beautifully led by a very skilled vocalist. She sang most of the songs with a different melody than was written for some reason, which made it a little harder to follow when it was our turn to sing. The priest gave a very nice sermon on the sower who tossed his seeds and some fell on thorny ground, etc. We felt very edified. It was a beautiful place to experience our first Mass.

We gathered all our belongings from the hotel, took a cab to the embarkment point and after signing away our full credit card capability, boarded the Norwegian Cruise Ship “Spirit.” It is enormous and beautiful. It was like walking into a six star hotel lobby. We were greeted by a Flamingo Dancer and attractive drinks which we declined. (We declined the drinks, I mean. I don’t think the Flamingo Dancer was offered.) We found our room, #6532, quite quickly. It is small but very efficient and has a big window looking out over the ocean. I think we’re going to like this!