I moved into a new ward about a year ago. As an initiation into my quorum, I was put on the “hot seat,” where I sat in front of the quorum and had random questions fired at me, questions like: What’s the least manly thing you like to do? What’s the best purchase you’ve made for under $50? What super power do you want? or What’s your guilty pleasure?
My answer to one of the questions was, “A few years back, I bought a bunch of tools, because it seems manly to own tools, but I don’t know how to use them.” We all laughed and moved on. At least, I thought we had moved on, until I got a call later that week from Kyle, a man in my quorum. “Hey man, you mentioned that you have a bunch of manly tools that you don’t know how to use. I know how to use tools. Can I come over and teach you? We can fix something.”
I thought he was crazy and politely declined, "Sure, we'll have to find a time...." Even Google thinks his offer constitutes abnormal abnormal behavior. Looking for pictures to attach to this post, I searched for images of "men fixing something." Google's response was, "Did you mean: man fixing something." Even Google knows that men aren't supposed to ask other men for help.
Kyle was insistent, and offered again a few weeks later. I had a few small things I intended to hire a handyman to help with, and instead I asked if he could handle the tasks. I didn’t think he would show up, but he did. I didn’t think he could fix the issues, but he could. He’s like Superman when it comes to tools, or maybe just a normal man who seems super when compared to my lack of "fix-it" abilities. It was helpful to have some things fixed around my house, and I learned what a dremel tool is, but more importantly, we talked, and it felt like I had a friend.
As a single adult in a family ward, I don’t get a lot of social invitations. My perception is that the limited outside-of-church socializing that happens mostly revolves around callings, kids, and couples. True or false, I feel like couples don’t know how to socialize with me, especially if I’m not serving alongside the husband, so they just don’t invite me over. When Kyle invited me to have dinner with his family I was floored and pleased, and I couldn’t figure out why this guy was different than the others, or why he wanted to be my friend.
What started with a DIY project and dinner invitation led to game nights, and lunches, and me serving him and him serving me, and us serving others together. Some of the other married guys have begun welcoming me into their social circle, and I have more friends. Now Kyle and I have a standing lunch every week and I’m sad when it gets cancelled; we often invite others to join us and share the camaraderie. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m wanted at church.
Now here’s the crazy thing, at the time this all began, Kyle wasn’t assigned to serve me. He just did it because he’s a kind guy and wanted to make a friend. He had no other motive, which makes me think this guy actually is Superman.
Now let me tell you how else this has changed me. By modeling Kyle’s behavior, I learned that I have the ability to create the relationships I want in my quorum.
In April, when the Home Teaching program was closed, and the Ministering program began, I felt an invitation come from the spirit to live more like my new friend. I would serve those I was assigned to, but I also knew that I was not limited in my service to my assignment. In my heart, I decided to make ministering a lifestyle. I started watching for opportunities, and they have come.
As I’ve visited with members of my quorum, I’ve looked for ways I can serve them – be it in acts of service, but also through words, kindness, a hug, gifts, or anything else they may need. As I’ve offered my time, they have reacted like I did with Kyle, declining the first offer, but often accepting the second or third. I was so insistent with one guy that he even asked, “Are you assigned to minister to me?” My response: “No, I’m just a guy trying to make a new friend.”
The amazing result is that it’s working. While serving my brothers, I spend time with my brothers, and friendships form. The more I serve, the better I know them, and the more opportunities I find to serve them. It’s only a matter of time before the ministering becomes mutual, and I feel like I have another ally on my team, another man I can lean on, or someone else in the trenches with me. The only thing that holds me back is the fear of being vulnerable and offering/asking, which we discuss in another blog post.
It’s been less than a year since Kyle made that first call to me. But in that time, I went from looking for excuses to get out of Elder’s Quorum to walking into a room full of friends. All because one guy who is different than me (ie knows how to use tools) welcomed me into his life, and then I chose to do the same with others.
Note to the reader: I believe that Kyle will both love and hate the Superman comparison I'm drawing. He'll love it, because what guy doesn't want to think of himself as a superhero? I think it will also make him uncomfortable because, at the end of the day, he's just an average guy and he knows it. Like many of us, he probably feels guilt or shame about the many times he didn't reach out. But to Kyle, I say, let this be a celebration of the time you did.