"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
August 13, 2012
Looking for Signs and Wonders
by Kathryn H. Kidd

On Wednesday, Fluffy and I had a dinner appointment immediately after he returned home from work. I told him I'd wait in the garage with the garage door open so he could swoop in and pick me up.

Waiting in the garage for someone to pick me up for an adventure is something I do so often that we put a chair in the garage so I'd have someplace to sit. Depending on how timely my chariots arrive, I sometimes spend a lot of time in the garage, watching the world go by.

On Wednesday, as I took my seat and waited for Fluffy's arrival, a thought sprang to my mind: If you see a chipmunk, that means your financial problems are almost over. It was such a ridiculous thought that I even answered it aloud: "That's an exercise in futility! I'm never going to see a chipmunk tonight!"

We have lived in this house for nine years. In that time, I have seen a chipmunk maybe four times. This is something that virtually never happens, even when the weather is good. On Wednesday night, it was cold and rainy, and it was almost dark. Any self-respecting chipmunk had long ago gone to his little chipmunk abode, where he was kicking back and eating dinner in front of his little chipmunk TV.

The chance of seeing a chipmunk was so far out of the realm of possibility that I didn't even look for one, and I thought no more about it. I started thinking little Kathy thoughts -- thoughts that, I can guarantee you, are never too deep. Suddenly I was distracted by some movement in my peripheral vision. That looked just like a chipmunk's butt diving under that greenery, I thought. But then I decided it was probably a squirrel or a frog, or even a leaf blowing in the wind.

After a minute or two, he reappeared. Very deliberately he scampered to the dead center of our garage, hopped a foot or two inside, and slowly turned himself in a 360-degree circle so there was no mistaking exactly what he was. It was as if he were saying, "Yes, Kathy. You asked for a chipmunk. I'm giving you a chipmunk." Or maybe it was God who was saying it. I tend to get things confused.

After turning full circle, the chipmunk did a little dance and disappeared. Shortly thereafter, Fluffy appeared to take me away for dinner. But having seen the chipmunk after thinking the thought about chipmunks and my finances, I was just a little happier all night. Optimism set in. Life took on a rosy hue.

Isn't that just like human beings? We're always looking for signs. I know I always get just a little excited, if only for a nanosecond, when my fortune cookie says something optimistic about my future. I'm always just a little bit disappointed if the fortune cookie gives me a Confucius saying instead. And when we used to read The Washington Post, I never failed to check my horoscope every night (we call them "horrorscopes"). I never believed them if they were negative, but if they were positive I felt just a little boost of anticipation that lasted until I looked across the page and started reading the comics and forgot the horrorscope altogether.

When Fluffy and I were dating, he once looked for a sign to tell him whether he should marry me. We were driving through Las Vegas and stopped at a casino to take advantage of their one-dollar shrimp cocktails. We used to take plastic gallon containers and buy enough shrimp cocktails to fill them. Then we would dine on shrimp all the way home.

As we were walking toward the buffet, Fluffy felt in his pocket and discovered a coin there. He said to himself, "If I put this coin in a slot machine and get a jackpot, that means I am supposed to marry Kathy." (He didn't tell me this story until much later, and when he told me he was probably sorry he did.)

He took the coin from his pocket, dropped it in the slot machine, pulled the lever, and -- well, he hit a jackpot. It wasn't a huge jackpot, mind you. It was enough, however, that he ended up with more money than he started off with.

Do you think this helped Fluffy get the courage to propose? Not on your life! His first thought was, God would never answer a prayer through a slot machine. His second thought was, If God DID answer a prayer through a slot machine, He would have given me a bigger jackpot.

That's human beings for you. We're always looking for some sort of sign, but there's no use looking for them. We're just as likely to disbelieve a real sign when we get one as we are to put all our hopes in something that isn't a sign at all.

It isn't just hopeful signs that people are looking for. There are a whole lot of people who see every earthquake or war or crime or change of the weather as a sign that the Second Coming is right around the corner. They shake their heads and moan about these terrible days we're living in. They can't wait for the world to end so we'll be happily ensconced in their version of heaven.

Being a Certified Old Person, I have indeed seen changes in the world. Some of them show an alarming degeneration in the fabric of our society. Some of those changes, though, are for the better. The opening quote in A Tale of Two Cities applies now just as much as it did when Dickens wrote it -- and just as much as it did when the Roman emperors were reigning at the height of Roman civilization:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way -- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

I was glad when President Boyd K. Packer got up in last October's general conference and said, yet again, that the world isn't going to come to an end any time soon. In his talk, he reminded young listeners that this old world is going to be around long enough for them to get married and have children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It's not time to throw in the towel just yet.

I really appreciated President Packer's reminder. So often when we see things that we think are signs and wonders, we wait for those things to come to pass. Either we sit back and forget to work because a chipmunk told us prosperity is just around the corner, or we fail to get married and live our lives because the world is in such a sorry state of affairs that we might as well not make the effort.

We don't need to seek for signs. For good or for ill, life is going to happen to us. It's our job to live our lives with as much strength, and courage, and joy as we can muster, and to inspire others to do the same. That's why we were put here, after all -- to experience joy and sorrow, to learn from it, and to help other people along the way.

Even so, it was fun to see the chipmunk. I wonder if I'm going to win a sweepstakes or something.

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About Kathryn H. Kidd

Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the possibility that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at every opportunity.

A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.

She married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.

A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy moderated a weekly column ("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian until she was derailed by illness in December of 2012. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.

Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she hopes to get back to writing a weekday blog once she recovers from being dysfunctional. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.

Kathy spent seven years as a teacher of the Young Women in her ward, until she was recently released. She has not yet gotten used to interacting with the adults, and suspects it may take another seven years. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.

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