"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
October 20, 2014
Channeling My Inner Norma
by Kathryn H. Kidd

Back in the Dark Ages, I was called to be secretary to the Relief Society president in our ward. (For people who don’t speak Mormonese, that translates to “president of the women’s organization in our local church congregation.”)

I was ideally suited to be a secretary. For one thing, I was one of the few people I knew who had a home computer, and who knew how to use it. (I told you this was the Dark Ages!) I could make charts and graphs that would make any organization president stand up and dance. Any organization president except Shirley, that is.

Shirley was a little Canadian lady who inexplicably had an accent that was more Irish than Canadian. She had two counselors, but one of them worked full-time and the other one spent her life buzzing to club meetings and social events. That left me.

Although my job was to be a secretary, Shirley didn’t want me for anything secretarial. She wanted me to go with her twice a week to “visit the leyyydies.”

Our congregation was composed of the “newlywed and nearly dead,” with very few middle-aged ladies in between. Most of our members were in the nearly dead category, and in fact on several occasions we had to host three funeral dinners in one week.

Although many of the Relief Society members were old, some of them were real pistols. I had a whole list of ladies I looked forward to visiting. In fact, I very efficiently made a chart of them on the computer, planning to list the days we visited each one so we could do it scientifically, leaving none of them out.

I had not counted on Shirley. With absolutely no regard for my organizational genius, she insisted on visiting the ladies she thought needed visiting, even if we had visited them just the week before. More often than not, our route included Norma.

Norma was not the kind of person you’d want to invite to a party. She was a whiner, and her only subject was herself. A long-time widow, she was stuck at home due to her poor health.  She didn't look that fragile to me, but she insisted she was at death's door. 

She was always in pain, as she quickly informed everyone, and nobody ever went to visit her. I knew exactly why, because I didn’t want to visit her either.

Whenever Shirley would turn the car toward Norma’s house, I would try to distract her. “Let’s go see Letha,” I’d suggest. “Or Lillian! That’s the ticket! We haven’t visited Lillian yet!” But Shirley would steer her big Cadillac unerringly toward Norma’s house. I don’t know if autopilot existed in those days, but if it did, Shirley’s Cadillac had it.

Sometimes Shirley would make a concession to me, and we’d go visit the other ladies. Rather, we’d try to visit the other ladies. They were never home. So after our knocks and rings went unanswered, we would get back in the car and end up at Norma’s.

I endured this for as long as I could. (It probably wasn’t too long, because I’m not a patient person.) At some point, however, I did some whining of my own. “I can’t stand Norma,” I said. “Why don’t we ever get to visit the fun people?”

She looked at me and sighed. As patiently as she would have been if she were trying to explain quantum physics to a small child, she said, “Kathy, the people you want to visit are never home because they have lots of friends. Everyone wants to spend time with them, just the way you do. They don’t need us. Norma is always home because she has driven everyone else away. She’s the one who needs us, and that’s why we go there.”

I wish I could say that after Shirley told me why we visited Norma, I was able to visit Norma with a happy heart. I wasn’t. I wasn’t that kind of person then, and I’m probably not that kind of person now. Some people are a lot more fun to spend time with than others. That’s the way life is.

But I did learn two lessons from this. The first one came from Norma, and that is this: No matter how much physical pain you’re in, people don’t want to hear about it. It’s not that they’re heartless; it’s that they can’t do anything about it.

When you tell people about your aches and pains, you’re giving them a problem they can’t solve. That makes people uncomfortable, and they avoid you. If your body hurts (and I’m speaking to Kathy here), suck it up and smile. At least you’ll have visitors that way.

The second lesson is even more important. The harder a person is to love, the more she needs it. The person you wouldn’t invite to a party is probably the person who needs a party the most. God didn’t command us to like everybody, but he did command us to love them. And sometimes that means spending time with people who have driven everyone else away.

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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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