"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
January 19, 2015
Cleaning the Building
by Kathryn H. Kidd

These days, Mormons are everywhere you look.  If you're trying not to hit them with your car as you pass them on their bicycles, they're behaving scandalously on some reality TV show. 

Okay — not all of them are scandalous.  Most of them are dancing or singing, or doing some other wholesome activity.  It's only the naked one on "Survivor" or the heroic cancer survivor father-son team that won the million dollars on "The Amazing Race" that immediately come to mind for me.

I tried to figure out how many of us there are in the USA, compared to other religions, but there aren't any current figures.  The most recent study I saw was four years old, and it had us being the fourth-largest Christian religion in America — right behind the Catholics, the Southern Baptists and the Methodists.  Four years later, with four million more members worldwide, who knows where we are now?

Anyway, with Mormons multiplying like rabbits, we need more and more places to worship.  And because we're generally a messy lot, those places need to be cleaned on a regular basis. 

Some years ago, the Church threw up its hands and decided it could no longer afford to waste donated dollars in the hiring of professionals to clean our meetinghouses.  And since the meetinghouses were going to have to be cleaned, the members were just going to have to do it themselves.

Ideally, everyone in every Mormon congregation was just going to volunteer to take his turn wielding a mop bucket or a vacuum cleaner.  I don't know how well that works in most congregations, but it apparently wasn't working really well in our neck of the woods. 

I kept hearing rumors that the Hooper family and the Hunter family (one family with a whole boatload of kids, plus the Relief Society president's family) were keeping our meetinghouse clean, along with a few other families, and it just wasn't fair. 

Well, it just wasn't fair to those families that were doing the work.  Everyone else probably thought it was a great deal for them, because seventy-five percent of everyone else wasn't doing a whole lot of work.

Fluffy and I were in that satisfied seventy-five percent of the ward, although Fluffy would volunteer about once a year when the high priests group was assigned the cleaning.  What did people expect?  I'm in a wheelchair!  I can't put on my own shoes and socks!   So last year, when the sign-up sheets went around for people to clean the building, I didn't even look at it.  It was just not something I was cut out to do. 

Then things changed, and when they changed they changed in a big way.  In December, it was announced that in 2015, every family was going to participate in the cleaning of the building, and to assure that this happened; the families had already been scheduled — all of them. (Apparently the Mormon principle of free agency does not apply when cleaning the building.)

Surely we would not be on that list, I thought.  But Fluffy looked at the list, and there we were.  Saturday, July 18, 2015, Fluffy and I have been signed up to clean the Sterling Park meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

How did we react?  We laughed and laughed and laughed.  Fluffy decided he would wrap me in double-sided tape and then roll me down the hallway like a bowling ball so I could pick up the dirt like a giant lint-roller. 

Let me explain how ludicrous it is to have Fluffy and me cleaning the meetinghouse.  If you were to walk into our home, you would immediately conclude that we came from "old money."  And I certainly do not mean that in the sense that we are sitting on piles of cash.

People who have “new money” have houses that are nice and shiny and clean. Armies of cleaning people come in regularly to make sure the houses stay that way. “Old money” people, on the other hand, sometimes don’t have the funds to pay for those armies of cleaning people. If you look hard (or sometimes if you don’t look hard at all) you see the evidence that the armies are absent.

Our house is pretty much clutter-free. We do not have piles of things here and there. But there are garlands of cobwebs. Sometimes I’ll see a cobweb and point it out to Fluffy. It will be a massive thing that herds of sparrows could congregate on, if they were so inclined, but when I point it out, Fluffy will say, “Wow. That’s a good one,” and go about his business.

He is a man. He does not care about cobwebs. He has more interesting things to do.

It’s the same way with dust. A few months ago I saw a party attendee writing in the dust on top of a cabinet in our family room. I solved that problem. After the party, I had Fluffy move the cabinet to our dining room. Some people dust their furniture. Other people sit in front of the TV and have couch naps. Fluffy and I are firmly in the couch nap camp.

Fluffy does a lot with the vacuum. He vacuums the floors. (He also vacuums my head when it is time to cut my hair with the Flowbee system. I cut his hair with the vacuum cleaner too. What can I say? We’re old. Nobody cares how we look.)

Anyway, vacuuming the floor is just about all the interest Fluffy has in floor-related things. Do you think he is going to mop our hardwood floors? No. He has more important things to do — and I am not saying that sarcastically. It takes a lot of time to bake bread and to do the laundry and to do Kathy-related responsibilities. Mopping the hardwood floors is not on his radar.

I actually have an assignment as far as keeping the house clean. It is my self-appointed task to keep the powder room clean on our main floor. Let’s just say I am not very good at this. I can clean the sink, and I can clean the inside of the toilet bowl, and I can use a long-handled scrubber with a wet wipe on it to kind of mop the floor. This is pretty much all I can do from my wheelchair, so it has to be good enough.

I am aware that the top of the tile kick-plate is grimy with dust, but I cannot reach that. I am aware that the grout between the tiles is black, but in my defense only an idiot would put white tiles with white grout on a bathroom floor and then not seal the grout. The people who owned this house before we bought it did a lot of stupid things, and we are now enjoying the benefits of their decisions.

There are a lot of things in that bathroom I cannot reach — the mirror, and the walls, and a whole lot of the floor. Sitting in a wheelchair does not offer a whole lot of maneuverability.

So when people come to our house, I hope they do not have to use the bathroom. Or when they do use the bathroom, I hope they are thinking about other things than the tile kick-plate or the floor. The surfaces at Kathy-height are sanitized for their protection. Everything else, in the bathroom and the rest of the house, is “old money.”

If our own house is decorated with cobwebs and dust, who in the world thought we were capable of cleaning up our church meetinghouse? It was obviously somebody who didn’t spend any time in our home — that’s what I thought. Nobody in his right mind would ask us to do any cleaning when our old house is barely making do.

But there was our name: Kidd — Saturday, July 18. It was there in black and white for everyone to see.

When our friend One-F came over for dinner and games one night, we regaled him with the story. We thought he would think the image of Kathy rolling around the floors in double-sided tape would be as funny as we thought it was, but One-F, who is younger than we are, is nevertheless somewhat wiser.

“If you should be exempt from cleaning the building, Kathy, who should be?” he asked. “We have a whole lot of people who use walkers. Should they be exempt?”

Just as I was about to say, “Well, of course,” he added, “What about the women who just had a baby last week? What about the women who had a baby last month? Where do you draw the line?”

Suddenly there was a huge gray area. It wasn’t just Kathy anymore. If you start adding pregnant women into the mix, there goes half the ward.

And there are lots of other people who have allergies or ailments of one kind or another that could disqualify them, too. Once I got disqualified, I could be that first domino to fall. We might wind up with just the Hunters and the Hoopers cleaning the building again. We’d be right back where we started — and everything would be all my fault.

But once One-F got me on the guilt train, he took me all the way to the station. “Besides,” he added, “what kind of message would it send if you got out there in your wheelchair and cleaned the building right along with everyone else? You could take pictures? You could pass out brownies. You could cheer people on. And maybe you could do some cleaning, too.”

One-F was absolutely right. It’s not as though I don’t have hands, after all. The counters in the kitchen are Kathy-height. And at the rate my nerves are growing back, who knows? Maybe by July I’ll actually be able to stand up as I clean the counters. Stranger things have happened.

When Fluffy and I got the news about cleaning our church meetinghouse, we immediately disqualified ourselves. The reasons we did so were obvious. But a well-timed kick in the rear from a friend reminded me that all too often we give up long before we should do so.

Instead of saying, “I can’t,” we should be asking ourselves, “How can I make it happen?” The answers may surprise us. In the process of answering that question, we may find ourselves achieving far more than we ever would have done if we had just given up without making an effort. And in the process of making that effort, we can have a whole lot of fun along the way.

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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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