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June 18, 2012
Life on Planet Kathy
Course Corrections
by Kathryn H. Kidd

My maiden name is Helms. Helm is actually a noun that has two meanings. It refers to the steering wheel (or "tiller") of a boat or ship, and it refers to a leadership position. I used my name in a pun once when I ran for some student council office in high school: "Put Kathy at the Helm." It was pretty lame, I know -- but hey, I won anyway.

Later on, when I became a Mormon and got my patriarchal blessing, the patriarch (who had never laid eyes on me in his life and who knew nothing about me) told me firmly that I always needed to remember that it is the Lord who is at the helm, and not Kathy. That one statement validated the entire blessing for me. I knew with absolute certainty that my patriarchal blessing did not come from that patriarch.

It was also a piece of information that I sorely needed to hear, because I've spent a lot of time telling God what I want him to do in my life. Now that's a wasted effort!

I've been spending a little time lately thinking about a person who has been in my life for more than two decades. That's one thing about moving as seldom as Fluffy and I do -- we tend to accumulate friends who stay friends for a long, long time. This person has had a pretty miserable life. Some of her problems have been caused by extraordinary bad luck, and some of them have been caused by exceedingly poor decisions.

I get frustrated watching this friend, because her life would be hard enough without having to suffer the consequences of the choices she has made, and the choices she continues to make. I ask myself, "Where is her brain?" In my less charitable moments, I wonder if she even has one.

This friend does not have a religious center. Yes, she occasionally goes to church. But as for making religion a part of her life, it hasn't happened. Some people are spiritually centered, and some people aren't.

I don't know how people can live without relying on spiritual things, because I can't do without them. Last fall I had two examples in two days. Sunday was our ward conference. Our stake president, Lynn Chapman, mentioned how a lot of people confuse hoping for something with the concept of having faith that something will happen. I realized immediately that this applied to me. When I first lost my job, three-plus years ago, I had absolute faith that things were going to be fine soon and that I was soon going to have an actual income again. Over the years I had lost that faith, and was clinging to hope instead.

You don't get miracles in your life based on hope. It takes faith, and I didn't have it. No wonder I was in a financial quagmire!

The very next day, I got on the internet and heard a talk by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who is one of my faves as far as spiritual counsel is concerned. One of the points he made was in reference to the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the inspiration for the Willy Wonka movies). He said that many people wait for a "golden ticket" in their lives, thinking that the golden ticket will make them happy. If they don't get that golden ticket, they spend the rest of their lives being miserable.

I wouldn't say I have gone that far. For the most part I have a great life. I wouldn't trade places with anybody. (I'd trade bank accounts with a lot of people, but I wouldn't exchange lives with them!) When I start worrying about money, though, I sometimes forget all the wonderful things that surround me and focus on this one thing I don't have. That was certainly the case when I heard those two talks last fall!

Both these talks showed me some course corrections I needed to make in my life. I was grateful for these little nudges, which put me back on course in the way that a helmsman makes small course corrections that determine the direction of his ship.

As I've thought about that, I've understood how our friend has gotten so far off track. It's not that she made one big leap that took her from a good place to a bad one. Instead, she has suffered from not having the benefit of those little course corrections -- those little tugs at the helm -- that spiritually-minded people get nearly every day. 

If you aren't looking for ways to improve yourself, you don't hear them and see them. Like a ship without a helm, you get farther and farther off track until you find yourself far, far from the proper course.

It's easy to judge people for making stupid decisions. It's only when you realize that they may not have the tools you do that you can stand back and see things from their perspective. If your ship doesn't have a helm, you're performing feats of heroism just to stay afloat -- never mind staying on course in the process.

Next time I see someone who continues to make wrong decisions, I hope I won't be as quick to pass judgment. By the same token, I hope people who find me off-course will point me toward my next course correction. There are some things a person can't do by herself. Seeing into her blind spots is one of them.

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