Cows grazing in front of our house (They bellow rather than moo.)
In all, about 70 people have come to our keyboarding classes. Many come to one lesson and are too busy to return; many come to one lesson and decide it’s too hard. Many first-time students immediately understand musical concepts and can move their fingers in the right ways—we tell them they are budding Mozarts.
But a number of the first-time students are not impressive in the least. They may be unable to play two fingers at the same time, or may be unable to play with two hands at different times, or have no ability to distinguish a correct note from an incorrect note, or their fingers don’t follow what their brain tells them, or all of the above. I find myself thinking, “This person has the musical talent of a rock, and will probably never return to our classes.” Fortunately, we know enough not to indicate verbally or otherwise that we are thinking this.
Happily, some of our “slow learners” turn out to be extremely persistent. Over time, their inability to grasp simple fingering techniques is overcome by their repeated practicing and hard work. Their persistence is augmented by true learning: they really do master the techniques and concepts that were initially impossible for them. As we leave our lessons, we marvel to each other, “Brother __ left that first song for a couple of weeks, and when he returned to it, he could play it!” It’s a good thing we didn’t tell them, “forget it, my friend, you’ll never learn how to play the piano,” because in addition to being cruel, we would have been wrong. Everyone who has persisted in practicing has progressed.
For six months, we have been encouraging the local leaders to organize and implement the Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching programs for the men and women. We started by telling them, “it’s the program of the Church,” but that didn’t seem to be the right reason. After some thought we realized, in addition to being the Church’s policy, it was a way for each family to have a built-in support contact, for help in keeping enthusiasm for the family’s religious study and participation, as well as for encouragement and support in times of need or discouragement. That is certainly true, but we have come to realize that the program of regular visits to “mourn with those that mourn, rejoice with those who rejoice, and comfort those who need comfort” is really about developing the kind of Christ-like love that refines us and makes us truly love and care for our neighbor. So our concept of WHY we should be diligent Home Teachers and Visiting Teachers has matured greatly.
It has taken us six months to figure this out. Who are the slow learners here? It’s a good thing the Lord didn’t tell me, “Forget it, Elder Sorenson, you’ll never learn to teach the principles correctly,” or when our children joined our family, “Forget it, you just don’t have any parenting talent.” The Lord obviously has Infinite patience with our learning curve, at every stage of our lives.
Even though we are slow learners, we figure that by the end of our 23-month mission we’ll know . . . more. Not necessarily enough, and certainly not all. And we thought when we started our mission that we already knew what we were doing!