I have the opportunity to serve my mission with some very unique people. We have all overcome the trials we have faced and decided to serve the Lord. I myself have Muscular Dystrophy. My form of Muscular Dystrophy is called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, named after the three main scientists who "discovered" it. It is an inherited trait. I got it from my dad and I have another sister who also has it. The three of us enjoy sharing stories about how we stub our toes and don't feel it for a good 10 seconds later, or fun accidents that we have. We have some good laughs about some of the things that we do!
Because of my disability, I have had a few surgeries in my short life. The first one occurred when I was a junior in high school and the most recent was this past May. Due to my disability, and with no help from being in casts for 6 weeks, I kind of became an outcast in the eyes of the large majority of people I went to high school with. There were a few that were really good friends, but they seemed to be the exception, not the rule. In this time of trial in my life, I often ate lunch alone and found solace and comfort in my music.
I came to love Jack Johnson because his music was so comforting. Whenever I was having a bad day, whenever I was feeling bad for myself, I could listen to Jack and immediately a wave of peace and calming would settle over me and I knew that everything would be alright. In high school, one of his songs inspired me. It is called "People Watching". As I ate lunch, I would go to the second floor of my school which had a perfect view of the cafeteria. As I ate, I would watch my peers--watch how they treated each other, watch how they really acted, and discovered what kinds of people they really were. Throughout these weeks of watching, I longed to be there with them. I longed to be accepted for who I was and for them to be able to discover who I really am. Unfortunately, that never happened while I was in high school. But then college happened.
College, as much as any single experience, has changed my life. I soon realized that my dream had finally been realized. I finally had met people who accepted me for who I am and took the time to get to know me. The people I met there have had the biggest influence on who I am almost as much as my family! I have a sincere and genuine love for all of the friends that I made at college. I wish I could name them all and tell them specifically why each of them helped me, but there isn't enough room to do that.
What made the difference? One thing: I accepted who I was and I accepted the Lord in my life. I came to a realization that my Muscular Dystrophy is a part of me, but that it doesn't determine who I am. For my whole life up until this point, I thought that all I was was the cripple that people talked to when nobody else was available. After many tearful prayers, I came to the knowledge that I am much more than that. I came to know that I am a brother to everyone out there and more importantly, I came to know that I am a literal son of God. He is my Heavenly Father. That realization has changed my life forever.I only share the previous stories to help show the difference this understanding has had in my life.
I also realized that it doesn't matter what people think of me or who my friends are. It only matters what God thinks of me. As long as I am doing what He has asked me to do, everything will work out as He wants it. And by doing what He wants, I realized that I enjoy being around people more. I feel a greater love for people in general.
As I have continued to people watch and reflect on what I have seen, I have learned something important. We all have these "defects". Some are more noticeable than others, but we all have them. Why? Why do we have these defects and these trials in our lives? The best explanation is found in the Book of Mormon. In Helaman 12:3, we learn that unless we have these things happen to us, "[we] will not remember him."
I know from my own experiences that God gives us challenges and trials to help us grow closer to Him. I know that through mastering "the art of the defect" we can find Him. We can find Him no matter what. All we have to do is ask and look and He will make himself known to us! I know this because I have experienced it in my life. We can try to make it by ourselves and we can be prideful, but the Lord will have a humble people. We can choose to be humble or He will humble us, but He will have a humble people.
I love the Lord and I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve Him and help bring His children back to Him!