Monday, April 12, 2010

Just another week

This week has been amazing. I think the theme of the week is making a difference in the lives of others. Following General Conference, I made the decision to take healthy food with me each day to work. My reasons were multiple; it would ensure that I had healthy food to eat (as opposed to simply skipping meals), show my coworkers that I cared about them, hopefully influence their eating habits, and give me a chance to serve them. So, Monday morning, I arrived to work with a tray of chopped carrots, crackers, homemade hummus and salsa. It was an instant hit. In the days following, I took other healthy foods – carrots, celery, olives, apples, oranges, pears, and homemade dips from hummus to peanut butter. And already, after just a week, my coworkers are mentioning how much they appreciate it and how it is affecting their dietary habits. “I tried to go eat my normal food... but I just couldn't – I felt like I wanted something healthier” was one comment, followed by, “I think we are all going to become converted to eating healthier.” One even brought his own healthy food to add on Friday afternoon. Wow. For some of these people, we have had conversations about eating healthily for a year now, with no visible changes. And now, within a week, I begin seeing results from simply taking the time to share part of my life with them. They are bringing healthier snacks with them to work. They take less trips to the “candy drawer” (a manager keeps one of his drawers full of candy available to anyone who wants it – right now I am openly at war with him). They eat healthy snacks instead of skipping food altogether. And I love it – being able to bless their lives and give meaningful service is worth whatever it costs me in time and grocery bills. And since I only buy produce that is on sale, I feel great about it anyway. Grocery shopping and food preparation has become an opportunity to find ways to bless the lives of others. Amazing.

In my quest to help people become healthier, I've been trying to find even more ways to become healthier myself. I attended a wellness seminar through BYU Human Resources a few weeks ago on using diet to reduce cancer risk. I felt validated while he talked about focusing on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, eating foods in their natural form, avoiding processed products, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But he mentioned one thing that made me squirm – watching the sodium content of foods. Excess sodium intake causes an increased risk of cancer, and, worse for me, an increased load on the heart. Heart problems run in my family, so I went home and looked at the foods I eat. Two foods in particular shocked me – canned tomatoes and canned beans. Eating a can of tomatoes puts me just shy of the maximum allowable sodium intake. A can of beans is only slightly less. So eating a can of beans and a can of tomatoes (which is easily normal fare when I'm hungry coming home from work) is way more than what is healthy. My first thought was to try finding something to substitute. After a few hours of research, multiple trips to hardware and other stores, and failed attempts at finding calcium chloride, I returned home one day with a 40-lb bag of potassium chloride. If you buy the 1 oz Morton size that is labeled “Salt Substitute,” it costs you $4. If you buy the 40-lb Morton size that says “Additive-free Potassium Chloride,” it costs you $20. Follow up on the manufacturer confirms that the big bag really does have no additives. There was no deliberation on my part. Potassium chloride, however, has a slightly different taste from normal salt. In some things, it tastes just fine. In others, it leaves a strange metallic taste... and makes me think of unripe bananas. So I'm experimenting and learning how I can use it in the long term.

I gave a talk today in church. My topic was assigned as the article from the March Ensign titled “Digital Detachment and Personal Revelation.” All week I struggled to determine how to give the talk – whether to base it off of personal experiences, stories, scriptures, quotes from the prophets, or another point of view. Obviously, I would probably use all of those, but what would be the defining factor – the key ingredient to tie it all together? My ward is sleepy during Sacrament meeting, but they also really need sound doctrine. And, because they are students and young adults, they need something incredibly memorable. What would work best? After spending time during the week, all day Saturday, and most of this morning trying to find the right pieces, I finally followed the prompting to reuse the format of a talk I gave about a year ago about a boy named Jack. In the talk, I told Jack's story multiple times. Each time, Jack made a fatal mistake en route to school which caused him to fall into a pit, get bitten by rattlesnakes, and die. After reviewing the mistake and teaching the associated doctrines, I retold the story. This time Jack applied the associated principle and bypassed the pit of rattlesnakes... until he made another mistake, fell into another pit of rattlesnakes, and died. The story is easily related to the spiritual consequences of making poor decisions, but the physical interpretation (each of the five endings goes: He fell into a pit and got bitten by a rattlesnake. He died. The end.) is just absurd enough to be both memorable and funny. Since the talk was on personal revelation, as Jack followed more and more of the steps to personal revelation, he got closer and closer to school. The five steps to receiving revelation I outlined were: Unplug from distractions, ask the Lord for guidance, study it out in your mind, keep a record of your promptings, and work hard.

On the surface, the talk seems to have had the motivating effect we needed. At one end, the bishopric was approving and people made references to 'unplugging' from digital distractions in Sunday School and Priesthood meeting. At the other end, ward members asked me why Jack didn't use Yahoo maps on his iPhone to not get lost; others made strange comments about my choice of snakes. Either way, they were listening and at least remembered the story for the two hours that followed. Hopefully they will also remember the principles behind it.

I'm seeing an impact in other parts of my life as well. A friend mentioned that she had a case of hives that doctors haven't been able to cure. She had open sores in many places because of itching. I handed her a bottle of lavender oil and she mentioned today that it worked amazingly well – her skin is finally healing. At Institute, the couple in charge of refreshments took interest in my diet and has begun to bring foods that could be categorized as uber-healthy: no-sugar-added, no-fat-added, vegan, whole grain cookies, homemade hummus, homemade pita bread, and assorted vegetables. Wow. And I've had more and more opportunities to help people at work.

For me, finding little ways that I can share things in my life with others has made all the difference this week. From taking food to work to telling stories in Sacrament meeting, I feel like I am influencing the people around me and helping them to make better decisions in their lives. And that is one of the things that makes me happy – being able to invite others, in whatever way, to come closer to Christ.

I know that God is our Father. He loves us and answers our prayers. And He gives us the opportunity to bless the lives of others here on the earth. My invitation to you this week is to look at your life and find something little you can do for others, and to do it. Maybe it's simply smiling at everyone you meet. Maybe it's making a phone call each day to talk with a friend. Whatever the choice, I know that as we strive to bless the lives of others, the Lord will bless us and help us (and those we serve) come closer to Him. Go out and be missionaries!

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