Word circulated that a neighbor was moving and for the men of the church to report at the neighbors’ house on Saturday morning at 10. Mark is a family practice physician who has treated Mom’s and Dad’s posterity for two decades since their retirement, and Julie has a PhD in nursing and works with sexual assault victims and law enforcement agencies. While 20 other men grunted over boxes and furniture, Julie set me to work wrapping dozens of framed family photos in protecting plastic. I started with a portrait of the young couple with their first child, a laughing toddler, and progressed through the family portraits as more children joined the family, which grew to a unit of ten souls, always smiling, huddled with mother and father, and growing again to welcome spouses and new laughing toddlers. Seeing the photos brought me happiness for them. But a part of me mourned that I will not have what they have—my family photos will be without father or without mother. Though we are devoted to our children, we are inexorably apart. I have delightful family photographs from earlier years as our family grew, but they are incomplete since 2015. “It is what it is,” I commonly hear from people coping as best they can with their particular set of life circumstances. I frequently acknowledge to my staff that “the facts are what they are”: I can choose only what to do with them. A corner room in Mark’s and Julie’s house was piled high with items slated for the local Deseret Industries thrift store. In one corner sat a sleek black 27-inch flat-screen television, in good condition. I had been looking for just such a television for Primus, who had only an old gray 10-inch TV as deep as it is wide. As a man picked up the television to cart it to the waiting truck, I quickly asked Julie, “May I give this television to my disabled friend who has practically nothing?” telling just enough of his story to convey the need. Primus came to this earth with a form of muscular dystrophy that overdeveloped his brain’s left hemisphere and underdeveloped the right. He is brilliant at absorbing and discussing books on history and politics and religion and biography, having read over 5,000 hefty books, but he cannot use a can opener. And he is frequently bullied. Primus met and befriended me one day, and we have enjoyed long discussions over pizza dinners since. The nursing professor welcomed me to take the television for Primus. And Primus was very happy to receive it. I moved the tiny old TV, on which he has watched his movies for a decade—the characters’ heads must be all of an inch wide—and set up the “new” TV. The DVD player began Robin Williams’ Jumanji in an instant improvement to Primus’ quality of entertainment life. I walked Primus through the remote-control functions and left him to enjoy his movie. In church the next week, Mark handed me a small tub of dark chocolate fudge and a card from Julie signed “With Gratitude” thanking me for wrapping their many family photos, so rightly precious to them, and I felt equally grateful for the enriching experience of helping and being helped.
The tiny old TV, next to a larger nonfunctioning derelict.