Saturday, June 2, 2007

The grass is greener. . .where?

In case I have any readers out there (and I doubt it 'cause I haven't told anyone about this blog), I have wondered for a long time why people always think it's better somewhere else. I grew up in Maryland and was a member of a "minority" religion. I was the only member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (sometimes called Mormons) in my school for most of my growing up years. It was tough. Sometimes it seemed that everyone else smoked, did drugs, and partied on the weekends. Occasionally my very "straightness" provoked them and I would have much more attention than I wanted---in those cases, very negative. Funny---I had very little to do with those kids, but they seemed to sometimes get very vexed with me. I didn't get made fun of, but sometimes it was worse. Like the time I told the substitute bus driver where the next stop was. Was it really worth threatening my life? Gee whiz! Generally, I was quiet; rather shy (okay in a suffocating shell); a good student (waffled between honor and merit roll); had good friends usually among people like the student body officers, cheerleaders, sports players, everyone I went to elementary school with; got along with my teachers; other kids who didn't smoke, drink, or do drugs; and was generally thankful for Mutual night when I could be surrounded by others with my values and standards.

When I was 14, my family moved to Utah. It was wonderful. It was such a relief to be surrounded by others with similar values and standards. My restricting shell melted off. Occasionally I had some culture shocks like actually going to school with Mormons in my ward (congregation), something that had rarely happened ever before. Seeing kids putting on two faces---one at school and one at church. Eventually I accepted that they chose to be that way and got on with my life.

Coming from my background, it was a real shock to me in high school when a neighbor friend started complaining to me that she just couldn't wait to get out of Utah and away from all the "hypocritical" Mormons who tried to "look" perfect but weren't. (The 2-faced ones I mentioned above didn't help the situation, but those weren't the ones she complained about.) Funny, I knew the same people and saw very human faces on each one of them. Most were trying to better themselves and sometimes fell flat on their faces (just like me), but they kept trying. She was right; some just put on an act, but most of the girls she talked about really were trying. Today I understand my friend lives outside of Utah, wishes she could come back, but can't because of consequences of choices she has made that are limiting her choices today. (No, she's not in jail or anything like that. She is a good citizen.) I hope her life improves. I really do. She is a nice girl.

One thing I have learned though is to always accept where I am and take advantage of it to grow and learn the most I can wherever I am. I have yet to live anywhere that I haven't met some wonderful people and made terrific friends. I remember going back to visit my home in Maryland just a year before I was married. I remember people as being more distant, not as welcoming. Folks in the grocery store don't smile at strangers. When I went back, I took on the attitude of the total touron. I smiled, greeted people, made conversations, and made friends. That shell really hurt my experience in Maryland because I was closed, too afraid to be hurt to take a chance.

By and large, do I think people in Utah are friendlier? Yes, most of them. I don't think they fear as much. I think people west of the Mississippi are friendlier, and Utahns take the cake for that. Maybe sometimes they get busy and don't get as involved in their neighborhoods (esp. those not in their church) as much as they could, but they try. Regardless of that, I have found that if I smile at people, most will smile back no matter where I am. I think we all want friends. I think I shocked some folks in Maryland when I actually stopped and chatted with them during my visit. It was alien to their experience, but not one objected. I guess for me it is true that the world reflects back to you what you show it.

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