91906_000_012On our mission we found that perspective was just a laugh away.
One late summer evening in 1958, my husband, Grant, and I sat on the back porch of our newly completed home—holding hands, looking at the moon, and counting aloud our many blessings. Grant had been serving as stake president for about four years, and we were happily involved in our community. Our children were well, bright, and beautiful, and all four of their grandparents were living. From our rooftop we could see all three of the children’s schools, the public library, and the church. We couldn’t imagine kings or queens having more blessings than we did.
But our comfort was disturbed not many days afterward by a phone call from Stephen L Richards, then a Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church. We learned that the Lord had other plans for us: President Richards asked Grant to serve as president of the Brazilian Mission, and he asked me to assist my husband. The city of Sao Paulo would be our home for the next five years.
We distributed our furniture and our two-year food supply among our families, packed our dishes and linens, and sold our home. As the door latch clicked behind me for the last time, I wistfully recalled each nail I had driven, the paint splattered through my hair, and the love Grant and I had shared as we had worked through every detail of building our home.
But I felt the influence of the Lord helping us to cut the strings one by one and to make the preparations. And as we did so, my testimony about our mission grew stronger. I decided I would give my wholehearted support to what was ahead of us. My eyes would be single to the Lord’s purposes in Brazil.
After a nineteen-hour flight from New York City, we arrived in Sao Paulo in a propeller airplane. It was the day before U.S. Thanksgiving. Our six children, ages one to thirteen, were soon engrossed in the differences between our old and our new countries. They were absolutely delighted with the old three-story mission home, which also served as Church headquarters in Brazil. Ten days after our arrival, our seventh child, Peggy Brasilia, was born.
The excitement of seeing new things soon gave way to the realities of living. It was the rainy season. We had no washer, no dryer, and two children in diapers. When the sun came out, the flies came in because there were no screens on our windows. The plumbing dripped conveniently into a pan in our dining room, and the plumber helped by making a hole in the ceiling with his brace and bit so the water didn’t drip—it ran out instead. Trying to arrange simple household matters seemed futile when I knew only a few Portuguese words.
After several weeks of domestic hardship, I awoke to another drizzling day and no dry diapers. My courage gave way, and I hurried to my room, buried my face in the pillow, and cried a cloudburst of tears.
I was in the middle of my private storm when Grant made his untimely appearance. Thrilled to be back where he had served his mission seventeen years earlier, he had barely been able to control his exuberance. To him, it seemed there had been no problems!
“Why, what’s the matter?” he asked, looking shocked.
Through my sobs I explained all the difficulties. I thought he would put his arms around me and offer his understanding and sympathy, but instead he began to roar with laughter. Gleefully he pulled me out onto the veranda, where we stood in the drizzle. Waving his arm, he asked me to look out on the horizon. “Look at the green foliage contrasted against the red earth, and the tall buildings silhouetted against the sky,” he said. “Where would you see anything more beautiful?”
In that moment I did not see what he saw. I was homesick.
Aware that he was not helping me much, Grant took me back inside. He put both hands on my shoulders, looked straight into my eyes, and said, “I know that you are experiencing some hardships, but one of the exciting parts of going to a new country is learning the language. You’ll soon learn it! We’ll find a vacuum and get the washer fixed. Someday, when we go back to the United States, you’ll want to tell people about your interesting times here. And when you do, you and they will laugh about your challenges. Why wait until then to enjoy it? Enjoy it now!”
I felt as if someone had raised the curtain on the second act of a play. I caught the wisdom of my husband’s words, and I began to laugh. “You’re right,” I said. “We should enjoy it now!”
And so we shared several lighthearted, rejuvenating minutes and, together, began enjoying “the second act.”
This philosophy so influenced our attitudes that nothing could discourage us. When daily adversities came—like discovering that our water was turned off, missing an airplane, or learning that my car had been impounded—we would just look at each other and say “Enjoy it!” and laugh. The entire mission felt the reverberations as they adopted our philosophy and changed many a bewildering situation into a happy one.
Five years later, as we returned to the United States and faced another new beginning, we held a family meeting with our nine children. We all agreed that no matter what ups and downs we faced, we would enjoy them. In later years, as our children went away to college or on missions, we occasionally received letters in which they lamented their difficulties. But those letters always closed with the solution they inherited from us: “P.S. I know what you’re going to say: ‘Enjoy it!’”