Lesson in Understanding

Following up on a member referral, my missionary companion and I visited the home of a young mother. We knocked at her front door a number of times before she opened it and welcomed us inside. We explained who we were and told her that a neighbor had referred us to her. She accepted our introduction and settled down in front of us, ready to hear the first missionary discussion.

The woman’s ten-year-old daughter, who was sitting in the room with us, didn’t make the slightest effort to turn and look at us. Instead, she turned up the volume of the television set. Her mother seemed to be following the discussion very intently and did not seem to notice the noise. So my companion continued presenting the discussion.

A few minutes later, the girl again increased the volume. The sound was now so loud that we couldn’t hear the mother clearly. Still, she did nothing to remedy the situation, but continued showing the same interest in our message. I began to feel quite annoyed by the girl’s behavior and her mother’s lack of action. I felt even more irritated when I realized that the daughter wasn’t even watching the television—she was drawing on some paper! I tried to appear calm on the outside, all the while thinking, “What a brat! And why doesn’t her mother say something to her!”

My thoughts were far from the discussion when the girl left the room, leaving the television set turned on. How infuriating!

But when she came back a little later, I saw her face for the first time and realized that she had Down’s syndrome, a condition causing mental retardation. I looked at the young mother, who was fully concentrating on my companion’s message. “What a considerate mother!” I thought. “Perhaps she doesn’t want to say anything to her daughter because of her condition. Or perhaps she doesn’t want to interrupt us.”

Humbled, I presented the second part of the missionary discussion. Then we offered a prayer, set our next appointment date, and visited informally with the woman for a while. As we talked, we were amazed to learn that she was deaf and that she had understood our presentation by reading our lips.

As we left her home, I felt very sorry that I had misjudged both mother and daughter. Neither had been aware of how the television had distracted us.

Even though I had not spoken my feelings, I had not controlled by thoughts. My judgment had been based on little or no understanding of the situation. Since that experience, I have always worked to control my thoughts and not be so quick to judge others.