It may have been 9 years ago, but I still clearly remember the butterflies in my stomach as I sat on that hard, blocky chair outside the Bishop’s office, waiting for him to call me in.
I was painfully shy and painfully awkward (I guess some things never change), and I was scared to death to be meeting with him for the first time.
I glanced at my watch, for probably the twelfth time, and clutched my backpack full of college textbooks even closer to my chest. I tried in vain to stop my feet from bouncing nervously. What could the Bishop possibly want with me? I was just a starving college student at the time and didn’t have much to offer (or so I thought).
I nearly jumped out of my skin when the door finally opened and he called me inside!
Bishop Hill was a tall man with a full head of white hair and a piercing (but kindly) glance. He taught Irrigation Science for a living at Utah State University — and on the side, he served as a volunteer ecclesiastical leader for a congregation of college kids, myself included.
He shook my hand warmly and offered me a seat.
“Nathan,” he said. “How are you doing? How are classes?”
“Oh… As good as can be expected, I guess.”
He smiled a knowing smile and proceeded to ask me a few more “getting-to-know-you” questions. I remember being struck by how much he actually cared about me. I’d only seen the man a few times before, and yet, with his warm smile and quick little wink, he felt almost like a grandpa to me.
Our little interview didn’t last too long though — and it was starting to wind down when he leaned forward and asked:
“Nathan, would you be willing to accept a special assignment?”
With those piercing eyes, there was no way I could turn him down. I told him I would, and he proceeded to describe the assignment to me.
He explained that the vast majority of college students in our congregation were a long way from home. Many of them had never even met their roommates until that first week of school. And a lot of ’em were in need of a family, in one way or another. My assignment, he said, was to organize a weekly “Family Night” for 4 specific apartments in my neighborhood — to help my fellow students get to know each other and build kind of a support group. He wanted me to organize ’em into a “Family,” if you will.
The more I listened to him describe my new responsibilities, the more my heart sank.
(Remember, I’m an introvert, to the extreme — and on top of that, I was just barely keeping my head above water with work and school and all that!)
Bishop Hill must have sensed my distress though, because at that moment, he stopped piling on the responsibilities and gave me another one of those reassuring smiles.
“You won’t be tackling this all on your own, you know. You’ll be working closely with a girl named Lindsey, who lives across the parking lot from you. Do you know her? During these Family Night activities, you’ll be the ‘Pa’ and she’ll be the ‘Ma.’“
Now, I have to admit, I didn’t really know Lindsey all that well at the time. I knew she was the girl with the pretty blue eyes. We’d seen each other a few times at church — and we might’ve even said “hello” once or twice in passing, but that was really the extent of our relationship.
Like I said, I didn’t really get out much…
But, thanks to those weekly Family Night activities that Lindsey and I were now in charge of, we got to know each other very well. Over the course of a school year, the two of us planned and executed all sorts of fun get-togethers with our little “family.”
We sang, we prayed. Sometimes we’d play sports, other times we’d go on hikes. We carved pumpkins in October and rolled Easter eggs in April. We studied scriptures together, studied for finals together, and more.
Planning activities was so much fun, in fact, that even when the school year (and our assignment) had officially ended, Lindsey and I decided to make Family Night a permanent tradition.
We were married a year later — and we’ve been having a weekly Family Night ever since!
Any guesses on what we did tonight?
After singing a few songs and telling a few scripture stories, we loaded our two little girls into the Buick and went for a short drive into town and back — and in the process, we watched the odometer roll over to 200,000 miles!
It may not sound like much, but to me, it was more exciting than the countdown to New Years!
Sure, some of our Family Night activities may be a little more exciting (or well-thought-out) than others, but it’s one tradition I’m glad we’ve carried on.
Besides, when you think about it, Family Night is the reason Lindsey and I came to be a family in the first place!
In all seriousness, I’m eternally grateful for Family Night.
You also might like last year’s rant:
Cuz honestly, who doesn’t like to be thankful?!