Tuesday, February 10, 2015

AWESOME story time....

**Originally written to my babies in the mission field...**

Good evening, and welcome to AWESOME Stories from Aunt Karen!  Thank you for joining us and we hope you enjoy this week's installment of joy, hardship, and thought processes as only Karen can imagine. :)  Plus, watch how the missionary flame has spread from you to me.... ;)

It was Monday. Ugh. But, the good news is I'm still WAAAAAY over on hours, so I slept in. I'm tellin' ya...waking up at 10am = Happy Karen. Eventually I made myself get all fancy-presentable for my afternoon meetings and left my house near noon. Cruising along in my awesome new car, I remembered that I still had some price-checking to do for a project for work. Since I needed to stop by a different shop for personal reasons, I decided to change my route o' errands. My mind continued to flash through thoughts at lightening speed as I neared Smith's along my route. Two seconds later, I spontaneously darted into that parking lot thinking, "Oooh, I could check to see if they have those marshmallows here, then I wouldn't have to drive nearly as far out of the way on my way to work. Obviously they're cheaper at Walmart, but I just need to see them one more time to decide which size is best. It'll only take two seconds..."

Well, needless to say, Karen can easily monopolize Karen's attention raptly....so I promptly drove passed three available parking spaces. DOH. Eventually I focused enough to find a good space, and as I rounded into it, I saw a woman standing outside her SUV with the spare leaning against it, looking around helplessly.  SWEET! I love service! Especially spontaneous ops like this....straight from HF. Maybe we should call them "white ops"...HAHAHAHA! Ok, focus...

So, I got out and approached her, "Uh oh, this doesn't look good."  She was somewhere near my age, looked latino, had a few tattoos up her arm, visible because of the tank top she was wearing (it's friggin 60 degrees here). This poor woman was just utterly clueless about cars. "I know!" she whimpered, "I have no idea what to do! I have all this stuff, but I've never had a flat tire before..."  *smile spreads across face*  "That's ok, I do!" 

She quickly warned me, "Just so you know, I think the one thing that actually fits those things is the problem. It's broken."  I looked down to figure out what the crap she was talking about and I see that she has tried to loosen the bolts WITHOUT USING THE JACK. Did I say clueless? And helpless? I felt so badly for her. SO, I said, "Well, first things first, we gotta jack up your car so we can even get the tire off."  "Uh...how do we do that?"

So, I started assessing things and realized I needed something to lie down on so I didn't get my nice clothes (remember, I had meetings to go to) dirty. I went to grab my jacket, and as I returned, another gentleman approached us with his 4 year old son. "Can I help?" he asked. I looked at him and we both stopped for a second and simultaneously asked, "Do I know you?" Ha! Turns out he's another IP&T PhD student. I told him all about the issues and he very graciously got on the ground and placed the jack. I tried to keep the woman preoccupied as he worked on raising it. As she was lamenting how untimely this was for her family, I looked up and saw 6 kids in the car. WHOA. Ok. She was really just overwhelmed and clueless, so she kept kinda pacing a bit. I talked and joked with her but nothing really soothed her. She kept saying, "We just came here to grab the stuff for chicken sandwiches. I didn't need this today! Oh man..."  When Grant (the Phd dude) had it ready, we tried to use the broken--cheapest thing I've ever seen--wrench to get the lug nuts off, but to no avail. She was right. The crappy thing had cracked, so there was no way to keep it where it needed to be AND get the twisting torque required...even with two of us. We stepped back to think for a bit, and I noticed my hands were completely black. Doh.

"Hmmm, well, let's keep thinking and I'm going to go find some paper towels, ok?"  She kept repeating, "You guys are too nice, you don't have to do this." *repeat smile*  I turned and went into the store, unloaded many rounds on the bathroom paper towel dispenser, and was on my way back out when I walked right passed 4 ELDERS.... :)  "Hi Elders," I mindlessly said without breaking stride and continued for the door when that voice in my head that resides right behind my left ear yelled, TTTTTTUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRNNNN ARRRROOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUNNNDDD!!!  I literally did a ungainly about-face as it clicked in my brain and yelled, "ELDERS!!!!!!" 

Ha! All four of them whipped around with shocked faces. "Hey! I have a service opportunity for you!"  They most diligently perked RIGHT up and listened. "Changing a flat tire," I explained while showing them my disgusting hands. Laced with a little too much machismo for my liking, they said, "Ooohh, yes. We can totally help you. We know how girls can be, we'd be happy to change your tire for you..."

Pssh. "Ok, let me stop you right there. It's not my tire. I'm well-versed. BUT, there's another woman out here who REALLY could use your help. I don't even know her name, but she also has lots of kids. Come on."  They honestly reminded me of a bunch of overeager puppies, but it was awesome. As we walked toward her car, I accidentally flipped into Aunt Karen and sternly cautioned them wagging my finger in the air, "One rule, Elders: DO NOT ruin those white shirts!"  They all smiled. "What's your name?"  "Oh, I'm Karen. But I'm Sister Cottle to you..." I said quietly as I turned around just in time to meet the lady. I wanted them to know they didn't need to focus on me. (completely forgot there was a big ol' Y on my shirt)

"I brought reinforcements!" I announced. Grant turned around from his squatted position and just started giggling. I turned to the lady (I can't remember her name for the life of me) and said, "I brought these guys. They're very nice and totally ready to help."  As they all kicked into missionary mode and started introductions of themselves to her and her oldest daughter (maybe 13), I went to my car and got the leftover gummi worms from yesterday's WY trip and offered them to her. "I certainly don't need any more of these, and I'm guessing the kids are getting restless."  She just kept saying, "You guys are unbelievable."  I turned to the kids (windows unrolled) and Aunt Karen said, "Ok guys, you can only have the candy if you sit quietly and share them, ok? Be good," and then I went in search of some other big car in the parking lot to see if I could borrow a wrench...  (...that Aunt Karen comes out of nowhere sometimes...)

When I came back about 5 minutes later (no luck), I saw the cutest little old lady approach the group and pass out individually wrapped hand sanitizers to everyone, shaking each missionary's hand and winking. At that point I thought...ok, where's the seminary video camera pointed at us? :)  They were all just standing there, though the group of people had grown a little to include even more people that looked like the perfect contacts for missionaries (meaning they weren't obvious members). One of the elders turned to me and said, "My companion went across the road over there to ask the lube place if they have something..."  I smiled really widely and then turned to the lady, "Well, I'll leave you with these gentlemen. You are in good hands."  She thanked me profusely and kept mindlessly reviewing her train-of-thought aloud under her breath, "I really can't believe this....we just came here to get the stuff for chicken sandwiches..."

A minute later I was recalling the series of events as I walked back into Smith's....

That was crazy awesome, HF! Thank you!! I love that...and to think, I didn't even plan to go here! It was just on some whim I turned in.....why am I in here again? Oh! Right...marshmall.......oh crap! Meetings! I'm gonna be late!!......I don't even really need to see those, what the heck? WHY DID I STOP HERE IF I DIDN'T EVEN NEED T....... OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!   And I almost ran to the bakery with giddiness. :)

I found the yummiest looking sandwich rolls I could find and asked the worker to slice them for me. I then sped to the sandwich meats and grabbed two things of sliced chicken and a package of cheese slices. I rounded out the sprint by grabbing lettuce that had already been broken apart for sandwiches and a bag of clementines. I nearly tripped as I suddenly skidded to a halt in front of a display of 10-pk baby Dasani water bottles and snagged one of those, dashed back to the bakery and on to the self check out.

I approached the group again as the missionary tightened the last lug nut on the spare. She just kept saying, "I truly don't know what I would have done without all of you! You're so kind, I just can't even.....we only came here to get the sandwich stuff, and now I have to take this car to this other place, right?"  "Yes," I said, nonchalantly holding the groceries as if they were mine. "It's a little far, will it make it?"  "Oh yes, you'll be fine, as long as you don't go more than 40."  "Ok...wow...we have to go there now then..."  I could see the wheels turning in her head as she watched the 5 other children in the car now hyper and hangry (hunger induced anger). 

"Well, then, I guess you'll be needing these ,"...and I held out her groceries. Tears filled her eyes as her chin dropped open..."NOOOO. Are you serious?!?!"  I smiled and sucked back my own tears as I said, "Yup. Now you can feed them while you wait for your car. I hope this makes your day better.......and if it still blows your mind, you can ask those guys anything, as I pointed to the missionaries standing tall. They have all the answers." 

And then I smiled, and left. IT. WAS. AWESOME. I made it to work with three minutes to spare, all the while crying but trying not to let the tears of gratitude mess up my make up. I was so happy, but mostly because I was SOOOOOOOOOOO excited to come home and write about it to you guys. I knew you would be so proud of me. :)  As I've rehashed it in my head all day, I realized something...I prayed for this. I didn't remember at first, but I now remember a simple line in one nightly prayer about wanting more opportunities for service to His children because it makes me so happy. "You know, HF, kinda missionary-like, but more up my alley..."  Today was His way of saying, "Yes, Karen, I do know. I always know."