“What can I do to find more excitement in life?” Ensign, July 1986, 28–29
Karen Lynn Davidson, music instructor and counselor in the La Crescenta California Stake Relief Society presidency. For most of us, our favorite daydreams are the ones in which we are the heroes. What wonderful fantasies! The call comes to perform some extraordinary Church assignment, and without a second’s hesitation we leave everything behind and set out to accomplish our mission. We rescue a little child from the path of a speeding automobile. Everyone admires our courage! We single-handedly foil a wicked group plotting to overthrow our country. We are summoned to address all the nations of the world to explain to them, once and for all, the path to peace and happiness. How we would prove ourselves under these great tests!
Unfortunately, such exotic experiences are hard to come by. The real assignments, the ones we have today and will probably have again tomorrow, are not nearly so dramatic. We fill out the same repetitious forms at the office, go through the same jeans pockets before doing laundry, make the same trip every day to work or school, carry out the trash, remind someone again that homework needs to be done, load the dishwasher, unload the dishwasher, load it again …
If we’re ready for a call to the ends of the earth, why are we called to vacuum the rug? Is life really supposed to be like this?
The answer, most of the time, is yes; most of life is made up of unrewarded, dutiful repetition. When this fact begins to weigh too heavily, when we start to feel that our allotted role is unfair or boring, here are a few suggestions to avoid discouragement and low morale:
1. When we think of Christ, our Savior and example, his life might at first seem to consist entirely of exciting and significant happenings, such as miracles, profound teachings, and confrontations with evil. But a careful reading of the scriptures will show that his day-to-day life also included the most ordinary activities: he arranged for accommodations and meals, he traveled to the next town, he talked with friends. And until he was thirty years old, we think that he crafted furniture in order to make a living, apparently finding satisfaction and joy in exactly the kind of labor we are talking about.
2. When daily life seems dull, remember that any supposedly “more exciting” vision of life is likely based on false sources—on movies, books, and television programs that often do not reflect the way real people live their real lives. In spite of the messages of television, the world does not consist of brilliant detectives and emergency-room doctors, romance does not wait around every corner, and not every complex problem can be solved within a thirty- or sixty-minute time limit, minus commercials!
3. Try to think of the unexciting tasks not by themselves, but in terms of their larger significance. As she matches socks on laundry day, a woman might say to herself, “I’m overqualified for this job. My family scarcely even realizes this work goes on. It’s trivial.” But doing the laundry and cleaning the house leads to a greater end than simply clean socks and dusted furniture. Put small tasks into the framework of their larger goal.
4. Do not romanticize other people’s tasks. As a friend of mine said once, “Every job has its dirty diapers.” We tend to see the more cheerful, rewarding aspects of other people’s jobs. “What a wonderful teacher and scriptorian Brother X is,” we say after a particularly remarkable Sunday School lesson. “How rewarding it must be to teach so well.” What we haven’t seen is that he has prepared for this spiritual “high point” through years of study and sacrifice. As long as we are talking about life, not television, everyone’s activities have a mundane side to them.
5. Remember that many of the most crucial jobs must often be carried on without much concrete, identifiable, immediate result. Teachers and parents, especially, must realize that long periods of time may pass without any apparent response to their words and examples. In moments when it’s tempting to give up and say, “This assignment has no rewards and no results,” a parent or teacher should remember the example of the two Almas, the Elder and the Younger. How many times must Alma the Younger have stared at the floor, frowning and sullen, as his father tried to tell him once more about the Savior, about the importance of living righteous principles! How many times must he have ignored and disobeyed his father! Yet Alma the Elder continued to impart these teachings to a son who disdained them. And finally, as we know, the moment of repentance came. And how was Alma saved from wickedness and destruction? He tells us that the words of his father flashed into his mind, words concerning “the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.” (Alma 36:17.) He knew about Jesus Christ; he knew, subsequently, how a righteous person was supposed to think and act, because his father had persisted in an often thankless, repeated task. It had been the father’s job, requiring its own kind of heroism and courage.
Enjoying life is often more a matter of adopting the right perspective and so living that you experience peace at the center of your soul. Real excitement is knowing that, whatever your tasks, you have the Lord’s approval and love.