“Call Loretta,” Ensign, Aug. 2002, 65–67
For several years our young family lived in a student ward while my husband, Evan, attended school. That meant that at every semester break, about a third of the ward would move in or out, and I would usually be assigned new visiting teachers.
Each new set of visiting teachers would ask, “Are you and your husband in school?” I would tell them how much time Evan had left, and they would tell me about their husbands and their work or school. Most of them were newlyweds without children, and even though they were very kind, I often felt we didn’t have much in common.
They would give me the visiting teaching message and then hand me a little slip of paper with a cute sticker and their telephone numbers on it. As they left, they would say with a smile, “Call us if you need us.” I would smile in return, wave good-bye, and put the slip of paper on the refrigerator. Eventually I would get new visiting teachers, and a new slip would replace the old one.
When I was expecting our second child, I was assigned a new set of visiting teachers. This time we had so much in common! Like me, Ursula and Loretta had small children to care for. Sometimes they would come when I was giving lunch to the children I baby-sat, and they would sit at the kitchen table and laugh and talk with me as I spooned applesauce and cereal into little mouths. They always lingered because they seemed to realize my need for company.
Ursula moved after she had her second baby, and I missed her so much. The next time Loretta stopped by, she said, “Call me, please, if you need cheering up or something.” I was nearly in tears at the time and almost called her that same afternoon.
The months that followed were some of the most challenging of my life. We were poor, and Evan was going to school, working, and studying to the point where I rarely saw him. Being pregnant and doing baby-sitting to try to make ends meet was hard. The visits Loretta and her companion made were the bright spot in my month. I promised myself that when I got really depressed, I would call Loretta and we would talk and she would make me laugh and feel better. It was a treat I held out for. Many times I reached for the telephone, and then I would think, “I don’t want to bother her with my problems.” And I wouldn’t call.
That spring, Loretta told me she was moving. Her husband had finished school, and they were on their way. I was so happy for them. It wasn’t until after she left that I was saddened by the realization that now I wouldn’t be able to call Loretta.
I have had many visiting teachers since then: older women, students, and mothers with children in tow. I still try to be as self-reliant as possible, but when I genuinely need help, now I don’t hesitate to ask. Some sisters have brought me dinner after the birth of a child; some have been emergency baby-sitters. The older women have given me precious words of hope and comfort gleaned from their years of experience.
Not all of my visiting teachers have become good friends, but each of them has given me some special part of themselves. Those little slips of paper on the refrigerator have come to represent more to me than just a duty on their part.
It is important to serve, and there are many people who need our help and comfort. Yet I have learned that it is all right to need help ourselves sometimes. When I have let my visiting teachers serve me, our friendships have been strengthened, and all of us have recognized our need for each other.—Ann Whitaker, Grandview First Ward, Provo Utah Grandview Stake