“The Hunk,” New Era, May 1991, 35
The Hunk. That’s what his friends called him. His muscles rippled beneath his shirt; his blonde, naturally wavy hair curled back from his tanned, intelligent forehead; and his teeth dazzled when he turned to smile. When he walked by, girls oohed and whispered in admiration and the guys backed up in awe.
Today would be the Hunk’s day of glory. Single-handedly he would sweep the state track tournament, bringing in dozens of trophies for Riverview High, along with numerous offers of scholarships to prestigious colleges for him. Then, on to the Olympics where he’d have gold medals draped over his muscular chest and crowds cheering and calling his name.
“Dexter! Dexter!” called his mother. “Pay attention or you’ll be late for seminary. Julie is out honking for you, and I need you to bring in some more sugar from the storeroom before you go.”
Dexter looked up at his mother, who was canning pears, and pushed a straight, dark lock of hair away from his glasses. He grabbed a sack of sugar, but it was too heavy to carry, so he set it on the floor, then scooted it across to where his mother stood by the stove. He grabbed his books, then ran out to where Julie, a classmate and neighbor, was waiting in her family’s beat-up station wagon.
Elder Hunk was the talk of the mission. Never had a missionary swept an area as he had. There had been talk of closing that area, but single-handedly Elder Hunk had swelled convert baptisms until conservative estimates ran in the thousands. His picture was on the cover of the Church News under the caption “Wonder Missionary,” and he was being compared to missionaries in the early days of the Church.
“How do you do it?” asked his mission president.
“Dexter. Dexter. How do you do it?” questioned his seminary teacher, Brother Larsen.
A classmate poked Dexter in his ribs, “Hey, wake up.” Brother Larsen patiently repeated his question. “How can we be member missionaries?”
Dexter looked up. “I dunno,” he said.
The youth genealogy class had started. Sister Barton had handed out pedigree charts. The Hunk walked in, arms loaded with notebooks and files.He dropped them before her and stated, “This is my genealogy research. I have recently added 15,000 names after having mastered 12 foreign languages. Notice the coat of arms and the royal lines that run throughout. And I have revolutionized data gathering using my new program. This computer disk now contains four million new names I’ve researched.”
As he drew the disk from his briefcase and casually dropped it before the instructor, the class gasped in amazement, and Sister Barton, hands to her face, stared in awe and reverence.
“Dexter, Dexter,” Sister Barton’s voice pierced his mind. “Here’s your family group sheet. Now put down what you can.”
Dexter replied, “I don’t even know where my grandfather was born,” as he pushed the sheet away.
“Scouter Hunk,” said the country’s president, “I want to pin this medal on you in appreciation for your courage and leadership skills. Bravely you rescued 400 tourists when their boat swamped. Your Eagle Scout project has revitalized your town, along with the entire country. And single-handedly you reformed 200 delinquent children by getting them involved in Scouting.
“Dexter,” called out Scoutmaster Simmons at the Scout meeting. “When can you help us collect food for the homeless?”
Dexter looked up. “I dunno,” he replied.
“Brother Hunk,” the stake leader said, “the youth conference you planned and supervised was the most impressive activity I’ve seen. As the youth representative you single-handedly organized and carried off a wholesome activity that will be recorded in this stake’s history. Every house has been painted, disaster plans and emergency supplies are present in every household, wickedness is banished, corruption and litter are gone. And the youth say they’ve never had so much fun. You are magnificent!”
The youth surrounding the stake leader cheered the Hunk.
The voice of his priesthood adviser, brother Magnuson, broke through.
“Dexter, will you help set up tables for the youth conference next month?” asked brother Magnuson.
Dexter looked up, realized he was at a ward youth meeting, and replied, “I dunno.”
There’s no glory in that, thought Dexter. I want to be chairman or nothing. Fat chance of being chairman so I’ll be nothing. He sat silent for the rest of the meeting.
Afterwards Julie hurried to catch him as he started to climb into the family car.
“What’s the matter?” she asked. “You’ve been so distracted and distant lately, like you’re in a different world. You always used to help out with youth conferences. What’s bothering you?”
“It’s nothing,” said Dexter. “It’s just that I’m tired of being ordinary—just average, with no honor or recognition. Look at us Julie. We’re the average kids. No one notices us. We are never head of anything, never applauded, just the average ones who are always there. If the school paper did an article about us do you know what it would say?”
Dexter picked up a school book, cleared his throat, and in a deep voice intoned, “Dexter and Julie are two average students at Riverview High. They have never been president of any organization. They did not win a scholarship. They haven’t won a race or a trophy. They have not won honors for any talent. They are average.”
“Now,” said Dexter, putting down the book. “Do you see what I mean?”
“But we try.”
“Name one thing you do really well Julie.”
“I like to paint.”
“Have you won any awards?”
“Don’t you see what I mean. You’re an average painter. So why paint?”
“Maybe I’m not a Michelangelo or even a Grandma Moses. But painting makes me so aware of the world. How many colors do you see in that tree?”
“One—it’s green. Trees are all the same. All green.”
“But I see maybe ten shades and colors—some darker with touches of brown, other parts lighter with splashes of yellow.”
“They’re still trees in an average painting. For me it’s going to be the top or nothing. I want to be a winner. I want recognition!”
His voice had gotten louder and classmates turned to stare.
“You’re getting recognition,” giggled Julie.
He lowered his voice. “I want to be the best, the greatest.”
“Well,” replied Julie, “it wasn’t some famous person that touched our family when we were investigating the Church. It was my three-year-old niece singing ‘I Am a Child of God.’ Sometimes the common can achieve the uncommon.”
“Not for me. I want to be the greatest. I want recognition. I want honors.”
Dexter climbed into the car and drove off.
Member Missionary Hunk was assigned to coordinate the open house for the public at the newly completed temple. He planned on being stationed in the celestial room, where he would quietly nod acknowledgments to community dignitaries. Afterwards there would be cookies and punch with guest speakers at the stake center to honor him. Honors to the Hunk.
“Dexter, you’ll be serving here. You’ll help put booties on the shoes of the visitors before they enter the temple for the tour,” the tour leader said.
Filled with disappointment, Dexter sat on the ground and assisted visitors with shoe coverings. No honor in this he thought. In fact it was uncomfortable and embarrassing. But there was something familiar about it. What was it?
He looked up at the temple spires and remembered the words carved on the side: “Holiness to the Lord.”
Holiness to the Lord. Again there was that nagging feeling of familiarity.
Suddenly, a scene came to his mind of a painting that hung at home. He who was greatest was washing the feet of the disciples.
Across the walkway of the temple two visitors were conversing.
“Say, who’s that kid with the glasses, the one who is putting on foot coverings. Is he someone special?”
“No, that’s just Dexter. He’s a nice, average kid.”
“But look at the way he’s treating visitors. It’s as though each person he helps is the most important person he’ll meet.”
On Saturday Dexter wrote a letter to his great-aunt requesting information on his grandfather’s birthplace. He gathered food, took it by an immigrant family’s home, and told them he’d be back the next day with two young men and a special book written in their own language. Later he wrapped up a clean Scout shirt and Scout handbook and quietly laid it on the doorstep of a widow’s home whose son hadn’t much money. He knocked and ran. The widow and son found the bag along with a note: From your friend.
Brother Magnuson was surprised that Saturday to get a call from Dexter. He volunteered to set up tables for the youth conference and offered to help with cleanup also.
Then Dexter called Julie and invited her to walk down to the park with him. She’d paint trees while he took photographs of the ducks.