By nature, I’m an introvert. Love hiding in a corner to read versus walking into a crowd of people at a party. Filled with reasons to fear strangers, and plenty of neurons seem to be wired that way. Going on a mission took a lot of faith – no, going was easy. Walking up to people in Switzerland was the hard part. But during that experience, and over the years since then, I’ve learned something over and over that gives me courage to crawl out of my shell and even sometimes act like an extrovert: people are interesting.
It has grown to the point where I look forward to meeting new people and enjoy chatting with strangers – there is always something to learn, something to take away. If I had a little more faith, there would more often also be something to give. I try, when it seems “feasible” and “appropriate,” and have actually shared a few words about the Church with many people and have given away quite a few copies of the Book of Mormon. Too many times, though, I’ve done the Adversary’s arguing for him, finding preemptive reasons why a person just doesn’t want to hear anything about my religion or faith, and thus avoided the topic. That old fearful introvert takes over.
Here’s an example. On one flight, I was seated next to an attractive twenty-something female. She was absorbed in her Blackberry, hardly acknowledging me as I sat down. “OK, I’ll respect her wishes and not bother her,” I thought to myself. “Besides, she’ll probably think I’m hitting on her if I start striking up a conversation.” That was a weird thought, undoubtedly sexist – and not even consistent with my own behavior, since a few months ago I had a marvelous conversation with a girl of similar age who was a professional model on her way to a swimsuit shoot. (Learned a lot about modeling on the flight – and did tell her a few things about the Church. And no, I wasn’t hitting on her.) So why should I alter my willingness to talk to someone on the basis of their age or appearance? But she seemed withdrawn, unwilling to talk, and yes, I do try to respect people’s wishes.
Halfway through the flight, as the flight attendant brought drinks and a snack (or was this the flight with the surprise glucose injections?), it just seemed impossible for me not to say something. So I just glanced at her and said a of words – I think it was something like, “So, you going home?” Maybe it was something a little more intellectual, like, “Hey, are you on an airplane?” or “Wow, looks like we’re moving.” I’m not sure. But I finally broke the ice and acknowledged her existence, at the dire risk of offending the great vow of silence that I had vicariously taken for her.
That simple act opened a floodgate. A flood of excited and energetic words followed – she loved to talk and was one of the most outgoing people I’ve ever met. She had a great story – quite a few of them. A fascinating person. It was one of the best conversations I’ve had on a flight. And yes, I got to share a little about the Church in the process – not much, but some. Reminded me that many of my assumptions about people reflect my own fears and biases rather than reality. I need to be willing to reach out more and share more.
That brings us to the real topic of today’s post, one of the great examples of thinking of others as sons and daughters of God who need the blessings of the Gospel, including the Book of Mormon. He is known by some as “Bookslinger,” a man in Indianapolis who is on a mission to get the Book of Mormon to the people’s of the earth in numerous languages. Bookslinger keeps a collection of Books of Mormon, and when he meets people, looks for ways to share a Book of Mormon with them, no matter what language they speak. He blogs about it at Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon.
His most recent story, “It can matter where you do your laundry,” illustrates his straightforward, thoughtful approach where his love of sharing overcomes the fear of rejection day after day. He’s far beyond where I am, but it’s a fascinating example to consider. It has inspired me to be a little more giving and brave. The introvert still takes over too frequently. So help me out: if you’re sitting next to me on an airplane and I manage to drop a hint that I may have once been in Utah or something, make life easier for us both by just coming right out and saying, “Say, do you know where I can get a Book of Mormon?” I may have one ready to give – or as a backup, I could direct you to Mormon.org where you can order a free copy. But if you’re really lucky, you’ll be sitting next to Bookslinger. Let him know what language you speak, and he may just be able to reach into his backpack and help you out on the spot!
A big tip of the hat to Bookslinger!