What a blessing it is to have friends who are truly honest and trustworthy! Can you imagine what life would be like if we lived in a society where such integrity was universal, where we did not constantly need locks and guards to calm our fears?
This topic comes to mind because it was the power of trust among multiple friends and acquaintances in China that just helped us in a difficult spot. My wife and I came back to the US as “medical refugees” from China who realized, while on vacation in Vietnam in January, that we had better not go back to our home in Shanghai for now, or perhaps forever, due to the rise of the Corona virus, now known as SARS-CoV-2. There were so many things we would have packed when we went to Vietnam if we knew we might not ever set foot in our apartment again. Sadly, as I previously reported, I argued against repeated feelings that maybe I should bring more medication, my journal, and other items. I had very logical reasons for traveling light and not bringing along precious things to a country where crime was said to be higher than in China.
After we abandoned China, at least for now, I realized how wise it would have been to at least extract a handful of needed items, especially my journal. My wife had the same experience, recognizing that for the welfare of students in her school, she really should have brought along a stack of tests to grade that she felt she ought to bring along as we were packing, but then offered logical reasons why that wasn’t needed (there would be plenty of time after we returned to grade the tests). But now we were away from home, perhaps permanently, and like most refugees of any kind, were seriously unprepared. I’ll say, though, that we have been the luckiest refugees ever, able to come back to family in the US and live in relatively comfortable conditions in cold Wisconsin with the joyous distraction of many grandchildren. Still, I felt so foolish for not bringing my journal and some other needed items, and really felt a need to also obtain some key documents back home in our apartment (birth certificates, etc.).
Three Sundays ago (a fast Sunday) after fretting about some of the things we needed to recover, if possible, I awoke with a crazy idea: what if we our part-time maid could get a key to our apartment into the hands of someone who could enter our apartment, and what if we could then use video to show them what we needed, pack it in a suitcase, and then get that suitcase into the hands of someone flying from Shanghai to the U.S.? As my wife and I discussed that, it really seemed like a preposterous long shot: the maid was probably locked down outside of Shanghai, and even if we could get a key, people outside the complex are not allowed in, and while my wife had a trusted fellow teacher in the compound, he might not even be in Shanghai, and even if we could get a bag of things packed for us, we didn’t know of any Americans still in Shanghai who were going to leave soon at that late stage when most who wanted to flee were already long gone. And even if we found somebody, how could we get the suitcase from whatever distant location they would fly to? Such a long shot, but still I felt we needed to try. So I posted a note among friends from Church on a WeChat group, asking if anyone in Shanghai was coming back to the States soon. After several hours, there was no reply. But then during sacrament meeting that day, I received a message from our Elder’s quorum president stating that he, his wife, and their miracle baby were going to the US the next Sunday. And can you guess their destination? Wisconsin! Our state. But we would meet at the nearby Chicago airport and then they would be driven to their town in Wisconsin and begin a quarantine there.
I should mention their miracle baby, because that beautiful little girl is actually what made our little blessing possible. The faithful parents have wanted a baby for a long time, but multiple doctors in the States could do nothing for them. Finally, after many prayers, someone suggested to them that they consider traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) rather than Western medicine. TCM is way outside the comfort zone of most Americans and is widely frowned upon by Westerners, but seems to sometimes have some surprising benefits for some who try it. They went to a recommended TCM doctor for help and shortly thereafter, the couple were expecting and eventually delivered a beautiful, healthy, miracle baby. When the virus loomed over China, they would have returned to the States right away but were forced to wait until their baby’s passport was ready for them. They made plans to leave as soon as possible after that, which most fortuitously aligned so perfectly with our minor need to extract some items from Shanghai.
With the surprising result that someone we knew and completely trusted with our stuff would be able to bring a small bag for us from Shanghai, we tackled other elements for this operation. Was that fellow teacher who lived in our complex in town and willing to help? Yes! Was the completely trustworthy woman who worked part-time as our maid back in town and able to bring the key to our complex to hand it across a barrier to the teacher who lived there? Yes! Could our landlord also join the teacher and take out some cash to pay some future rent and take possession of our key to help prepare for future needs like clearing out our stuff if needed? Yes. Could we arrange for a trusted driver to receive the bag of precious packed items and take it straight to our friends who would soon be flying to the U.S.? Yes. We also hired him to take that family to the airport. With his large SUV, there was just barely enough space for our three friends, all their bags, and our bag. But it fit!
As my wife’s fellow teacher was in the apartment with our landlord packing stuff for us, I noted how amazing it was to know such good and trustworthy people. We had a stack of cash that we had the teacher find and hand to the landlord, who then counted out her share of it for rent. We were able to do that without the slightest concern because we completely trust both of these good people, one a Westerner and one a local Chinese woman who feels like a relative to us, the best landlord I’ve even had in my life, who regularly brings us delicious food, tickets to musicals, and treats us with so much fairness and kindness that we really don’t mind overpaying for our apartment. We just love that woman and dare to trust her with all our possessions now that she has our key. How many problems can be solved, how much good can take place, when there is true trust between people!
It was great to have an excuse to go to Chicago, where we stayed with a sister that we really needed to visit. Wonderful to interact with her and her son and daughter. And so wonderful to be able to drive to the airport early the next morning and meet our trusted friends. So wonderful to see them and their miracle baby. We were wearing masks at the airport and carefully disinfected the bag just in case someone with the virus had handled it, not wanting to risk spreading the virus to our family and community.
That’s my little story on the power and blessings of trust. For those who are in similar circumstances, there may be ways to have friends help you reduce some of the impact of a sudden departure from China or anywhere else.
To some of the critics who take offense whenever someone believes that they been blessed in some temporal way that is not uniformly distributed, I can understand the frustration, but be careful about the assumptions you make.
Was this a blessing to us? A small miracle? To those who are instantly offended by such things, I will confess with some trepidation: Yes, so it seems to me, and I can’t explain or justify why we were able to escape from difficult circumstances and, in spite of being unexpected refugees, avoid much of the pain of suddenly fleeing home. Random luck? Yes, possibly, but I prefer being grateful for too much than for too little. I prefer counting my blessings, and perhaps overcounting, rather than ignoring them altogether. And I prefer to overlook my grievances and losses when I can rather than to be angry at God or ignore His mercy even in the midst of my most painful trials.
Should I not dare to be grateful and note that we were blessed in this matter by the kindness and trustworthiness of good friends? But sure, you can call that callous and insensitive when I know that others, in spite of their good friends, are smitten with disease or trapped in harsh conditions in locked-down cities filled with sorrow, or when others I know are suffering grievously due to health, being in jail, or other great trials? We have tried to help some others in such circumstances, but often we are helpless.
On this matter, may I suggest reading an old post of mine, “Do Big Tragedies Negate Small Miracles?”
For those who are offended by the diversity in the temporal conditions of individuals here on earth, and by God’s apparent willingness to allow such diversity, I would suggest that nothing in the scriptures suggest that God’s goal is to enforce uniformity on earth, in spite of His desire that we lift the poor and share our abundance, and that we seek to nourish the week and heal the sick. There is uniformity in that we will all die, but great diversity in terms of when and how. There is diversity on our talents, our places of birth, our cultures and languages, our financial status, our genes, our health, and so forth. Diversity is magnified by the terrible gift that God gives rather uniformly: the gift of moral agency, of being able to choose or reject Him, to be kind to others or malicious, to pursue peace or war. The results of that agency can be blood and horror or peace and joy for those whose lives we affect. But whether God calls us to live and serve in the midst of war or in a peaceful small town, in the midst of plague or in a healthy community, with rotten neighbors or with trusted friends (such as the world’s greatest landlord living almost next door), there are some things that are uniform and universal: His love for us, His perfect Atonement completed for us at an infinite price, and His offer of grace to each of us, making it possible for us to overcome all barriers and all the diverse pain of mortality and return to endless joy in His presence.
Nephi described this situation well in 2 Nephi 26:
 He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.
 Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.
 Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.
 Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.
 Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.
 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
 Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love, and except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.
 But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.
 And again, the Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another; that they should not commit whoredoms; and that they should do none of these things; for whoso doeth them shall perish.
 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
All are alike unto God. I love that passage. All will have an opportunity to accept Him. All will be judged fairly. He does not deny any who wish to come unto Him, but invites all to receive His greatest blessings. Death is not the end nor the greatest tragedy, but an essential part of our individual and diverse journeys. Don’t be offended that others escaped your current trials or face different challenges. Don’t be deceived by those who say that God must not love you and must not even exist because of what you or others may be suffering. Christ has suffered all that and more for you and knows your pains, and is there to wipe away all tears in the end and take you forward to victory and joy, to resurrection and eternal life. There is painful diversity now, as there must be in this time of mortal probation, but there is God’s love for all of us in whatever place we are. He may not choose to take away all current problems, and may say no a request that He miraculously grants to others for some reason (always seemingly unjust to us), but He gives us strength to endure and sometimes can give us kind help to move forward to be where we need to be for the next phase of each individual trek.