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|The Accidental Busybody|
May. 30th, 2013 at 12:26 pm
I am that woman at church who feels compelled to meddle. I don’t mean too. I don’t go around looking for problems to get involved in. If you ask me, I will tell you I do exactly the opposite. I work hard at being reserved and keeping my eyes on the floor, not wanting to seem like a busybody. And then someone does something that alarms me and the next thing you know, I am in the middle of another person’s business.
Years ago, Rob and I taught Nursery Class for Primary. One of our kids was Nursery age, so it was our turn to do hard time, hanging out with everyone else’s 18 month to three year old kids. I didn’t mind it until little Johnny came to Nursery. His parents were new in the ward, his mom was Spanish speaking and his Dad was a computer geek. Johnny from day one made my alarm bells go off. He didn’t talk, didn’t make eye contact, didn’t follow verbal directions and preferred to spend the two hour Nursery class alone under the snack table. After a few weeks of trying to win Johnny’s affections, I decided the problem was with him, not me. I didn’t know for sure, but I suspected Johnny was hearing-impaired. All three of my kids were hard-of-hearing and wore hearing aids so when I mentioned my suspicions to Rob, he immediately reminded me that not every child was deaf. Johnny was fine and I needed to stay out of whatever his problems were.
Of course, I ignored Rob’s advice. When faced with any dilemma, Rob’s response is always, “No, it’s fine. Don’t worry about.” I call it Rob’s Land of Denial. I went to the Primary President with my concerns about little Johnny. She was horrified when I suggested she should talk to the mom about the possibility of Johnny not hearing well. She was worried that the family was new in the ward and the mom was new to the US. She didn’t want to offend the parents. I thought she was wrong to not say anything, but agreed to leave it alone. That lasted about three days. I couldn’t sleep at night, thinking about how cute Johnny was and if he really couldn’t hear well, I needed to let the parents know so they could get help. I just couldn’t bear the thought of not doing anything. I finally said a prayer asking Heavenly Father to help the parents take my words in the spirit of helping, not that I was saying their kid was broken or weird. I called the mother and arranged to visit with her that afternoon. I showed up at Johnny’s house and awkwardly explained my concern for him. The mother, in broken English, cried and talked at the same time. A dam of worry broke inside her as she poured out how she had been feeling for months that something wasn’t right but didn’t know what to do about it. We bonded that day as I promised to help walk her through a full evaluation for Johnny.
A few weeks later I went with Johnny and his parents to Children’s Hospital as they were given the diagnosis of not hearing loss, but Autism. It was heartbreaking but also encouraging because Johnny’s parents took the news and immediately made a plan to help their son. Johnny is now a grown up and is really doing well. I am so glad I had the courage to say something, even when everyone else said to stay out it.
Years later I butted in with another Nursery-aged kid who had quirks and that mom and dad hated me for it. But they took their kid to a specialist and last I knew the boy was in some sort of speech therapy. I don’t know the details because those parents responded to my concern by immediately pulling their son out of my Nursery class. I was fine with the parents not liking me as long as they had someone evaluate their kid.
When I was in Young Women’s I told a mom I was worried her daughter was getting too close to her boyfriend. The mom defensively replied that her daughter knew the standards and was fine. The girl was pregnant within a year and dropped out of high school.
When I taught Sunday School, I told a mom and dad separately that I was worried about their 8th grade son because of some of the comments he made in class. I was thinking he might have anxiety or something. (It was totally anxiety. So obvious, but I softened the message by throwing in the “or something” part. I am sensitive to parent’s feelings.) Both the mother and the father nicely told me to butt out, their son was fine. They read scriptures every night as a family and the prophets have said children would be protected from evil when the parents teach them the gospel. Within 6 months their son was arrested for drug use, dropped out of school, went to rehab and they have spent years and thousands of dollars trying to help him.
The worst thing ever was when I was friends with my Bishop’s family. I found out one of the Bishop’s kids was really struggling and he didn’t know. After discussing it with Rob and him reminding me the Land of Denial is not a bad place to be, I met the Bishop at his office at work and talked to him about his child. He did not appreciate the information at all. You shouldn’t be surprised to know that was the end of my close friendship with the family and the beginning of a really rocky three years for the Bishop’s family. Their kid is now fine and the Bishop’s marriage, which was seriously on the rocks, is now stable again. I am happy for them and don’t regret trying to help. I am sad we aren’t friends anymore but I understand.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found themselves in similar situations. I can’t be that big of a freak, right? What did you do? Did you buy a one-way ticket to hang out in the Land of Denial or did you stick your nose in someone else’s business? Have you ever wished someone told you their concerns about your family members?