How are you? How was you week? Mine was busy but a lot of fun. Without further ado!
I've decided that train travel is really something very cool! It's not quite as exciting as those public toy train tables in Toys R Us and it's kindred stores made a younger Elder Hacker believe, but it's not bad. It's like hundreds of people sitting in the back of a really long car. Except they are all strangers and a huge portion of them try to sleep or quietly listen to music. Like surly teenagers. And there are always a few people watching movies. The college students frantically doing homework. And the old people who didn't want to drive just patiently sitting. And it's great until everyone shares one toilet.
We spent a lot of time on trains this week. We had a two hour trip to Saint Brieuc on Tuesday, followed by a one hour trip from Saint Brieuc to Rennes the following morning, with another hour back to Vannes. Then a three hour and fifteen minute trip to Paris Wednesday night. And that same return trip the following day! So if my rusty calculus skills serve me well, that makes some 216pi hours. There aren't a lot of things to do on a train so I had some time to reflect and think and even relax! All of which are very important things that you all need to do. Relax sometime this week :)
Why did we go to Paris this week you may ask? To go pick up a card that says I can stay in France up until January 2018! And like the first trip a while back it was an enormous blessing to be able to catch up with some of my dear missionary friends. I was able to see several of the sister missionaries who were in the training center with me, my very first companion here in France, and a few other people I've run into here and there along the way. After line waiting and subway riding we had an hour or so to be essentially a normal tourist for once. So we found a little whole in the wall crêperie not too far from Notre Dame, and I was able to finally live and understand that a Parisian dream everyone has in mind. Paris isn't actually just a crowded mega city that's kind of dirty. It really could be magical and clean and fun like everyone imagines. It's what you decide to look at. And where you decide to go that makes the difference! And I think that's true for just about any place. And in that little idyllic little cafe made of stone with some very dear friends of mine, everything was wonderful.
We know a lovely man named who just moved here to France. He doesn't have much of a house yet. He bought some property out in the French countryside but hasn't fixed it up to the point where one would call it habitable. So we spent one of our days this week helping him out. And at first he was kind of hesitant, in the humility-filled kind of way, to accept our help. Though in the end he caved and we spent the whole day toiling away tearing down wallpaper and clearing mud covered tarmac. He also asked us if we were staying for tea... I eventually discovered that he was inviting us to eat diner with him. So we sought shelter from the rain in his little camper that he's living out of, heated up some past sauce with chicken in it, and ate that with some bread. And then we took turns talking about services we'd been able to render to others during our lives. There is a special kind of happiness and satisfaction that comes from selflessly giving your time and energy for someone else. And that satisfaction isn't why you do the service... it isn't the reward... it's the side effect. It's the outcome. Like so many things in life the best results aren't even those anticipated! He told us about the life he'd spent helping others and never asking for anything in return and he shared with us his favorite scripture, one I would share with you now: "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." And I think that's a lesson I knew, but not one that I was really living. The world is mean enough that it really is mandated and required of us to carry and support one another. I'm very grateful I went to sleep tired on Friday night.
I was also struck by just how grateful this man was. He told us that he couldn't thank us enough. With such a sincerity that I had never heard before. And it was gratitude that turned the humble sharing of bread and pasta sauce into enough. It was gratitude that makes helping others such a delight. It's gratitude that helps us forget any number of bad or bothersome things. I've talked to a lot of people who are going through really hard situations during my mission... and those who come out okay and those who are somehow still happy even when I'm sure I wouldn't be in their place... they are also those who are most grateful. So be grateful this week! Even if you don't have a lot to be grateful for right now, latch on and hold on and cherish those you do. That's enough of a handle or foothold until things get better :)
Have a great week everyone! I really like you guys!
Elder Alex Hacker