Friday, April 21, 2017

Week 71 - Breaking Boards, Breaking Arms, and a Dreamworks' Sponsorship (from March 27)

Hats off to you dear friends!

How is everything going? What have the last three weeks been like for all of you? How about that warmer weather? 

For those who remember the exceptional Pinewood Derby career of Elder Hacker, I'm happy to announce that I've been fully and absolutely eclipsed by my younger brother Risto! For those of you that know him be sure to congratulate him on how fast the block of wood he carved rolled down a track! That would mean a lot to him.

I'm sincerely sorry that it has been a while since I last wrote. There were some busy weeks in there as those who make it past paragraph three will see. Thanks anyone who takes time to read! Thanks for the continued support. Thanks fo' being yourself! 

Trivia question! 
Which of the following three things were banned in the Hacker houshould during my youth?
A) meowing
B) talking in third-person
C) crystal light water bottle flavor packets that are any shades of red

It was actually all three! Just like the three weeks of content in this email! Hooray! 

Let it be abundantly clear that I was only responsible for the banning of one of these three things. Gravity is primarily responsible. Followed by the whiteness of our carpet. And lastly me. I was technically at fault for the red Crystal Light stained carpet. I remember not really liking any of these rules at the time. I didn't realize they were actually there for my well being. They protected against things! The carpet was safer. Chelsea and I were able to grow up speaking in 1st person like the rest of the world. The sanity of my parents was shielded against the quantity of cat noises my sister was a fond of making at the time. And people give us all kinds of rules of restrictions nowadays. Hospitals have rules about washing your hands, teachers make up occasionally arbitrary rules for their classroom, God gives people commandments, etc... And in a world where challenging rules is almost romanticized... or at least that's what I picked up from my high school career and college I think we get in the habit of not trusting counsel from other people. I definitely didn't trust my father when he said grumpily, "No more Crystal Light flavor packets." and I didn't trust either when people told me that God said, "Yo don't do drugs or smoke or drink." It depends on the source but people like my Dad, or God, or the FDA (We hope at least) give pretty good advice usually. And we spent a lot of time talking about this idea with people three weeks ago: That there are advice and tips from people all around us, some more trustworthy than others, but rules aren't just designed to stop us from doing things. It's such a simple concept but I really did and sometime do think about it like that. I've seen an enormous difference in my life as I have started listening to the rules and advice from the best sources. As I find and discover people who truly have an interest in my life trusting them and listening to them has become such an incredible blessing. Listen to each others ideas! Listen to any ideas God throws your way! 

Three weeks ago we had a missionary pow-wow  and I directed a little training thing. We punched through boards! I had a whale of a time explaining to the hardware guy that I was looking for wood of low-ish quality that would break easily. By the end I think the guy thought we wanted to punch boards as part of our weekly religious service of some sort; If only church were that intense.

Two weeks ago we met a charming German chap named Oliver! He was strolling around the port and had the widest and most relaxed grin the whole time we were talking to him. He is an exchange student and was awfully confused why there were two Americans wearing suits out here in France. He just had an infectious grin the whole time. We explained what we were doing in France and he was fascinated. He told us he had to go but that he would love to meet up next week and figure out the "meaning of life" with us... that really wasn't at all what we talked about but we told him would be happy to try our best! This first goodbye with Oliver was very different than the second goodbye with Oliver. Oliver told us that he just wanted to be satisfied with his life and that up until now, he hadn't felt it. Despite being happy and dancing through life, he just wasn't quite satisfied. So I told Oliver the things that satisfied me in life. I mentioned the day of my sister's wedding. I mentioned the first time I held my niece in my arms. I mentioned my convictions about why I was here on earth and just how beautiful life could be. I mentioned all this things. And I was able to look Oliver in the eyes and tell him I knew the same satisfaction was available to him too. Oliver thanked us for all the things we had said and for answering his questions... and ran off into the sunset. Which was a bittersweet ending to this short lived but important relationship :)

JL was gone to England for two weeks to pick up his family and he came back with his wife and adorable twin daughters! They are both 6. His daughters that is. I don't know how old his wife if because it's rude to ask gentleladies that type of question. The house is nearly livable! The bathroom has running water! The washing machine and dryer are functional! They found someone to cut their grass: JL doesn't have a cellphone yet so we showed up unannounced last week and ran into a random Frenchman we didn't recognize trying to talk to JL. With our cautious bilingualism we helped the two communicate. This guy was looking for some property where he could park his camper when he wasn't using it and in exchange he would maintenance the property... including lawn mowing. Crazy right? He shows up out of the blue? We show up out of the blue at the right time? JL has an empty sheltered pavilion which could store a caravan? Sometimes things just work out. Thank you Providence :) 
We also ate with the family: a pre-made lasagna out of a tin, all 6 of us, while sharing the 1.5 chairs we have finished and it was a wonderful happy meal.

-Breaking News!-
We spent a number of days this week in Rennes! Monday night we received a phone call telling us one of the missionaries there had fallen out of a window and was in the hospital. So In haste we quickly packed the car and drove the hour and a half (plus parking in a terribly confusing hospital parking full of strange and foreign vocabulary). Minutes of waiting in the urgent care waiting room slowly bleed into an hour or so... punctuated by a small vending machine break and a homeless man who's wandered into the hospital(??) who asks us, our neighbors, and even the nice secretary lady for cigarettes before meandering away... and then we meet up with the companion of our fallen missionary. It turns out our dear friend had broken both of his wrists and would need some screws put in. He was definitely staying the night and multiple days to follow at the hospital. And that's how we ended up spending that same amount of time in Rennes as a triumvirate battling the legendary efficiency of socialized medicine until our bed-ridden friend was appropriately healed. 

The most memorable moment of the whole adventure-- and the whole thing was pretty crazy and memorable-- may have been when our friend was talking on the phone with the mission nurse about the possibility that he may have to go home. We were all gathered in his sterile little room. The phone rings. Since he didn't exactly have functioning arms the phone had to be on speaker phone. This private intimate phone call was now a public affair for the six of us the room there. And being there just didn't feel right. Dialogue ensues. The mission nurse said something along the lines of "You recognize this means you might have to go home?" 

-Dramatic Pause-

Those of you who remember the animated film Spirit, Stallion of the Plains about a horse please raise your hand. Those of contrary opinion by the same sign. Just one year after the smashing hit Shrek the same beloved studio brought life to a much more forgotten movie about a wild horse running around that gets captured by evil cowboys and they try and break it-- in the traditional horse sense and they try to break his his will... his spirit if you will! Johnny Cash's melodic tunes inspire the horse to be unbreakable, to never give up, to always have some last bit of hope and eventually he escapes the cowboys and other events happen that I don't much remember. All this extensive illusion to say it's a movie about spirit. About the drive and will and desires deep inside and how powerful that is. There is also a mildly dope mars rover named Spirit! It's really inner spirit and conviction that fights off evil cowboys, that pushes the boundaries of space in an engineering marvel, that shakingly pushes 'speaker phone' with a cast-bound arm to talk about where you're going.  

-Conclude Soliloquy- 

Laying in his bed I watched this mars rover/animated horse/dear friend nod his head and say roughly "I have though about that and recognize it's a possibility". I don't know if I have ever heard just destitute sadness in a voice before. Here before me was someone who couldn't care less about his arms or physical pain because he was so much focused on the potential dashing of his dreams. All he wanted to do was to be able to stay and keep helping people in the best way he knew how. It was much harder to watch than mean cowboys. It was more frustrating than all the trial and error that went into designing a robot to drive on mars. It was much much sadder because I'm a big fan of this guy. Though. And thankfully there is always a "though": despite the broken voice, shattering dreams, and just how broken my friend seemed, in his moist eyes there really was a flame of determination and spirit. I knew he would cling to any hope or possibility he could get his hands on. This was someone broken physically, probably emotionally, but not at all spiritually! And that was one of the most powerful moments of the week. I learned once more that whatever crippling or overwhelming circumstances surround us, that spirit isn't something that goes away unless you let it. That's how incredibly cool Martian rovers, horses, and mostly humanity is! That's how powerful and exciting and wonderful you are! You've got a little flame inside that is obviously and definitely effected by outside conditions, but will never get snuffed out. What a sweet promise :) So don't you go snuffing anyone's spirits out, be that your own or that of someone else. 

That is way too much text. Something to read when you're on a train or something. For those of you who skipped down here I totally understand!  That's basically 3 weeks of partial emails stitched together! I hope that made sense to someone reading out there? 

I wish you a great week and really do love each of you! 

-with great love and the consistency of my seminary attendance
Elder Alex Hacker

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