Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Family... Like Olive Garden

Last night was Family Night at Chick-fil-A, so we took the kids to let them play while my wife got her hair done. I was happily holding the baby while he watched the zoo going on through the glass - obviously, other families had a similar idea to ours. Off to my left I kept hearing something I have learned to pick out of almost any crowd: a Utah accent. More accurately it might be called a Utah-Idaho accent or Wasatch front accent, but I associate it primarily with Utah because that is where I first heard it. I can tell when a customer service agent is from Utah. I pegged one of the loan agents in Texas for having grown up in Utah - and he left fifteen or twenty years ago. In a strange way, it makes me think of home, probably because so much of my wife's family lives or has lived out there.

So I kept hearing that accent. I kept cocking my head to see who it was without being overtly rude. I'm just a curious person by nature. I figured out it belonged to the woman at the table beside us, but I didn't think I should just blurt out, "What's someone from Utah doing in south Georgia?" After all, that reminds me far too much of a popular phrase my wife and I both hear far too often, "Ye ain' from 'roun' here, er ya?" (okay, it is rarely said with such distinctive backwater tones, but it still has that ring to it).

Instead, I thought I would let the moment pass without comment. Then she and her family were preparing to leave and she said, "He is such a happy baby." or something along those lines. My son is indeed a very sweet natured child, and I said, "This is about how fussy he gets," he was not even making a sound, "I think that's just the way third children are."

She picked up on what I said and told me she and her husband were both third children. She pointed out her third daughter happened to be sitting there when I said it. I said, "I'm a third, but that doesn't count because I'm the baby. My wife is the baby, too, but she's the youngest of nine." Again the woman noticed what I said and mentioned she was third of eight and her husband was third of nine. I said, "You probably hear a lot of 'Are you Catholic?' then 'Are you farmers?' and finally 'Are you Mormon?'"

She said, "Are you Mormon?" and I said I was, so she said "We are, too!"

As it turned out, they were a couple that our friends had been telling us about for weeks. We had several common connections beyond just being members of the church. It turned into a thirty-plus minute conversation of how we all came to be where we are, how we each met our spouses, and how we'd met our common friends. In the course of that chat, the husband said, "The church is like one big family... like Olive Garden." I got a kick out of that line. How true it is, though. I didn't assume they were Mormon because they were from Utah. I didn't even presume to say anything to them just because they sounded different from the locals. Still, just because of a common bond we share, simple chit-chat about children turned into something much more. I have had more wonderful conversations with people in even more random locations because of a shared faith. Just such a conversation led me to find the school where I am meant to finish my education. I feel blessed to be a part of something like the LDS Church.

-- Robert

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