We’re now being punished not for crimes, but for merely words and ideas

When I first drafted those words above, probably back in 2010 for what eventually became book 5, I really didn’t think we’d get to this position in our own world. At least not for another 30 or 40 years, and only once I was senile enough to not notice.

But ten short years later I’m reading daily about how people, groups, and movements are “canceled” because of their opinions.

Political commenters are calling for those on the sides “opposite” of them to be punished after this election.

Leaders are threateningly suggesting that those who vote against them will regret their decisions in the future.

Friends and family are attacking each other on public forums, calling each other “sheeple,” or “oppressors” and, in once case, reported a family member to the police on false charges in vengeance for a slight on social media.

We haven’t reached the level of laws against ideas yet, but considering how rapidly we’ve run into this state of chaotic accusations and offenses, I can’t imagine it’s too far off. I remember my parents telling me stories about having to be careful about what their families said in Nazi Germany, because they were never sure who was listening in and who would turn them in.

I never imagined we’d forget so much of that horrific history that we choose to repeat it, but here we are.

We’ve long ceased being a republic; we’re well on our way to a dictatorial leadership of some kind. And such leadership can exist safely only when its enemies have been silenced.

I’m slowly learning to stay out of these fights. No one’s opinions will change because we tell them they’re wrong, just as we won’t suddenly agree with those who accuse us of ignorance.

The only thing we can do right now is rise above the mudslinging, the anger, the fury. I keep thinking of Legolas in the first “Lord of the Rings” movie, walking on top of the snow drifts that his companions struggle to slog through. We have to stay above it, or it will drown us.

Go through the storms, but don’t be slowed down by them. (Also helps if you’re as light as an elf, but hey, we can’t all be nearly perfect.)

Because more and more, I’m feeling that a different future awaits those of us who try to remain kind, calm, and compassionate. More and more I’m not only hoping and praying, but also looking forward to a place that lets us live in peacefully even with those we may disagree with, without any threat or retribution.

It’s coming. We need to make sure our hearts are ready to receive it. If we will be one, we will be His, and safely with Him.

Choices, always choices here. This isn’t the world, you know. We’ll never tell you what to do, or what to think, or what to believe. We offer what we have and show you what we feel is true, but then we let you make your choice. Whatever you choose, whatever you choose.

~Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti, Book 5; Forest at the Edge

What, really, is the point of power?

A wonderful university where I worked 15 years ago tried to instill the idea of Leader-Servant, that leaders serve those they lead, and no one makes a truly good leader who hasn’t been first a humble servant.

But we have it all backwards. There’s a battle in America now for who gets to be in charge and have the most servants (meaning, us). But America’s leaders are supposed to serve us; that detail has been ignored for some time now. (An interesting side note–historically, no republic has even lasted more than 200 years without a revolution; we’re now at 244 years. We’re overdue.)

Ppoint of power

(I personally hate having power or being in charge; it’s too much responsibility and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. Being #2 is far better–I’m a good helper, not a good leader. Ask anyone who’s had me in charge of something.)

Leader-servants and presidential candidates

When someone requires service, it’s fascinating to see who steps up to provide it. Quite often, it’s not who you’d expect.

Some years ago my husband and I were in charge of setting up and serving Christmas dinner for our ward (church group, congregation). We anticipated a good turnout, about 150 people, both members and neighbors, because no one turns down a free dinner.

A few people had been assigned to help us, but on the evening of the dinner they were unable to come. So my husband and I, and our capable children, scrambled to set up the buffet as best we could.

Soon, some members of our ward noticed we were shorthanded, and volunteered to help. To this day I’m still impressed by those who chose to serve, rather than be served.

The first was our bishop (pastor, rector, preacher) and his wife who were supposed to be relaxing that night, instead of helping as they always did. In addition to being our bishop, this busy gentleman was also a college math instructor and basketball coach. He and his wife cheerfully positioned themselves in the kitchen where no one would see them laboring, to hand our children platters of turkey,  ham, and potatoes for the buffet, and to prepare backups.

The next couple who stepped were in their sixties, and busier than anyone I knew, so most deserving of a peaceful evening. He was the president of the liberal arts university where we worked, and his wife was behind the scenes of everything. Without a word they set to filling and putting out pitchers of water on the tables, and setting out salt and pepper shakers.

The third couple who joined us immediately rearranged the buffet tables, so that two groups could go down either side, servicing four lines most efficiently. Then again, the husband knew all about efficiency. He had recently retired as the CFO of a well-known, high-priced clothing company whose name I won’t drop here because it’d drop your jaw, and had come to our little university as a volunteer to help with finances.

In terms of importance, these three couples were probably the most important in our small community in Virginia. In terms of education, financial standing, prestige, and anything else the world ranks, no one compared.

In terms of service, no one could compare, either. Now that I think about it, none of them asked if they could help, or how. They just saw a need and filled it. I don’t know if any of them sat down to eat, but instead assisted us all evening in keeping the buffet table full.

My husband and I were both astonished by who came to our family’s aid that night. Even though it’s been many years, I’m still awed by their examples.

Did I mention that the wives and the bishop all stayed afterward to do dishes? And that the university president vacuumed up, while the retired CFO put away tables and chairs with our kids? And that none of those six left until they were sure all the work was done?

I doubt any of these three couples would remember that evening, because it wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime expression of service; it was something they did every single day.

Recently we discussed this incident with our children who were too young to remember that dinner, or were not yet born, because it coincided with our scripture of the week, from Mark 10:43-44:

43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:

 44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

The school where these six people served with us, Southern Virginia University, has as part of its motto to turn students into Leader-Servants. None of us are working there anymore, but that mission statement has stayed with me.

Neal A. Maxwell once wrote, “The leader-servant is perfectly epitomized by Jesus,” and,

No leader can be fully effective without love, and those who try to serve without it will not be properly motivated, and may even feel resentment and a sense of slavery. (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, pg. 194; emphasis added)

It’s an election year. We’re choosing new leadership. When I read about candidates, I’m not looking for evidence of financial success, or business acumen, or charisma, or moxie, or guts.

I’m certainly not looking for someone to voice my anger, to shout or disparage or drag down or accuse.

I’m looking for someone who knows how to serve, who feels genuine love and concern, who desires to help this country, not merely be known as the leader of it.

But so far, I’ve mostly heard young Perrin’s attitude toward leadership. His response is something I was taught years ago in a business leaders course I was forced to endure, but I rephrased it for book 3 in less exalted verbiage:

“No leader is truly great who doesn’t know how to serve,” Hogal told him. “Service first, leadership later. First rule of leadership.”

“No it’s not,” Perrin retorted. “First rule of leadership is to identify the rival and eliminate it through defeat or feigned friendship.”

Hogal sighed. “A true product of the king’s educational system. Learned your lessons well, I see. . . .Trust me; to be a great leader, you need to be a great servant.”

~Book 3, The Mansions of Idumea

leader servant

I still have hope that a great leader-servant to show him or herself this year; for another George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson–a true statesman who’s greatest concern is to help the country, not exploit it or use it for self-promotion. The kind of leaders who won’t lock up at night until they’re sure everyone who’s serving under them are taken care of first.

It’s time to make serving an honorable tradition again.