Let me share with you a story that I tell during my firesides that everyone gasps out of shock to. An experience that happened to me- due to my appearance- that when I say it everyone reacts the way I did when it happened. Although, truth be told, if it wasn't me telling the story to them, it could of very well been any of them that did the same thing as this man did.
This happened 3 years ago; my very first day in Utah after the long, uncomfortable and terrifying trek across the country by myself to a new place where I didn't know a single person. I moved, against my will, because I knew that's what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. I moved regardless of how hard it was and regardless of the fact I had no idea why I needed to be here. And I was scared. Not just because it was new, but because of the warnings I received from so many people. “Al, don't move to Utah. No one will like you. Al, if you move to Utah, you will NOT fit in." That was really hard to hear and I tried my hardest to ignore those remarks.
So here I am, my very first day across the country in my new home, and what am I suppose to do now? I haven't the slightest idea. Heavenly Father didn't tell me that much yet, haha. I ended up at Cafe Rio- we don't have those back home- and you have to know I have a thing for tacos. So, you have to visualize this, you know how the line kind of snakes around, so you are in a big group of people while waiting? Well, I was right in the middle of it. And I was holding a church book in my hands. It was more of a grasp/hug to this book; it was a biography on one of the prophets. And while I was waiting in line I felt very tense. I could feel stares in every direction; it felt like lasers. I stood there stiff trying to ignore it but I couldn't. I could physically feel the stares from everyone. Finally, the guy next to me tapped my on the arm and said, "You know...it's pretty ironic you look the way you do holding that book."
My heart broke. Stomach knotted. Eyes teary.
It took a bit for me to react. So many emotions ran through me, and I had to decide which one I was going to express to him. What I so badly wanted to do was to turn to him, and yell. Yell and cry to him, "Do you know what I just went through?! Do you know how hard this is! Do you know who- and what- I had to give up to be here, and I don't even know why!"
How badly I wanted to walk around everywhere with my scriptures so that the 'lasers' would stop. And they didn't. I so badly wanted people to see me for who I've become. I literally craved more than anything for people to just know that I was trying. That's it. That I was trying. And they couldn't, and it hurt me so badly that it became physically exhausting.
How easy it would have been to yell at him. How easy it would have been to get mad. To get offended. How easy it would have been to not just take it out on him, or the people of the city as a whole. But furthermore, how easy it would have been to be upset and confused towards Heavenly Father for leading me to such a place with so many lack of answers, answers that would have been very comforting during those experiences that so frequently occurred. How hard it was at this time to have just been baptized, still with such a small sliver of knowledge of the gospel and feel that. To not have any boys talk to me because they are looking for temple-worthy girls. Because they are looking for someone I do not exactly portray, that they didn't even talk to me.
Yeah- how easy it would have been to feel and react that way. But I fought it. I decided otherwise.
I turned to this man in Café Rio. I introduced myself. I shook his hand. I smiled so big and simply said, “I just got baptized; this is my first day here!” I said it with happiness. I said it with pride. With confidence.
How different things would have gone if I didn't do that. I had to make a decision. And it’s a decision I have to make every day. One you have to make every day. Several times a day. And what that is is to choose to get mad. Choose to get offended. Bothered. Confused. Or….not. The decision to keep going. The decision to be happy and follow the spirit and counsel given….or not. Choose to have faith. Choose to trust. Or not. What it came down to- and what it always will come down to- is choose God. Or not. And I already chose who I wanted to follow, didn't I? That is what happens when you get baptized.
To keep in mind, always, that everyone is at different spots in life. Everyone needs to learn different things, different ways. And to know, that I could maybe be the one to help them learn to not get mad and prove them right, but to be me and prove otherwise. It’s a question I often thought of following my baptism and my family’s disapproval, and that is, ‘How do you teach someone that doesn't want to listen?’ ‘How do you teach someone that you may never get to speak with or meet?’ And after much thought an prayer, I came up with an answer. An answer that inspired this blog to be started in the first place. An answer that inspire me to make Youtube videos. an answer that triggered my ‘March Madness’ traveling all over speaking for the pasttwo years and that is, by example. Teach by example. What happiness that has brought! How many incredible people I have met because of that decision. How many incredible experiences! How many blessings.
When those times arise where you have to make that same decision I did, think to yourself, ‘is this worth giving up my eternal salvation?’ Is that comment your ward member said to you worth giving up your eternal happiness? Is that look someone just gave you worth giving up the profound, indescribable blessings Heavenly Father has to give to you? Is it worth stopping yourself from returning to live with Him again? Is it worth your exaltation?
To all those that feel that they do not fit in, I tell you with confidence, that you’re wrong. To all those who are afraid to return because of past mistakes, I say, Come! To all those who sit there offended and holding yourselves back, I ask, is it still worth it?
This gospel is for you.