I was reading a post today written by one of my former bishops (you can find his blog here). He and his wife are not very many years older than I am and he is currently serving as a bishop for the second time. He is an amazing man. His wife is an amazing woman. We lived across the courtyard from them in our little apartment in Orem, Utah when my hubby was getting his Masters at BYU. These were the kind of people with whom we felt an immediate connection...it honestly felt like we had known them for...well, like we had known them forever. Every time I hear from them, it is like coming home. I haven't actually seen them since Big Sis was 1 (she's turning 5 in about 10 days) but I still feel very close to them.
We had an unusual experience when we lived in that little apartment in Orem. Our entire ward was made up of families who lived in the apartments. It was one block...one city block. That was the ward. It was an extremely transient ward. Some of us lived there for a few years, some for a few months, some a few weeks and some lived there for several years. The amazing thing about that ward was that it was very, very close knit. I really felt like I knew everyone in the ward all the time. That means if a family only lived there for 2 weeks, I still felt like I knew who they were and that they would probably know me too. It was simply amazing.
Along with having a feeling of knowing everyone, I had amazing spiritual experiences in that ward. Lessons in Relief Society and Gospel Doctrine were amazing. No...there weren't extravagant displays, pictures, flowers, etc., etc...but the lessons were full of the Spirit. I have thought about this for a long time to try to understand why it was like this. I have come to a few conclusions. 1) We were all young (relatively) and inexperienced and had to rely on the handbook, the manuals, and the Spirit for direction. Most of those who were leaders in the ward were experiencing those callings for the first time. We simply had no other option...we didn't know where to look for help besides the handbook, the manuals and the Spirit. 2) We were all poor. This is to say...we were all (more or less) humble. Many of us were in school, some were not, but everyone was struggling. There's just something about being humble and having spiritual experiences (See Alma 32). 3) I think that for the people who lived there at the time...it just felt like we were all there for each other. What I mean is...we had all been led to live there for that time and the reason was to learn from and help, support, etc. each other. We lived in that little apartment when Big Sis was born. During the warm days of spring and summer...you could find me and Big Sis out in the courtyard with several moms and their children. I learned so much from asking those women questions and they helped me to feel like I was still a valuable and important member of society. I could ask them questions about cooking, cleaning, child rearing, etc. and I always just felt support...never judgement.
I have had the chance to be in the Provo/Orem area a few times since we moved away from that blessed apartment and I always, always ask my husband if we can just drive by our old digs. When we are in our old neighborhood, a wave of happy memories washes over me and I long to go sit on the grass in the courtyard to laugh and cry and enjoy all of my former friends. We really were so blessed...so very blessed.