I've found something else fascinating about Idaho Falls, where we have lived since April 30 of this year: the paper has great obituaries. What I mean is that the people who write obituaries for their loved ones are really on to something.
I don't always read obits, but I'm never disappointed when I do. What good obituaries do is melt down into a single nugget those things in life that were most important to the person who has passed on.
For example, here is one about an 81-year-old gentleman from St. Anthony, Idaho. The obit states: "He spent his entire life managing and working on the family farm in Wilford, Idaho. They started farming with horses, raised cattle, chickens, pigs and sheep. He grew potatoes for 60 years, as well as wheat, barley, hay and peas." I love this. I know precisely what this man did, and how he and his descendants felt about it, because they list the crops, right down to peas. I'll bet he was good at it, too.
Farming and ranching being what they are, he also was a foreman at a potato warehouse and worked for 27 years for the state of Idaho as a potato inspector. His hobbies included woodworking, fishing, gardening and fixing anything that was broken. All any woman wants in a husband is someone who is capable. This man was.
He could fix anything that was broken. I'll bet he was good with his kids. Sometimes people get broken; sometimes children get overwhelmed by life and bullies and events. This man was a nurturer, raising crops and animals, and probably tending to people, as well. As it happens, he was a busy member of the LDS Church. The obit lists some of his church callings, and also states, "[He was] a well loved home teacher."
Home teaching has been a staple of Mormon life for 100 years at least. It used to be called ward teaching, or block teaching. Basically, a man and his companion are given the responsibility of visiting and looking after a set group of families. At the least, it means monthly visits to the home to provide a spiritual message, and ask if they can be of help in any way. More often, it means helping out when people are broken, or life is tough, or the house burns, or flooding destroys dreams, or a woman finds herself alone with kids to raise. Home teaching means pitching in there and remembering that we are indeed our brother's keeper. And he was a "well loved home teacher." That little phrase speaks volumes about his character.
Lest you think this good man was an Idaho hick, the obituary reminds us that he was no such thing. He and his wife traveled through the United States, Europe, China, Japan, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. He saw the world, and then he came home to little St. Anthony, Idaho.
St. Anthony is not a big town. It's the sort of place where people know each other and help out where needed. In the greater scheme of things, it's Nowheresville, USA. St. Anthony was the center of this man's life with his wife and their two children, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, "which are the light of their lives," as the obit states.
Greatness isn't the exclusive property of kings and rulers and inventors and thinkers. It can be found all over this country, and all over the world, in the quiet, courageous lives that most of us lead. I've often joked that you can tell how good a person really was by how many folks attend his/her funeral. I'm betting the St. Anthony Second Ward will be packed on September 27 when folks say goodbye to a friend.
What else matters?