Thursday, April 11, 2013

What I Learned From Being A Tour Guide

"And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." Doctrine & Covenants 64:33

Let me preface this by saying that I became a tour guide by accident, a divine accident. I arrived in Hawaii, dazed and more than a little ingenuous. My very first day on this island, the only person who was even remotely familiar to me walked me up to a small window and I filled out some paperwork. The next day I was interviewed, and soon thereafter I was given a uniform and I became a tour guide.

"Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak" Alma 26:12

The first thing I learned is that I don't know anything, I can't do anything. As a tour guide you are constantly pushing yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. The first thing you learn is how much there is to learn, and the second thing you learn is how much you simply can't do it. I was awakened to a sense of my nothingness, and my worthless and fallen state (1).

"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands." 2 Nephi 5:17

And then I learned to work. It was funny because you would look around and see all these people around you enjoying themselves, and you would wonder why they dared call this a "job". But I was taught what I needed to do. I studied, observed, and gathered up knowledge, as much as I could.

"For behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free." Helaman 14:31

After a lot of meekness, learning, prayers and even many tears, I was free! I had the privilege and blessing of taking my own tour group, without the help of a more experienced guide.  I remember they were surprised at how much I opened up once I was on my own.

"Therefore, all things must be done in order." Mosiah 4:27

There are so many different aspects of being a tour guide. I remember the main thing I stressed about at first was the puzzle of mentally putting together an orderly and efficient schedule each day. It needed to be different every day and it needed to make sense. And so I learned to put things in order. I learned to organize and set goals.

"But Ammon said unto him: Nay, but I will be thy servant." Alma 17:25

Along the way I realized that part of the organizing process was that my schedule needed to cater to the needs of my guests. But in order to meet their needs (and wants), I had to learn them. And so I had to learn to foster relationships, to make everyone my friend. I made them my friend not because I wanted friendship from them, but so that I could learn to better serve them.

"And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things" 3 Nephi 17:17

This genuine interest nurtured sincere relationships with people who started out as strangers, but by the end of the day became my family. I found that I had to learn how to express myself with sincerity and honesty at the end of the tours in order to express the gratitude that always swelled in my heart. I learned that it takes more than empty words to do that.

"And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them." 1 Nephi 2:12

And because of that I learned to be grateful. Being a tour guide is hard, but sometimes hard things are required of us (2). I learned to notice all the little things throughout the day that make it worth it to labor. To spend my days in service yielded immeasurable fruits to be grateful for. There were sometimes people around me that were ungrateful, sometimes that person was me. But it was so easy to see what a waste of time it was to murmur, when gratitude produced such enriching rewards.

"And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst." John 8:9

Of course it wasn't all smooth sailing. Sometimes tours just wouldn't click, and I would always blame myself. I heard all the stories about "bad guests". It is so easy to blame a bad experience on someone else, but I don't remember ever having a "bad guest". Sometimes I had guests that challenged me, but that was my job, to rise to the challenge. When a guest was miserable for whatever reason, it became my tour guide and Christian obligation to do everything I could to make them un-miserable. When a tour fell short of expectations, when I failed to meet assigned duties, I learned to take accountability for that. It was not my job to make excuses, it was my job to promise to do better next time.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings." Doctrine & Covenants 124:49

I knew I couldn't do it all the time. I couldn't make every person happy every time. I couldn't be what everyone expects a tour guide to be. After a couple of mediocre tours, I lost my naive confidence, the initial spark of a new challenge that kept me going for awhile faded. The next thing I learned is that "When I wanted to reach someone for their sake, for what I knew I could give them, I had the confidence of Joshua and Jeremiah combined. I knew I could reach them somehow, some way, and I had that terrific self-assurance because it was for someone else's benefit. Confidence is a gift from God to enable us to serve other" (3).

"To be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in." Mosiah 18:8-9

With that, there is a heavy load to shoulder. The burden of responsibility. I learned that I am only expected to carry that burden to a certain point. That point is the agency of the individual. Sometimes people don't want help. And sometimes people are not accountable for their actions. I had an experience as a tour guide where I was seriously disrespected and wronged. The incident was reported to upper management and was dealt with confidentially and respectfully, however, the man who wronged me accused me of slander. He was not punished.

"That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment." Doctrine & Covenants 101:78

I learned that forgiveness is not about revenge. Forgiveness is not about apologies. Forgiveness is about trusting in God to make things right in the eternal scheme of things. Forgiveness is not about right now, it is about eternity. And forgiveness is about straight up charity.

"Charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Moroni 7:46

I learned about charity as a tour guide not because of my own charity, but because of the charity of the people around me. My co-workers at the PCC and the tourists that came through daily and blessed my life with their prayers and concern. There were days when I was experiencing heartbreak, loneliness, sorrow, lack of confidence and hope. But the people I worked with smiled day after day as we all tirelessly did our best to perform our duties wholeheartedly. We all worked together, loved and supported each other, and that is what charity is.

"All thing have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things." 2 Nephi 2:24

I learned that Heavenly Father knows our  needs. Even better than a tour guide knows his or her tourists, our Heavenly Father knows us. And He showed me over and over that the life of His servant is in his hand (4). 

"For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God." Moroni 7:16

One day I had stayed late with one of the families from my tour group to make sure they got to see all that they wanted to. At the end of the show, I walked up to them as crowds of people swarmed past us on their way out. This Scottish man pulled me under his arm, his wife and daughter under his other arm, and began to pray. We huddled together as he said a prayer for me, right then and there while people pressed past us, for me and for my family. I have had countless experiences as a tour guide with people from all over the world with different beliefs and traditions who have shared their faith with me. God is in all of us. His light is in all of us.

"You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves. Therefore, dearly beloved, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God and for his arm to be revealed." Doctrine & Covenants 122:16-17

And so, it is apparent that I have so much more to learn. And as I take timid steps toward the next part of my journey, I am learning to be thankful for what lies behind me. It is always my intention to leave things, places, people better off than when I met them. I have not been a perfect tour guide, I have not even been a great tour guide. But I have learned. And I am incredibly humbled and grateful for that. 

1) Mosiah 4:5
2) 1 Nephi 16:1-2
3) Patricia T. Holland quoting her son, Matt Holland "The comfort wherewith we are comforted"
4) 3 Nephi 21:10