My friend and colleague recently posted a link to MyPlan.lds.org, where returning missionaries will put together and follow through on plans that will make their transition from full-time missionary to returned-missionary a little easier and more effective. Interestingly, their first “learning experience” relating to returning home successfully will take place before they enter the MTC. Another learning experience will take place when they’ve been out in the missionary field for about half of their service time. Then, various learning experiences will occur each week of their last six weeks in the field. These plans will be shared with their mission president and home-stake president so that they have built-in support for working on goals and someone to visit with about their efforts. Of course, their parents are encouraged to play a significant role in their transition home.
That’s where we often see the struggle: the transition home. And in fact, that is where we see a lot of problems, generally: transitions between one life event/situation to another. Here are a few examples:
- From married to divorced, or separated, or widowed/widowerhood
- From single to married
- From a couple to parents will a child or children
- From parenthood to empty nest-hood
- From one school to another (elementary to middle school, etc.)
- From one department at a job to another
- From one neighborhood to another
- From prison or jail to home life
- From one level on income to another
- From one group of friends to another
Regardless of the life change, people feel a little off-balance and little less-assured when they’re moving from one part of life to another, regardless of how seemingly small the transition is.
And that is where “we” come in. By “we”, I mean everyone who is around and can offer assistance, support, guidance, help, etc. We can help make sure a person’s transitional moment doesn’t go so negatively that they make choices that will ruin future chances of happiness and success, spiritually or otherwise. We can make a transition a positive experience that opens up new opportunities. For instance:
- When a person or family walks into church for the first time, greet them. Ask about them. Be friendly and find a way to offer support in a non-awkward way.
- When children are preparing for a new year in school, talk to them about what they’re nervous about.
- When a person is newly-singled (for any reason) their friends need to be supportive and look for ways to help them in this transitional period.
- When a person is newly hired in the office, it is kind and helpful if their new colleagues go out of their way to be friendly, offer info on the “lay of the land” and office culture, etc. It is nice to have someone to go to lunch with.
The pattern set by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is to help a returning missionary have a successful transition from the mission field to home life, but that pattern should be a lesson to all of us in the need to assist everyone in what could be the toughest moments in life. We can keep an eye out for those in transitions, both small and overwhelming, and be part of the supportive solutions others need.