On Saturday Ed helped a family in our ward move - a middle-aged couple moving from an apartment they'd been in for 10 years to another apartment within the ward boundaries. Our family already had plans for the day, but we made some modifications to accommodate this act of service. Yes, today we are going to discuss "The Elders Quorum Move."
The plan was:
8:00-10 am Ed would help with the move, then come home and we would go to the ward primary activity at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden as a family.
1:00-3 pm We would come home and put the girls down for naps; he would return to help the move finish (supposedly the truck had to be returned by 3.)
3:30 pm He would come home to watch the girls while I went grocery shopping and stopped by our storage unit to pick up the air conditioner and some other things. (Saturday is the only day I can do the grocery shopping without the kids, so by Friday night we were out of EVERYTHING.)
5:00ish pm We would have dinner as a family and then...
6:30ish pm Head over to the evening session of stake conference, which for the first time was offering childcare, so I was really looking forward to the meeting.
What happened was:
8:00 am Ed left to help with the move.
10:00 am He called to tell me the family had a ton of stuff, the truck would have to make two trips, some stuff still wasn't packed, and much of the work force was taking off soon. The work force consisted of the already-spread-thin few guys from the Elders' Quorum who had been nice enough to volunteer.
12:00 pm Ed called to tell me the first truckload was at the new place being unloaded; he had stayed behind with a few guys to try to help get the rest of the packing done.
3:00 pm He called to tell me he was in our car, following the second truckload over to the new place. Barely containing my frustration, I asked if he'd eaten anything and he said no (= they hadn't provided food!) He was going to swing by Wendy's on his way and buy himself lunch. Only he and two other guys were left helping.
5:00-7 pm Nearing a boiling point, I called him several times between to check on his status, but later learned he had left the phone in the car. I even tracked down the cell phone # of the woman being moved, but she didn't answer. I found out later that the man being moved had thrown out his back and/or become too tired to keep helping. He had set up the TV at the new place and was hanging out on the couch watching TV while his wife and the three volunteers kept moving his stuff up two flights of stairs so he wouldn't be charged too much in late fees for the truck.
7:00 pm I reached Ed on his cell phone. He was on the way home, after 11 hours of thankless manual labor and an entire precious Saturday missed with his family. He was going to drop off the other two guys and be home soon.
8:00 pm I called him again to find out what was taking so long and of course he had spent the last half hour looking for a parking space, as happens in the evening around our place. He finally found a spot and...
8:30 pm Came home. We had a late family dinner and he helped put Hazel to bed. Ginger was already asleep. He took a shower and crashed, tired and sore.
9:30 pm I walked to the grocery store with a backpack (no point in driving - wouldn't find parking upon return) and bought the essentials we would need for the next few days, as much as I could carry.
I started the day feeling charitable and magnanimous, compromising our family's plans in the service of others. But sometime in the afternoon that feeling started to shift towards resentment. As the day wore on, the negative feelings escalated until I was incredibly angry at all the things our family had given up that day - the outing to the gardens, the errands we only have one day to do, family time together, and stake conference. I had to call my brother twice to vent.
Everyone knows how The Elders Quorum Move goes. People aren't packed, aren't organized, haven't gotten a big enough truck or enough help, underestimate how long it will take, etc. I myself have been moved by a ward group more than once and I really appreciate that help (at least I fed them pizza!) Ed has moved way more people than times he will ever move, that's for sure. I don't know how or when TEQM became tradition but it seems to have evolved into something some Church members feel entitled to, like a service the Church promises to provide. In large wards with lots of manpower (including youth) and few moves it's no problem, and can even be a unifying ward effort. But our ward is small, human resources are extremely limited, there are lots of moves in, out and within, and there are a lot of people with a lot of needs. A few people end up doing a lot of work, over and over. As I was juggling two kiddos Saturday afternoon, like I do five other days of the week, with an eye single to the relief of having Ed around on the weekend, I started to consider if we can put some kind of limit on EQM's, like the ward will provide 2 hours of moving service, but then you're on your own or something like that. I told this to Ed and of course he questioned whether it still counts as Christlike service if you put stipulations like that. Dave made a good point, that people outside of the Church move all the time without free labor, even on a limited budget. If they can do it, why can't we?
I know many, many of you reading have had personal experiences with TEQM. I'd like to hear from you - what's your view on the phenomenon? Am I justified in my feelings or do I need an attitude adjustment? How can the service continue without it being taken advantage of, or can it? Since it's not an official Church program, can a ward or EQ put limitations on the service, or even at times refuse to do it? How do you deal with TEQM when you're asked to participate? I'd like Dave to tell his take, if he's willing. And the rest of you, especially those I know are reading but don't usually comment, chime in (Kristina...). TEQM affects whole families, not just Elders - does it affect you for good or bad?