I waited in line for lunch behind six LDS missionaries at Chipotle today. Watching them was the highlight of my day. It’s rare to see six missionaries together: they usually come in twos, or sometimes threes.
Once in a while, you’ll see two pairs together, but I’ve never seen six in a pack in the wild. It was a little like beholding a box of happy, nipping puppies, all wrestling and playing and excited about steak burritos.
As I watched the elders order and make jokes and laugh together, I thought of my own teenage boys, who are just four years from leaving on missions of their own.
I thought of them at eighteen or nineteen, young adults out in the world somewhere, interacting with the greater populace without me nearby, and being silly and companionable with other young men. I couldn’t stop grinning, thinking about how like my boys these young men were, despite their minor age gap. At first, I wondered how the employees at the restaurant would respond to their boyish exuberance, but I noticed that their joy seemed to splash everywhere, settling on everyone in the place. Everyone in the restaurant was beaming.
But as I waited for my turn to order, I happened to glance over at the table where one of the elders had sat down. I expected to find him wolfing down his food, or chatting animatedly with a companion. Instead, he sat quietly, head slightly bowed, eyes closed, in a moment of silent prayer. I’m not sure why I was surprised, but I found myself arrested by this sincere expression of faith from a young man who had been so boisterous just a moment before. As I quietly watched from across the room, another elder joined him at the table and, in the same unassuming way, began a small prayer of his own. I watched as, one by one, each of the elders joined the table, each starting with prayer as some of the first of the group quietly finished their prayers and began to eat. When the last opened his eyes, a lively, boisterous conversation picked up exactly where it had ended.
I admit, I teared up, a bit, watching this quiet, sacred moment. These boys, who are in most ways no different than any 18-21 year old boy you and I know, are in just a few ways trying so hard to be distinctly different. They’re not doing it for the attention, and their devout humility was something beautiful to behold. I found myself wishing my boys were there with me to see their example of unabashed faithfulness. Instead, I said a little prayer of my own, as I walked out, that my children will be just like those elders: filled with faith, with joy, and the desire to share them both wherever they go.