There are some moments you never forget, no matter how old you get. For me, one of those moments was when I was the "new kid" in the middle of first grade. I would only have to do this once as we didn't move much growing up and I would be in the same school system all throughout adolescence and teenage years until I graduated from high school. Yet I still remember vividly the first day of first grade in the new school.
Mrs. Mollenkoff's classroom had a growing chain of ice cream hanging on the wall (fake of course) which represented the different books each student read and reported. If our ice cream chain grew big enough, we would have an ice cream party to celebrate our class success. That was way cool and not something we had in the old school. In the corner, away from the desks we sat on, were different wood shapes which we would take turns figuring out how to put into the cut out of the same shapes. And then in another corner, there was a carpet where we would sit as Mrs. Mollenkoff read books aloud to us.
Things were slower in this new public school but still fun. The private school I had just left was already teaching us cursive and multiplication but here, we were just practicing our names in normal print, working on addition, and figuring out shapes so I was excited to be ahead of the pack without really being better, just luckier that I had already learned this stuff. My reading was a bit stronger than some of the other kids but my grammar was still plain awful. I liked to say, "that's funner" and didn't really get English tenses of past and present as our home spoke primarily Chinese and the only English I got were from the bit of cartoons I was allowed to watch only beginning Friday night through Sunday night. I could get use to this place... if only I were able to make some friends.
Once I was introduced as the "new kid," the whole class knew me by name and a bit of my background yet I still knew nothing about any of them. If people talked to me, I would open up a bit, but ultimately, I was and am still an initially shy girl. Once you actually get me to open up, I am super outgoing but I just am uncomfortable with the initial opening conversation which has stemmed from that time I was the "new kid" in first grade. I did manage to make some friends, but they were not the nicest and looking back, they traumatized me a bit and it wasn't until third grade that I made real friends. I attribute most of that to the process of adapting that took a while.
Most recently, I have again, had to be the "new kid," only this time it was at our new Family ward (we graduated from the Singles ward after getting married). In our Church, we have different "wards" or groups divided demographically by where we live and sometimes by a common language (for example there is a Chinese ward a couple blocks from my parents house) and the only time you do not belong to a Family ward is from the ages of 18-31 when you are single. At this time, you are encouraged by priesthood leaders, to attend the Singles ward, where you are more able to make friends your age and hopefully, an eternal companion. I was lucky and a success story of the Singles ward since that is precisely where I met my husband!
Lucky for me, our Church also has established what's known as "visiting" and "home" teaching which means, each sister is paired up with a companion and visit other sisters. So I get visited and I go visiting. Home teaching is when the priesthood men go to teach a family and we likewise, have home teachers who visit us. It's a great way for us to meet more people within the new ward, outside of our Church meetings, and a chance for all of us to help support the Bishopric by helping to watch over each other.
With our August visits, I have come to realize, I was initially very uncomfortable about going to the new ward. As I share with each sister or family (I went with Andy on a couple visits since his companion was hard to locate), I have felt the need to share how hard it was to adjust when first coming to the new ward. I was sad to have left the old ward where I made many great friends and memories and had become accustomed to the teaching styles of the Sunday school and other meetings. But I do not go to Church simply because of the people and I know my testimony in the gospel of Jesus Christ means that I know we have a living prophet who continues to organize our Church. This means, wherever I go, the Bishop, is called of by God. That translates to meaning, it won't matter where I go. It might be hard to make friends at first, the teaching manuals are the same, the lessons are the same (taught by different instructors), the Sacrament is passed the same, the prayers are all in the name of Jesus Christ and the Spirit is still there.
I'm so grateful that I belong to a Church where I don't have to "go shopping" for a new Church if I move. I know a lot of my other denominational Christian friends do this everytime they move and a factor in not moving is actually the Church they belong to. I know that's not the case for us because wherever we go, there is a Stake (a group of wards) nearby and most likely, a Church building. And, if you're unsure of where, you can go to lds.org, click on Find a meetinghouse, type in your zip code or address and locate all the wards nearby. I'm so thankful for this and it makes being the new kid at Church, just that much easier.