There's something oddly familiar and comfortable about shopping malls wherever I go. I think it's because growing up, I spent so much time there in my teenager years. In college, when I was away from home for the first time and not really adjusting to the change, I felt relaxed when I visited the nearby mall that had the same stores at home. Despite the layout being slightly different, there were familiar smells, sounds, and sights that the mall brought to me. Even now, as a grown-up, whenever we come upon a mall no matter where we are, the stores that I know of, the Corporate conglomerates with multiple franchises or stores wherever you go, bring me peace and joy in a new place. When we went to Union Station the first weekend, I was surprised to see a few stores (H&M, The Body Shop, Nine West, MAC, L'occitane, to name a few). I made a mental note because I knew I'd be going back.
Today, on our way to the Postal Museum right next door to Union Station, we did just that. We made a quick stop and again, the familiar feel of the stores there made me happy. Maybe I'm just superficial and wanted some retail therapy, but it felt good to be home away from home.
But now, I have one other thing that brings familiarity no matter where I go and that is the Church, and I'm pretty sure the Church is to my kids what malls were and continue to be for me. No matter where you go in this world, there is bound to be a church building that you can go to worship in as a Latter-day Saint, where the music, Sacrament, lessons, and church organization is the same as home.
I think my kids have found comfort in that while here. We're in a new place, making new friends, learning about new roads, new parks, new museums, new grocery stores, etc. but every Sunday, we make our way to Church. Even though the building looks slightly different than ours, and there's definitely more diversity here in DC than back home, the Spirit is the same and the worship is the same. Jordan told me surprised, that the theme these kids were talking about here in DC was the same as what he was learning back home. Even some of the songs they sang were the same, he told me. Bubba quickly immersed himself in the Nursery here, though the toys aren't the same, he got to play, have a snack, a short lesson, and play with bubbles. For him, it's also the same. Andy brought his older basketball shoes and a pair of workout clothes when we were packing for DC. I wasn't sure why, but he told me hopefully, that maybe some of the guys in DC played weekly ball like in SLC. Sure enough, he found a group of guys who play weekly ball and has been able to go every week. I likewise met some nice girls from Church who are at home with their kids and we hang out all the time during the week. At the same time even though it's all the same, there are new differences that I enjoy experiencing as part of the DC experience, but as it has been anywhere we've been (CA, WA, UT) and by that I mean the culture might be a little less conservative and a little more liberal, there might be more working moms, more lawyers and political folks, but the ultimate belief of Jesus Christ, the restored gospel and the Atonement, those are all the same... The packaging and discussions around it may be different by circumstance and environment, but the end game is the same.
Going to a new city might be a scary thing, but with the Church family that you have access to wherever you go, it really is reassuring. There is always a home away from home that the organization of a wonderful Church provides, and I am grateful for that. I wonder if my kids will grow up loving the mall as much as I do by association.