Thursday, July 16, 2009
Not an Obituary
I was in Brother Michael Pratt's class on the south side of the Orem High seminary building in the spring of 2007 and Zach Power and I were co-presidents of our fourth period. We had a big important meeting with Brother Pratt the first day this was decided and I couldn't believe someone thought I was boring and smart enough to be a seminary president. It was fascinating. On the first day of class he brought a video camera and had us each say our name into the screen, smiling, and he promised to take it home and watch it with his wife and some popcorn to get to know us by our smiles. He did. When Bro P asked us each to teach a lesson, Liza Clark was so inspired that she wrote an individual letter to each of the thirty people in the class, telling them about how awesome they were for their own reasons. I remember how he told us that he used to have a mullet. I can't remember the boy's name who stood up at the end of the semester and sniffled and wiped his eyes and told everyone that he was painfully shy. He looked straight at Brother Pratt and said he'd never had such a strong push to do the right things for the right reasons, and that he liked Jesus on his own now. I was so proud of myself when Lee that breakdancing guy and I taught our lesson on Brigham Young, and I brought everyone cute little apples, because Brigham Young's favorite food was apple pandowdy or something creepy like that, and Brother Pratt told me how cool of an idea that was when I was putting a little red one carefully on the corner of each brown desk in our little pods.
I remember the special Joseph Smith assembly with Brother Nixon's class where all the special time period decorations were that Brother Pratt had set up so carefully, and all the times when I would go into class early and Brother Pratt and I would laugh and laugh and laugh through my stories about dating the student body VP who highlighted his hair. He would always end these little updates by smiling and clasping his hands together and shaking his head with that big grin and telling me that I only deserved the best.
He bounced with energy when people started to come in for class. And you could tell he wasn't faking it, and that was important.
Brother Pratt wouldn't get mad at me or be an Obnoxious Grownup about it when I would leave class early to be with some boy, and for that, I am so thankful. I never would have come back had he said one thing, and he knew that, somehow, so he didn't, so I kept coming. When Brother Pratt came to assemblies in the school with the rest of the seminary's faculty, he would be swarmed, absolutely swarmed, and everyone had to say hi to him. They had to let him know that they were there, and that he was there, and that they were in the same place. Everyone had to feel like they were a part of where he was and that they were his arm, or his foot, or his spiky hair. People were always lined up outside his office. Even during class, like they just expected him to drop teaching for a second to come out and hear what they needed to talk about. And sometimes, he did. He laughed at jokes that were in no way funny because he liked people and that made them funny enough.
All seminary teachers, no matter how nice, no matter how patient, no matter how many interactive beach ball games they inject into their lessons, no matter how dry or droll or boring or sweaty or prayerful or whatever they are, have at least one student in one class who snips meanly back at them if he tries to involve them at all. There is always someone. In Brother Pratt's class, no one was ever this person. Ever. Cheesy or not, everyone melted through that classroom door and shut up and listened. Nobody felt stupid learning scripture masteries by beating our fists in rhythms on our desks, which most highschoolers feel pretty ridiculous and zitty doing, unless they're in band and/or get As, which isn't everyone, and people weren't nervous when we had thought time and listened to a church song just before starting the lesson. We had a good time. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that, and I'm sure that if I can't, I'll get some snippy comments of my own on this post. Ah, well. We got into the deep Mormon Seminary Feel-Good Religion together and nobody was embarrassed. My mom made the plaque with the scripture and the family name on it that she makes for everybody, she made one for Brother Pratt, and I took it to him and presented it and was happy to picture it hanging up in his house and whenever I saw his wife she commented on how much she loved it. Zach and I went barefoot to Brother Pratt's house once or twice to talk about a class idea or something and when his little boy opened the door, I thought, "What beautiful kids he has" and, "How weird to see Brother Pratt in warmup clothes!" and, "How cute is his wife?!" It was just two years and a couple of months ago that I was doing all of that.
The day before Brother Pratt was arrested last week, I was asking around for his new address to add to the envelope I had already stuffed with the announcement for my wedding that I was so excited to give to him. I was so excited to visit him. This whole thing has been very interesting. All of this. While boating on Saturday, Emily got a text about the arrest and we all sat quietly as we zoomed back to shore and I was angry.I pounded my fist on the side of the boat. Sunday, it kind of hurt my feelings. Today, I walked into the seedy Albertson's in south Provo with the domed ceiling to buy Andy some dental floss, and for some reason my eyes welled up and I got the overwhelming wish that Brother Pratt, who has posted bail, would be in the store so I could give him a big hug. I feel like he needs a big hug right now.
He might have done it, and he probably did, and I feel sorry for him. He made a mistake. It was definitely a very stupid one. She's sixteen. I think sixteen-year-olds know what's happening.
So, the point I'm trying to get to is this--not an obituary, which I just realized this post sounds like--but the point that Brother Pratt is a person. A human person. Maybe a pretty good human person. Maybe people do really atrocious things and they are still people. All these people on Facebook, these impassioned people with summertime on their hands who like to type big paragraphs, the ones who support him, the ones who don't, the ones who like to type the f-word a lot, the ones who wonder where their hero has gone, the ones who used to like him and now think he's sick and wrong, the ones who talk about his "victim" being a "child", the ones who "just daren't believe it [handkerchief flutter]!", all these people are coming from all sides and fighting so impatiently and obnoxiously for something they have nothing to do with, and it's bothering me.
I think he did it. And I still want to give him a hug. And I think he feels bad. And I don't think I'm wrong.
I just wanted to say that somewhere that's my own private area, not Facebook or the comment section on ksl.com.
at 2:02 AM