Many people are surprised when I tell them that because I am now thirty-one years old I am going to go to a family ward instead of a singles ward. People outside the church express feelings of indignation and unfairness, as if I'm being kicked out of the singles ward against my will. Inside the church people either give me pitying looks of sympathy or feign surprise that a girl like me wasn't snapped up into marriage a long time ago.
Whatever their response, I want them all to know that I'm sincerely happy and excited to begin going to the family ward. Yes, I liked the singles ward, but I confess it feels more natural to me to be with families and people of all ages. There are single people and married people in the Harlem ward, long-time New Yorkers and people new in town, and there are people who have been members their whole lives and some who have not yet been baptized. It is a vibrant, colorful, happy mixture.
One thing I love about the Harlem ward is that the members there are so friendly and welcoming. When someone standing at the podium says good morning or hello, the entire congregation says hello and good morning back. After sacrament meeting they pause for a few moments to let new members and visitors introduce themselves, and those people are greeted kindly for the rest of the day with expressions of welcome. This should be normal in every ward, but sadly that is not often the case. So I feel very blessed and fortunate to be a fledgling member of such a happy loving group.
This may seem silly, but I also love that I can walk to church now--I live that close by. Except for my undergraduate days at U-Mass, there has never been a time in my life when I lived close enough to church to just walk there (well, maybe when I was three years old, but that doesn't count) and there is something so appealing to me about being within walking distance of the places I need to go. There is no need to rely on cars, buses, trains or anything but my own two legs. Walking is excellent exercise and a chance to reflect before and after church. I also get to see all the colorful sights of my neighborhood, which resembles a carnival most Sundays.
I think that my sister thinks I'm lying when I express all these feelings of happiness about my new ward. Maybe she thinks I'm just putting on a smile to make things seem fine, but it's not so. My smile is real. Come to church with me, and you'll see.