I woke up from the dream super excited and ready to face the noise and frustration of the New York City subway system. Then I remembered that I was still in Yorktown, New York working in the small town of Peekskill that bordered the Hudson. My dream was so vivid, it was like I was actually there. The subtle squeaking sounds as the subway rocked back and forth on the tracks, the rushing wind of close walls that solidified the illusion of speed. The smells of strong perfume that kept the other raunchy smells at bay, but one could still sense them. The details of the lighting were bright, too bright for being deep under the city. The shifty movements of people trying to look comfortable but still cramped and annoyed was amusing. We were about to break the silence with a song. My friend with me was the only missionary that would ever dare to sing along as I played hymns on a pocket flute that I had developed while on my mission. All of these details were strong afterimages from my eyelids when I woke.
I was working as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and had been for the past twenty months. I had come out here from a small town in Southern Utah called Cedar City where the stars turned out to be real instead of suddenly blinking and slowly turning into airplanes. The past months had been the most amazing adventure, it felt like a whole other lifetime. I had met some strong people and the depth of my understanding of the human condition, struggles, and life had broadened. I felt truly energized when going over the dream again in my mind. Life didn’t have to be as hard as some of the ones I’d seen. Lives broken from drugs and violence, the young straddled with huge responsibilities when at the same time in my own history I was wondering which lawn to mow to get an extra $10 bucks for junk food. I thought on the dream. In that dream I had played hymns on the little pocket flute that I had developed while serving up in Danbury, CT. I had never learned hymns on it and suddenly it dawned on me that I needed to learn some.
I snapped back to my room. My alarm clock would be going off in about fifteen minutes and I reached over to shut it off. I didn’t want to wake anyone else too soon. My apartment was the basement of a home in Yorktown and we drove into Peekskill each morning to contact people and knock doors. We would park the car and hoof it to each house, which if you’ve ever been to Peekskill you will know it is no walk in the park. All the roads are very steep with stairs leading to older remodeled victorian homes that stand tall and are painted fancy colors on the trims. People were very nice in Peekskill and just when I felt comfortable that is when everything seems to change.
I had been planning on finishing my remaining four months of my mission in Peekskill because I had just been transferred here a couple of weeks ago. That is why my dream felt so weird. It felt real. I felt I was going to be in the city – just because of that dream. Since that dream I had sounded out many familiar hymns on my pocket flute and was in the process of perfecting them. But reality was. I was in Peekskill.
An evening a week later abruptly ended my time in Peekskill. I was at our apartment finishing planning the following day and had just spoken to several of our appointments. I answered the phone when it rang and my mission president, Nelson Boren, was on the other line. He said I was just the person he wanted to talk to. There was a missionary in the city that needed to be emergency transferred and he wanted me to take his spot – in the city. Harlem to be exact.
I was so excited! Hands down the city was the place to be – Manhattan was where I had started my mission nearly two years earlier and now I had the chance to go back and see the changes. See the people I had helped in finding happiness and peace in their lives. I hung up the line and told everyone in the apartment that I was transferring to the city in the morning and needed to pack. The next morning was a blur. A missionary couple came to pick me up. I said by to my roommates and by to the hudson and by to Yorktown and Peekskill and hello to the Bronx, then Manhattan and then I arrived in my last and final service area – Black Harlem!
My missionary companion was a Scott Alger who was quite new and had just transferred to Harlem from the Bronx. He was an easy going fellow who was optimistic of the future – Just like me. We had worked in the same zone in the Bronx and I was glad to be able to work and teach with him. I made missionary work fun, because I figured if it wasn’t fun, I wasn’t having fun and I couldn’t share the happiness I felt if I was always drained of fun. We came up with clever ways to teach the gospel including chess contacting in the parks. We would just join in on a tournament and would start up conversations with everyone. Not religious conversation. Just casual conversation to let people know that we were people too and weren’t always there to convert them to our way of thinking and ideas. We would join in on the corner with the flower guy beating drums and I’d play my flute and follow along.
We got up very early each morning and hit-up the subway to catch all the family oriented folks that were commuting to work. One morning as we were sitting on the subway Scott whispered to me that I should start playing a hymn on my flute and that he would sing along. So I started playing and he was singing along and the light was bright even though we were deep underground. There was subtle squeaking sounds as the subway rocked back and forth on the tracks, the rushing wind and close walls that solidified the illusion of speed. The smells of strong perfume that kept the other raunchy smells at bay. The shifty movements of people trying to look comfortable but still cramped and annoyed… I went silent.
I will always remember that moment. It was then that I knew I was exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. It involved a small little flute that my mission president encouraged me to make and a vivid dream that I wrote down in detail.
I have been back from my mission for nearly eight years now and life has been a blast. I have a wonderful wife and five kiddos who support me in all that I do. I decided to pursue a life as the Designer / Founder of Wowflutes because there is more to the story than just making a cool pocketable instrument. Sometimes it feels strange doing something that everyone else seems to be opposed to. I get that exhilarating feeling again and again and the inspiration just flows when I focus on Wowflutes. Life has a way of being exactly what you want even if it’s a dream.