Friday, December 12, 2008

A Forever Gift to Our Children

Years ago, I spent several years teaching elementary school. It was a busy, but rewarding, time in my life, and I made some good friends among the faculty. One of these friends was going through a difficult time in her life, as her husband had left her for another woman. She had gone back to work and was trying to earn a living while gathering together the shards of her self- esteem.

I remember sitting in the staff room one day, eating lunch with this lady as she was speaking of how hard it was to deal with being the rejected ex-wife of a man who had joint custody of their two grade-school girls. “If my parents hadn’t given me a good religious foundation,” she said, “I would never have been able to get through this.”

I was much struck by that thought, and I asked her, “Are you giving your children the same foundation?” She paused a moment, then dropped her gaze and shook her head.

I taught one more year at that school and then we moved. Shortly thereafter, our stake president sent out letters to each of the households in the stake and asked the parents to come to a very important meeting. This was during the Arab oil embargo, and we who lived in the city had to go early on our allotted day and sit in a line that stretched clear around the block in order to get gasoline. Because the times were so unsettled, and picturing a momentous announcement from the stake president—possibly they were going to hand out trowels and assignments for building the temple in Jackson County?--I made arrangements for a sitter, determined to attend. When I got there, the program was about the importance of family home evening. Family home evening? I’m going prepared to be given the task of building Zion, I thought, and they’re talking about family home evening?

I chewed on that a while, and suddenly it hit me: the meeting WAS about building Zion, one child at a time. Whenever I was tempted to let FHE slip, I remembered my teacher friend, and I knew that family home evening was my opportunity to give my children the foundation to get through the tough times.

So, we tried to persevere. Our family home evenings were certainly nothing spectacular, and they often turned out completely different from what we had planned.

One time, when we just had only the last two children at home, probably ages six and eight, we had a lesson on King Benjamin. We were going to act out his great speech, and Dad was going to be the king. We made him a crown out of aluminum foil and stacked two milk boxes one atop another to make a tower for him to stand on. Ruth, Clay and I ‘camped’ round about, with the doors of our tents facing the tower. Ruth’s tent and mine were made with two chairs and a blanket, but Clay’s was a little tepee affair made out of a mike stand and a sheet. He sat in it cross legged, with his lower lip stuck out, and when I asked him why, he said he wanted a tent like Ruth’s, made with chairs and a blanket.

I quickly switched with him, and then we finished FHE, sitting at the doors of our tents and listening to King Benjamin speak from his milk-box tower.

Years later, when Clay was on his mission, we were working with a less-active family, and I planned a FHE using the same format as that long-ago lesson. In writing to Clay, I asked him if he remembered the lesson, and he said yes, he did. He said when he saw me sitting under that cheesy little tent, he was so sorry that he had made me trade, and he made the decision right then to be less selfish. It was an interesting little insight to me about how the Spirit can teach if we just grant the opportunity.

So, in this season of giving, in this season of new years and new beginnings, let’s consider the gift of family home evening for our families. It’s a forever kind of gift.

Return to The Neighborhood

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