Saturday, June 16, 2012

Another Small Remembered Story (Let Go)

Thanks to the author, whoever it may be, for the help this little tale has been to me and others over the years. It’s another of the small remembered stories.

Let Go

There once was a learned man of faith who was growing old and approaching the end of his life. He had some things he wanted to do before he died which included seeing the ocean for the first time. He had lived all his days hundreds of miles from the sea and longed to experience the many things he’d read about. Seagulls and pelicans feeding on shellfish, waves crashing on rocky shores, sandy beaches and sunsets disappearing into the blue horizon among them. He arrived at the coast of Big Sur, one of the most beautiful places on earth. He stood at the edge of a cliff high above the waves and spray and was entranced with the sight.

Suddenly a strong gust of wind came from behind him and pushed him off the cliff! He tumbled over to certain death on the rocks and waves far below. But then a miracle occurred! As he fell he reached out toward the land and was able to grab on to a tangle of tree roots that stuck out the side of the cliff. He managed a desperate hold on the roots with both hands where he hung halfway to the jagged rocks below.

He began to pray. “Dear Heavenly Father I’m in terrible trouble! I need you to save me now! By some miracle, which I know you can provide, I need you to help me. Please!” He said these words and was silent while he hung there from the roots. Then the strangest thing happened. He heard a voice….a still small voice. It said, “My son, this is your Heavenly Father. We need to talk. Do you believe that I have the power to create all that you see here? The sea, waves, rocks, birds, sky, and even the root which you cling to so tightly. Do you?

“Yes! Yes! I do,” the man cried in surprise and gratitude, so relieved to hear from Heavenly Father. But then there was no response. So he began to pray again…even harder than before. Please! Please! Help me, Father! I know you have the power to rescue me.

Then again a still small voice. “Son, do you believe that I have the power to create even the winds which blow the clouds across the face of the earth? Even a wind strong enough to lift you from the root where you cling to the top of the cliff where you once stood in safety? Do you believe that? And son… most important of all……… Do you believe that I love you? Do you trust me?”

“Yes! Yes! Father I know that you have the power to create miracles. I know that you love me and all your children! I trust you. I promise that I trust in your wisdom and know that you’ll always do what’s best for me.”

Then there was silence for what seemed to the man like a very long time. He prayed again. Then, at last, he heard the still small voice once again.

It said………“Let Go.”

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Small Remembered Story

Over the years I’ve prepared many lessons for church classes. 
As most members do, we amateurs jump right in there, teaching preschoolers to eighty year olds, praying mightily all the while, convinced that everyone in the class knows more than the teacher, even the preschoolers. 
We do this because we believe that the Lord had a hand in our being asked to teach at this time and place. Then too, it always turns out that we learn a great deal more than anybody else from the experience.

At times, I’ve also been kindly asked to speak to various groups. Mostly firesides and the like, which is a little different, because there’s not a lesson manual prepared for the teacher to follow. 

In that case the praying gets even more desperately intense and this particular speaker looks frantically around for anything pertinent which may help and fit the topic at hand. A lot of my own writings came about in just these situations. 
In addition to my own thoughts, somewhere during the desperation I found several small helpful stories. I can’t recall whether I heard or read them somewhere, but over the years I’ve told them many times. I have no idea who the original authors were but I’m grateful for their thoughts. They helped me more than I can say, their little “moral of the story” sometimes coming to mind just when I needed it most. 
May Heavenly Father send blessings to fall gently on those who first wrote these small remembered stories. I include one of them here.


There once was a farmer who lived in an area where the family farm was disappearing. Huge corporations were taking over and a way of life was ending forever. This good man's own children had left to find work in the cities. He and his wife had survived many battles against drought, insects, flood, and a hundred other calamities but this seemed to be the hardest struggle of all.

Summer came. Crops must be planted and harvested and livestock must be cared for even with the children grown and gone. The man needed help but farmhands were nowhere to be found. He tried all the usual ways to hire someone with no luck. Finally a notice he’d put up in the local feed store brought a response.

Early one morning a knock came at the kitchen door. He opened it to find a skinny kid about 15 standing there. The farmer asked him in and they began to talk about the job and its requirements. The man thought dejectedly that this scruffy boy was going to be little help at all. Finally he asked him what his qualifications were. The boy answered “I can sleep when the wind blows.” The farmer asked for an explanation but the boy only repeated, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” 

The farmer quickly replied in an irritated tone, “There’s no time for joking around…’re hired. I’ll show you the bunkhouse and then let’s get to work.” He thought to himself….I have no choice.

Well, it turned out that this skinny kid was the hardest worker the farmer had seen in a long while. He was willing, stronger than he looked, and knew more about farming than most grown hands.

It was a long, hard summer but things were holding together. Then one hot night in August, long after everyone was asleep, a terrific storm began to blow up unexpectedly. Violent winds promised a coming deluge and the farmer jumped out of bed, threw on his clothes and ran to the bunkhouse to get the boy so they could get to work securing the place before the storm hit full force. He threw the door to the bunkhouse open and yelled, “Storm’s comin!! Let’s go! The kid rolled over in his bunk and said sleepily, “I can sleep when the wind blows.”

“What? Get up or you’re fired!” bellowed the farmer as he ran to the barn. He could hear a groggy, sleepy voice coming from the bunk….“I can sleep when the wind blows.” The farmer cursed as he opened the gate.

As he passed the wagon yard he noticed that all the tools had been put away. The haystack was covered with a tarp and tied down tight. Boxes with tack were shut and padlocked. He opened the barn door and ran to the stock. All were secured in their stalls…food and water close at hand. Loose items were tied or nailed tightly to the walls of the barn. He walked slowly from place to place in amazement…..everything had been made ready for a storm. Nothing was forgotten. He sat down on a bale of hay. “So the kid can sleep when the wind blows. I’ll be.”

The moral of this small story is that a storm is ALWAYS coming. 

No matter how bright the sun shines for you right now you can count on that. 
We’ve been told that “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” Whether it’s education, work, raising a family….. or spiritual, temporal, emotional, or physical needs……get ready for the wind. 
 Do something to get ready today. Then you can rest easy when the clouds roll in.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Light

I have little experience with the current political hot topic of abortion. In fact, it’s hard for me to see how something so intensely personal has anything to do with politics at all. If ever there was a “moral” issue, one that must be checked out with Heavenly Father, this must surely be it. I’d like to share this incident with you though. It brought a certain clarity to my thinking that will last a lifetime.
I had been teaching at a large urban high school for just a couple of years when this happened. Our students of around 2000 kids included those from the middle class to those living in the barrio and projects. We had gangs, teen pregnancy, drugs, drop-outs, and all the other social problems common to every school in big American cities these days. And my particular students all had learning issues in addition to dealing with the usual angst of growing up. Even so, many of them were my heroes. School had never been easy or kind, but here they were, determined to graduate. Some people referred to my classes as “the usual suspects,” “the ones with the ankle bracelets,” or “Kathy’s thugs,” but many of my students were talented and exceptional in positive ways and I had nothing but admiration for most of my kids.

My 6th period class was a special group of 9 students….all boys except for one pretty, shy, freshman girl, just fourteen. The guys were all juniors or seniors, with girlfriends of their own, who sort of adopted this young lady, telling her what to watch out for, offering to “take care of anybody who caused her a problem” etc. She became everyone’s little sister. Well, one week Bernadette was absent on Thursday and Friday. This was unusual for her so I called the nurse to find that her mom had called in to say that she was sick. I was glad to see her back in class on Monday and as the kids began to settle in their seats I asked her if she was feeling better. She sat there quietly for a minute or so and then got out of her seat and came up to my desk.

She leaned over and whispered to me,

“They made me get an abortion.”

Then she collapsed in my arms and began to sob. I was stunned. The guys got really quiet. I looked at my most reliable senior over Bernadette’s shoulder and said, “Marcus, take the class over to the library for the rest of the period.” They all left while she still sobbed in my arms.

It was early in the school year and I knew just a little about this girl’s home life. She was the only child of a single mom and had devoted grandparents who would do anything for her. She was bright and beautiful. I had never heard her mention anything about religion.

As I held her in my arms and told her how sorry I was I began to understand some other things that broke my heart. I knew that this child was “pierced through with deep wounds.” I somehow could feel it through her racking sobs. I knew, without a doubt, religious or not, that what had happened to her was never, never, NEVER going to be alright. No matter what they told her…’s your body… you’re too young…no one will know…it’s best for both you and the baby….whatever…this wound would never completely heal. Every time she saw a baby or child of a certain age she’d think, “My son or daughter would be about that old.” “I wonder what he’d look like now…I wonder if she’d like to draw the way I do?” “Today would be her birthday,” “He’d be a teenager now.”

This would be a part of her forever. It didn’t matter what anyone else believed. She knew, deep inside, the truth about whether abortion was right or wrong. No one needed to tell her and no one would ever be able to change what she knew. I think it might be the “Light of Christ” that everyone’s born with. We have a built in guide, despite any of our circumstances. It tells us in no uncertain terms when something is wrong. It often tells us in a quiet, still, voice or feeling. I think we need to listen carefully for it throughout the din of the world. We are told in the scriptures that all of us can rely on this Light no matter what our religion. Thank God.

May He bless, comfort and teach the sweet child that I held in my arms that day. I’ll never forget her. I know that He loves her more deeply than any of us can comprehend.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

There’s Power Here

We’ve been encouraged by one of the Lord’s modern day apostles to commit some favorite scriptures to memory. He said this would be a help to us throughout our lives.
I believe him.

In fact, I remember many, many, years ago hearing one of those things you hear sometimes. One of those “probably not true but everybody says it might be,” “Mormon legend” things. 
This legend was that the scriptures were so powerful that if you picked just one that was personally meaningful, you could “hang your whole life on it” and in the end, if you were true to that one scripture, your life would turn out alright. 
Seems too simple doesn’t it? 
Well, I’ve had some discussions over the years about this with lots of people and I’m not so sure. 
I’ve asked many people for favorite scriptures and we’ve thought about how well they would “hold up a life that was hung there.” 
The results are surprising.

These are just three of the scriptures that people said were favorites……

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Matthew 6:33

“See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.”
D&C 88:123

“Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”
3 Nephi 27:29

There’s thousands more.

The deal is that in every situation in your life, no matter what it is, if you mentally pull out your scripture and apply it, you’ll do the right thing. Could that really be true? Is there that much power in a few words from Heavenly Father? It’s something to think about anyway…maybe even to try.

Well, I got myself into a little “situation” with this legend thing once, though, when our son was about 18. I was speaking at a youth activity and was very nervous because there were many people there, young people and leaders who were much more knowledgeable about the gospel than I was and decidedly more qualified than I to teach.

I always comforted myself at times like those by remembering what a favorite scripture of my own said. 
It went something like…...“The gospel will be preached by the weak and the feeble….” or something close. Well, I knew that if the Lord needed weak and feeble then I was ready. 
Anyway, we started to talk about this little “legend of the one scripture” and I decided to call on some young people to give an example of a scripture that was special to them. 
I looked over the large crowd and my eyes fell on one of my son’s best friends. He was a fine young man, approaching missionary age, and I felt he would have a favorite passage. “Scotty, would you share a scripture that has special meaning for you?” I asked hopefully. My son’s friend stood, and in a loud and confident voice declared…….

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14
"That’s wonderful," I replied with relief. "Let’s think about what might happen if you used that as a guide for your whole life." 
We discussed that for a bit, decided it might work, and then I took a chance and called on my son. “Brothers and sisters, I know my son won’t mind if I call on him to share his favorite scripture. Dane, would you please?” He stood hesitantly, looked nervous and uncomfortable and then said loudly……

“And they dwelt in a tent.”
1 Nephi 2:15

(This is a misquote from the actual scripture which says, “And my father dwelt in a tent,” but that’s what Dane said.)

Taken aback, I gazed at my son without speaking for a bit. Then with some mighty quick thinking I replied.
“Thank you so much. Well, let’s see what would happen if a life were hung on that. What is this scripture about? Lehi and his family had been told by the Lord to leave their homes and possessions, their money and comfort, and to flee out of the city where they dwelt in tents for many years. Lehi was willing to do some really difficult things because of his faith in the Lord. It couldn’t have been easy but Lehi and his family did what Heavenly Father told them to do. Incalculable blessings followed for generations because they did this. Could you hang a life there? Yes, dwelling in a tent could become a metaphor for obedience to the Lord, I think."

Gotcha son.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Curse

When you teach high school kids with special needs, classes tend to be small. Twelve students each period was about average for my caseload. 

In this environment the teacher and students work together on every subject, figuring out ways to complete difficult assignments in their regular classes despite reading or math problems. 
We learned “how to learn,” in addition to a “Lifeskills” curriculum. “Lifeskills,” included everything from sex ed to how to buy a used car. 

Well, in that kind of close knit situation we all got to know each others’ personal stories pretty well. 
This often was a huge worry for me because so many of my kids didn’t have a clue concerning the principles involved in building a happy life. 
Some had strong families, but many others had never been taught even basic values. 
Often these kids lived with really negative role models, including mothers, fathers, and other family members in prison. 
This made for some interesting views on topics like honesty, work, alcohol use, drugs, and sex I can tell you.

I remember a student commenting one time upon hearing that I’d been married over 40 years to the same man.

“Geez, Mrs. W….. my dad has six different kids with six different women! He never married any of them. I don’t even know some of my brothers’ last names. What's wrong with your husband?”
My only answer to that loaded question was to say sincerely, “Well, I hope your dad and family have found genuine happiness.”
I'll never forget his reply. He just stood by my desk looking thoughtfully out our only tiny window for a minute, and then went to his seat without a word.

I remember another discussion with an 18 year old. 

He was messing around with a really “wrong” girl. Everybody in the class could see this except him. All he could see was that she had really big "boobs." (Sorry…. his words.) 
Well, one day he shared with us a little about his background. 
He had a low opinion of women in general. He told a classmate that his life was ruined when his mother had run off with a man, not his father, when he was just two weeks old. She hadn’t been a part of his life since. 
After saying how sorry I was to hear this, I asked him who was responsible for all the pain that had come to so many people because of her actions.  
He said, “My mom, of course.”

I quickly replied, “No, not entirely. I think i
t was mostly your dad.”

“How can that be?” he said indignantly, “My dad stuck around.”

“Well, your dad picked her, didn't he?" I continued, "Tell me how your parents met.”

“I think my dad said they met playing pool at a bar. My mom was there with her boyfriend, and my dad got her to slip him her phone number when the other guy wasn’t looking.”

“I rest my case.” was all I said, truly astonished at how easily my point had been made! Sometimes things just fall into place don't they?  I’d expected to have to dig around at least a little.

This led to some lively class discussion about what you can know about a person just based on where you meet them. Also about being a good judge of character and being responsible for our own decisions. 

And about the “fallout” those decisions sometimes have on innocents. 

There were lots of opinions, but one thing we decided was that if you meet someone at work, or school, or church, it might mean that they work, go to school, or attend church. 
This could be important information. 
And if you meet them on a barstool while they’re cheating on someone, then you may know some other important things. 
We decided that keeping this in mind could be a useful lifeskill.

Another young man I had in class that same year especially frustrated me. 

He was generally bright but not a good judge of character. He was about to graduate and be turned loose on the world so this caused me some worry. 

The class he was in had already decided that choosing an appropriate person to marry was a decision that would likely have a significant impact on one’s future happiness and possibly others as well. 

Despite this, every day this kid walked into the room with the latest report on the “hottest body" he’d seen since yesterday. Once again focusing mainly on bra size as the ultimate factor. 
Nothing else mattered but looks to this kid….not kindness, sensitivity, intelligence, modesty, work ethic or even being lovely. "Big boobs and a great butt” were all he cared about. (I apologize again…his words. It seems that isolated body parts hold a special place in the hearts of a lot of teenaged boys.)

Well, it was getting well into May and I was sick of this kid’s lack of progress. 

In fact, I was sick of this kid entirely.

So one day I said to him, “David, I’m sick of you."

I went on, "I’ve tried to explain that “hot body parts” aren’t the most important qualities in a woman and you won’t listen. So now I have to take drastic measures. You’re about to graduate and go out into the world to build your own life. So, I’m washing my hands of you with the terrible “Mrs. W. Curse.” 
I only use it in very rare cases, I explained. 

So, right here, in front of this class as witnesses, I curse you that you will meet, fall in love with, and marry the girl of your dreams. 
She will be the “hottest” girl around, with gigantic “boobs” and a "great butt," as you so often say. No movie star will be able to hold a candle to her.
She’ll also be lazy, cold hearted, mean, stupid, selfish, wasteful and vain. She won’t care about anybody’s happiness but her own. She'll spend hours each day just doing her hair and make-up. She won’t lift a finger to help you, take care of your children, or build a happy home. And even though she cheats on you, she and her amazing body will never leave you.” 
I then wiggled my fingers at him and told him to sit down and be quiet.

The last week of school, David came to see me late one afternoon. 

He stood in front of my desk and said simply, “Mrs. W., You gotta remove the curse.”

I looked at him a second and saw real worry on his face. 

I waggled my fingers at him and made a funny noise. “It’s removed.”

He turned and left the classroom.

I smiled. Maybe there was hope.