I was in the hospital, waiting for surgery the following day, and my husband stopped to check on me on his way home from work. He told me that Jackie, our favorite babysitter, had taken our three little girls to the ward picnic with her own family. Five minutes later, Jackie’s father was in the room to tell us that our youngest girl had fallen off the teeter-totter at the picnic and was downstairs in the emergency room having a badly cut chin sewn back together.
Meanwhile at the picnic, our six-year-old looked around her and suddenly realized that most of the members of her family weren’t there. The only sister who remained at the picnic with her was playing with the children in her Sunday School class. The park was unfamiliar, and with every passing moment it grew darker. Many feelings crowded her mind, and suddenly her wails were heard over all the festivities. She knew exactly what she needed: “I want my home teacher!” Within minutes, she was on Brother Braden’s grandfatherly lap, and the crisis was over.
I am certain there is no other home teacher quite like ours. But although his approach is unique, his results are exemplary for all of us who wish to serve well as home teachers or visiting teachers. Every family for whom he is responsible regards Brother Braden as their own particular best friend, the first line of defense, the first phone call in the middle of the night.
What is Brother Braden’s secret? At what moment in all of his months of service to the families in his charge did it become comfortable for us to stop saying, “Sure. We’re all fine here!” and start saying, “You know, I’m worried about _____. I’d appreciate it if you’d have a talk with her”?
Maybe it started on one of the many nights when Sister Finley, bedridden with a back ailment and struggling to cope with a painful, endless night, telephoned him to ask for a blessing at his hands. He was there in a matter of minutes.
Maybe for our family it happened the night John was working late. Katie had developed a sudden fever after dinner and was stretched out on the couch, whiny and uncomfortable. Just then came Brother Braden’s knock at the door. Katie crawled into his lap the moment he sat down, and with a deep sigh of relief fell asleep. I was unable to persuade him to put her to bed and go on his way. Instead, he sat without moving, unwilling to disturb her, until her father had come home to take over the situation. Then he offered to stop by the pharmacy on his way home to pick up medication for her. Later that night and again the next day she received phone calls from “my home teacher” to see that she was well.
Another thing that may have made the difference is that Brother Braden never rushes his visits to us. He never catches us on the lawn after church, inquires how we are, and scratches our family from his list of concerns. He not only shows up—he visits. We have never been made to feel that he must hurry to more important assignments. We are Brother Braden’s important assignment, and he lets us know it.
Brother Braden’s method of teaching must be unique. As a native son of Tennessee, he is full of stories about moonlight and watermelon patches and hilarious shipboard adventures from his Navy years. For him to leave our home after a two-minute checkup without at least one good yarn would be a terrible disappointment. His willingness to share his time is evidence of his commitment to us.
And surely he has no equal when it comes to sheer endurance. For one thing, he can hold all three girls on his lap at once, a feat I have attempted once or twice in times of crisis but have never been able to accomplish. And he can let children comb his hair for prolonged periods of time without flinching or getting grumpy. Brother Braden is a meticulous man; to see him with his beautiful silver hair sticking straight up is to see concrete evidence of a celestial personality.
He not only demonstrates obvious love and concern, but he also makes it dear that the concern is a natural result of his call to serve us. If there is a birthday at our house, we know that there will be a knock at the door. Each holiday brings the children some remembrance, “… with love from your home teacher.” In this way he teaches them that caring for others is part of our responsibility to our Heavenly Father.
Brother Braden’s involvement in important family events isn’t all one-sided. During the fast and testimony meeting when our oldest daughter, Jane, was to be confirmed, she restlessly searched the congregation for him, not satisfied—even though she was surrounded by her family—until she saw him slip in late from another meeting and take the seat nearest the back door. She knew that he had given up other things to be with her and that he was glad to do so. When Jane’s name was called, she walked down the aisle to Brother Braden, and the two of them came hand in hand to the circle to share one of the most important moments of her life.
How much clearer and more readily understood are heavenly concepts when they are demonstrated for us by those on earth! In the book Brother Braden gave Jane for her eighth birthday, he inscribed essential principles of baptism and service. The last sentence of the inscription reads, “Your Heavenly Father loves you and wants you to be happy. Love from your home teacher, Brother Braden.” How much easier it is for our children to feel the love of their Heavenly Father when they’ve learned to extend their own feelings of love and trust to someone beyond their immediate family circle.
I want very much to become more like Brother Braden in my own visiting teaching—not because someone gave a good talk about it, not because someone reminded me of my duty, not because our statistics might be down—but because one person with a vision of his calling demonstrated its great potential.