A Hymn a Day

Beside my scriptures I keep a small hymnbook and a pocket calendar that shows, next to each day’s date, how many days we are into the year. Each morning I look up the hymn that has the same number as the day. For example, on February 22, the fifty-third day of the year, I look up hymn 53, “Let Earth’s Inhabitants Rejoice.” I study the words and sometimes memorize them. Then I look up and read the scriptures listed at the end of the hymn and mark the hymn’s number alongside them. This makes it easy to use the hymns when I give talks or lessons. Also, below the hymn’s last stanza, I write references of other scriptures that I feel apply to it.

There are 341 hymns; that leaves twenty-four days in December that I devote to studying Christmas music.

My “hymn-a-day” brings me inner strength and joy. It has carried me through rough times and has been a motivator for right thinking. And it has been exciting to discover phrases from the hymns that answer questions I have been pondering.Jeanne P. Lawler, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Stranger Danger

Generations of parents have told generations of children, “Don’t talk to strangers.” We coax, threaten, and use every conceivable scare tactic. Yet, after all our efforts, we still catch our children conversing openly with people they don’t know. “What am I doing wrong?” we ask. “Why can’t they follow instructions?”

The answer, plain and simple, is that children do not have the same concept of the word stranger that we do. I first discovered this when, as a police officer, I was giving a safety lecture to a group of third graders. When I asked what a stranger was, one eager eight-year-old said, “A big, mean man.” Another responded, “A bad guy that shoots people.” Still another told me, “Someone who steals kids.” Because of the ominous way adults talk, children simply cannot distinguish the difference between stranger and bad guy.

Obviously, we need to find a better way to teach our children about personal safety. Instead of alerting them to suspicious-looking people, we should teach them how to respond to unacceptable behavior and how to stay away from risky situations.

Preventive Teaching

  1. 1.

    Avoid unsafe situations. Teach your children to be wary if someone they don’t know well approaches them in the following ways:

    • The gift. Offers may include anything from money, pets, and ghetto-blasters to rides on a motorcycle, a trip to Disneyland, or a photography session with a promise of instant stardom.

    • “Your mother has been in an accident …” Most children will not hesitate to get into a stranger’s car if they feel their parents’ welfare is at stake. Instruct your children not to go with someone they don’t know, but to run to the nearest place to get help.

    • Request for assistance. Children who could never be coaxed with candy might readily go with someone they don’t know if asked, for instance, to help get a puppy out from under a house. Remind your children to check with you before they agree to help anyone.

    • Badge of authority. Teach children that if a police officer wants to take them somewhere, he or she must get your permission first. A real officer will agree to that request. But if the “officer” threatens physical harm, orders children to get into a car, or offers to take them somewhere so they can phone their parents, the person is probably an impostor.

  2. 2.

    Practice home security. More than half of all assaults on women and children take place in a residence, so caution children to keep doors locked and to determine who is at the door before they open it. If the person is someone other than a neighbor or a friend, a parent should answer the door. If a parent is not at home, children should not open the door.

  3. 3.

    Pay attention to the family code word. As a family, choose a word to use in emergency situations. A name that is not gender-specific—“Aunt/Uncle Chris,” for example—works best for referring to a potential assailant. Emphasize to children that if Mom or Dad calls out to them using the code word, it means “Come quickly, and don’t ask questions!”

    Don’t share your code word with anyone outside your family, or it won’t be effective.

  4. 4.

    Say no! Teach children that they can and should say no to anyone who tries to touch their body anywhere that a bathing suit would cover—and that they should then run away and tell someone as quickly as possible. It is equally vital that the person in whom the child confides believe the report and notify the police.

Physical Training

If you teach children to avoid problems, chances are they won’t ever have to worry about self-defense. However, some basic physical training will build their confidence.

Have your children practice saying “No!”—loudly and forcefully—and screaming in a convincing way. These two maneuvers alone will end most assault attempts.

Teach your children to move fast and to run away as soon as they sense the need to do so. Teach them to swing their legs, wiggle, and scream if they are held—all of which make it hard for an assailant to hold them—and then to run away as soon as they are free from a grip. Quiz them about where they would run once they are free so they can have safe places in mind. Stress the importance of telling an adult about the incident as soon as possible.

Children will probably have many concerns about kidnappers, so encourage them to express their fears and help them answer their “what if” questions. Don’t be concerned that you are not a professional teacher or a martial arts expert. You have the most important credentials for teaching your children about safety—love and a desire to prepare them to meet challenges without fear and apprehension.Tana Johnson, South Jordan, Utah

Three-part Harmony

Early in our marriage, my husband and I decided we wanted to avoid conflict over each other’s annoying habits. So we each listed three of our spouse’s habits that bothered us most. We decided in advance that we could only bring up small differences that each of us could overcome with a little thought and effort.

We chose actions such as hanging up wet towels, turning clothes right-side-out to be laundered, remembering to kiss each other before we parted, and dating regularly.

We promised each other we would work on these three little things as long as the other person would allow all the other annoying habits to go unnoticed. In this way we were able to please each other in small ways and to avoid tension over the unimportant.

After we mastered the first three requests, we chose three more. Now, in thirteen years, we’ve improved ourselves, learned those things we appreciate about each other, and become more united in our marriage.

It’s also a good idea to report on three habits or practices of our spouse that we really appreciate.Ellen Gabrielsen King, West Jordan, Utah

[photos] Photography by Phil Shurtleff