Undaunted by Disability

At four years of age I was stricken by a disease for which there was no known cure. After months of struggle, I was not expected to survive. A dear family friend was called in to administer to me and possibly to pray that I be released from life and suffering. Instead, he blessed me that I would live and fill a productive life. After finally surviving the disease, there I was, just a small boy with no hip joint, resulting in one leg being shorter than the other. Walking was painful, and I had an obvious limp.

Over the years I have discovered several principles that have helped me enjoy life in spite of my disability.

  • Life must go on. Accept things as they are or must be. No amount of self-pity or complaining is going to change anything. Time spent in feeling sorry for yourself accomplishes nothing positive.

  • Focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have.

  • Do as much as you can on your own; strive for self-sufficiency. But don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept help when it’s needed. Others may choose to offer their help, but remember that it is not their obligation to do for you what you can reasonably do for yourself.

  • Do what the Lord asks of you. You become aware of his will for you through scripture reading, praying, listening to the words of Church leaders, and seeking the impressions of the Spirit. There can be great peace of mind in knowing you are doing what the Lord would have you do.

  • Thank Heavenly Father for what you do have. When I give thanks for my many opportunities, including that of serving a mission both as a youth and with my wife after retirement, marrying in the temple, and having 10 children, I see more clearly the many blessings that outweigh my challenges.

  • Live life to the fullest. We are here on earth that we might have joy (see 2 Ne. 2:25). Joy can come from righteous living (see Mosiah 4:11–12). My happiest times in life have been those when I was doing the things I needed to do to stay in harmony with gospel principles.

Even though I’ve walked through life in pain with a limp, I am thankful to the Lord for letting me live to enjoy the journey.Paul M. Smith, Port Angeles, Washington

Our Sunday Question Can

Each Sunday we bring our “Sunday can” to the dinner table. This can contains gospel questions that family members have thought of during the previous week. At dinnertime, the questions are pulled from the can and read out loud, and as a family we try to answer them. Some of these questions have included: Why can’t we wear shorts at church? Why do the deacons wear white shirts to pass the sacrament? What are temples for?

Questions can be written down and placed in the can during family home evening or any other time. This idea has been a blessing in our home and has brought wonderful moments of spiritual learning for us as parents as well as for our children. Sometimes our discussions last for the entire meal.

Our “Sunday can” helps invite the Spirit into our home as we assemble together and “instruct and edify each other” (D&C 43:8) by discussing a variety of gospel-related questions.Ann W. Roe, Kearns, Utah

In-Law Etiquette

As our children married and left home, my wife and I became increasingly aware that, to a surprising degree, we helped determine the quality of the relationship that developed between us and our children’s new families. To the extent that we are generally supportive and respectful of their new family units, we are received warmly in return. Here are some ideas that help foster good relationships between family members and their in-laws:

Be cheerful visitors. Whenever we visit in our children’s homes, we try to be positive and upbeat. We make a point not to criticize choices and decisions made by our children, especially if their decisions are generally responsible ones. It is sometimes difficult or ill-advised to refrain from giving unsolicited advice, but we’ve found that it usually is best not to. Rather, it is important that we cultivate a spirit of acceptance and love.

Respect privacy. When my wife and I visit our grown children, we sometimes hear exciting news, see emerging trouble spots, or even receive confidential information. Such things often need to be kept private and should only be shared with other family members carefully or with permission. When we learn of a pregnancy, a new Church assignment, a job move, or any other significant happening, we ask if we should tell other family members. If the answer is no or is tentative, we don’t share the news. This courtesy can save a lot of problems later.

Talk to both spouses. When we call our married children, we try to speak to both partners. This is especially important in the early years of marriage when the spouse may still feel out of place in our family circle. Kind words and an attitude of friendship will reassure them of our acceptance and their importance within the extended family.

Extend invitations unconditionally. We often extend invitations to our married children for family gatherings. We’ve found that it’s best not to require their attendance or to allow our feelings to be hurt if they choose not to come.

Baby-sit grandchildren on our terms. It has been our experience that baby-sitting our grandchildren can be delightful as long as it is on our terms and at our convenience. Generally we try not to change our plans under pressure from our children unless it seems warranted. Neither do we baby-sit so parents can work, except in necessary emergencies. We like to plan both work and play time with our grandchildren.

Discipline grandchildren with great care. We feel it is important to discipline grandchildren on occasion, but we do so very carefully and with restraint. It is better to distract them with better activities whenever possible and, when some form of discipline is required, to keep it to a minimum. We try to be respectful of the methods the parents favor in dealing with their children. If grandchildren are disciplined too much by their grandparents, they will not like to visit. On the other hand, much good can be accomplished with occasional, mild, and loving reproof as needed.Garth Hanson, Provo, Utah

Keeping the Family in Touch

As our six children grew to adulthood and began leaving home, our challenge as parents was to find a way to maintain the feelings of family love and unity that had developed over the years. We’ve tried a variety of things, including a round-robin newsletter in which each family member attached an updated letter to a circulating packet of letters received in the mail and then forwarded the packet to the next family member in line. Unfortunately, it took Mr. Robin months to wing his way around the family loop.

One day we hit on a new idea that has worked well for us. We call our new method the “radiating robin.” Here’s how it works:

On a given day each month (we’ve selected fast Sunday), all family members write a letter of general interest and send it home to Mom and Dad. We photocopy each letter and mail copies of the combined letters to each family, often within a week. In this way, fresh news “radiates” from home and family members stay in touch. Sometimes photographs, articles, and cartoons of common interest are sent along, and the grandchildren often send a drawing they’ve done or a page from a coloring book. Before mailing the packets, we also tuck in a sticker to place on a calendar as a reminder to write next month.

Now our family stays in touch, and we have a record of our activities that can be kept as part of our own family history.David Jackson, Blue Springs, Missouri

Simple Steps to Reverence

Teaching children to be reverent during Primary, whether in opening exercises or in the classroom, is often a challenge. Since children look to their teacher for guidance on what kind of behavior is expected and tolerated, a few simple guidelines can help.

  1. 1.

    Be a Good Example. Often the actions of adults teach children more about reverence than words alone. Raising our hand, speaking in a reverent voice, folding our arms, and refraining from chatting during Church meetings demonstrate to children the kind of behavior appropriate in Primary.

    One Primary president stood reverently with her arms folded at the front of the room before the opening song was sung. Her peaceful demeanor radiated to everyone in the room.

  2. 2.

    Set the Stage. Make sure the physical arrangements are conducive to reverence. Whenever possible, teachers should be on time or early. This prevents unsupervised activity that may become disorderly. Be sure the room is neat and tidy, with adequate space between rows or chairs as needed for children to walk through. Consider low-volume prelude music as children enter the classroom.

    Some teachers have found it helpful to occasionally use a reverence chart. Each child judges his or her own performance and chooses between placing a star or a check mark on the chart at the end of a class. Perhaps after earning several stars, children can put a sticker on the chart. But a desire to inculcate reverence should not overtake the importance of putting our major emphasis on providing effective and impactful gospel instruction.

  3. 3.

    Establish Simple Class Rules. Children often cooperate when they know clearly what is expected of them. Some rules might include these: Do not bring toys to class. Stay seated unless directed otherwise. Raise your hand and wait to be called on before speaking. Show respect for the teacher and other students.

  4. 4.

    Be Consistent. If one child is ignored when he or she breaks a class rule, then children assume that such guidelines are flexible and unimportant. When the guidelines are followed consistently, children quickly learn that everyone in class is expected to behave appropriately all the time. One teacher kindly reminds children to raise their hands by asking a question and then surveying the class while saying, “Who has a hand up?”

  5. 5.

    Treat Children with Respect. Teachers should speak to children kindly. Avoid belittling or sarcastic language. Never strike, hurt, or intimidate them. Listen carefully to what children say and refrain from showing amusement at their awkward attempts at expression.

  6. 6.

    Be Well Prepared. Plan a “change of scene” during lesson presentations for younger children. This can include moving the children from sitting in a circle of chairs to sitting around a table, then to sitting on a quilt on the floor. Activities should also change, for example, from listening to expressing ideas to coloring or creating a handout to take home. Keeping the pace moving with several planned activities will help solve problems with reverence and attention span.

Children and teachers alike feel good as they see reverence improve in Primary. And when reverence increases, the Spirit can be felt more readily by all in attendance.Delores DeVictoria, Antioch, California

[photo] Photo by John Luke

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Greer