“I spent my early childhood in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the Church wasn’t well established except for the little branch our family helped form. During the first eight years we lived there, we were the only Latter-day Saints.
“Our family held family home evening on Monday nights from the time I was a small boy. Besides learning gospel principles during family nights, we had recreational activities. It is hot and humid in Arkansas, so we often went swimming as a family or had a picnic and invited friends.
“After three other Mormon families moved into the area, a branch was organized in downtown Little Rock. I remember we met upstairs in the Women’s Club building. When the missionaries came to our area, we fed and housed them and enjoyed their companionship.
“My father was a very precise, strong-willed person who believed in hard work. Pride and service were his trademarks. All of us children earned spending money by doing assigned jobs. I can’t remember ever asking my father for a new bike, a baseball glove, or some candy when he didn’t say, ‘Fine. Let’s work out a plan so that you can earn it.’ I grew up believing in the philosophy of work. Sometimes I have a difficult time understanding young people today who expect everything to be given to them without their earning it.
“When I was a boy, one of my assignments was to keep the front and back lawns mowed and trimmed. One hot summer day when I was pulling weeds along the back fence, my father came out into the yard to see how I was doing. He said, ‘Well, it’s not quite up to standard, Paul.’
“I answered, ‘Who cares? Nobody’s going to see it back here anyway.’
“My father responded, ‘The important thing, Paul, is that you and I know it’s here, and that’s all that matters.’
“I have never forgotten that lesson.
“I always loved playing baseball. I’m grateful to my parents who let me turn the backyard into a practice baseball diamond every summer. I would line it off, make base pads, and really work hard at bettering my skills. In those days there were no organized Little League ball teams. One neighborhood played another neighborhood. The competition was keen. A dirt lot was cleared, and excitement ran high.
“I recall an experience involving a baseball mitt when I was about nine or ten years old. I was playing baseball with great diligence, and I had an old mitt that was coming apart and just wouldn’t do anymore. The kind of mitt I wanted cost $4.50—a lot of money then. I kept wondering how I could get my father to buy it for me.
“Every day when Dad came home from work, he would sit in a rocking chair or swing on the porch while he waited for dinner. He worked long, hard days, and it was during the depression when times were difficult. I knew that my approach and my timing were vital. One night after Mother had fixed Dad’s favorite dinner, I decided it was the right time. ‘Dad,’ I said, ‘you always taught us that when we do something, we should do it right. Is that correct?’
“‘Yes, that’s right,’ he agreed.
“‘You taught us that if we’re going to do something, it ought to be done with quality. Is that right?’
“‘That’s right,’ he agreed again.
“I said, ‘I’m assigned to pitch a critical game this weekend, and my baseball glove is worn-out. You’d want me to go out there with a high-quality, first-class mitt, wouldn’t you?’
“I brought the old glove out from behind my back, and Dad said, ‘That’s a terrible-looking glove!’
“I said, ‘I need $4.50 to get a new one, and I’ve already picked it out.’
“Dad stopped the porch swing, took out his little note pad and pencil, and started writing.
“I knew I’d lost with my sales pitch.
“‘Well,’ Dad said, ‘let’s see how long it would take you to earn it. At ten cents an hour, that would be forty-five hours of work.’ He then mapped out jobs for me that would require forty-five hours of work.
“Of course you know the end of the story. I didn’t get the mitt that week—but I did a couple of weeks later. I still have that glove. It is priceless to me. It taught me the value of work.
“When I was twelve, I became a batboy for a local professional baseball team. That’s when I met my hero, Lou Gehrig. He did more to inspire me than any other single player or event. I couldn’t believe he was coming to Little Rock. Not only did I meet him, but I also had a chance to pitch to him in batting practice. He lived a clean life, and he taught me some great lessons. He could see that young people were the hope of the future.
“One day I asked Mr. Gehrig if he knew of a way I could get rid of the butterflies in my stomach when I went out onto the ball field. He replied, ‘Don’t ever get rid of the butterflies—God put them there on purpose. They keep you humble. They remind you that there’s a higher source. They also remind you that there are eight other players and that you can’t play the game alone.’
“That is a good lesson to remember. There are many others who care about us on our team—our families, our bishop, our Primary teacher, our friends. Most important of all, our Father in Heaven loves us and knows what is best for us, and He is always there. We never have to play the game alone.”