On an August night three years ago, the Thornton family was in Roseburg, Oregon, at a baseball game. Before making the two-hour drive home to Reedsport, they stopped at a park to eat. The weary family then climbed back into their van that was stuffed with baseball equipment. At 11:30 P.M. the van pulled into their driveway, and the sleepy riders crawled out only to discover that six-year-old Greg wasn’t with them. Everyone panicked!
“Our focus wasn’t on anything except where he might be,” said LaRee Thornton, Greg’s mother. “We called 911, and it put us right through to the Roseburg police. My husband, Steve, started explaining the situation, and they said, ‘It’s OK. He’s right here.’ A Good Samaritan had found Greg alone at the park, shaking with fear. The man had wrapped him in a blanket and taken him to the police station.
Everyone wanted to go back to Roseburg to get Greg, but only Mom and Dad went; the rest of the family stayed at home, prayed, and waited. “It was 2:30 A.M. when we got back,” Mom continued. “Everybody had stayed up. Nobody wanted to sleep alone in their bedrooms that night, so we all slept in the living room together. Now we always want to make sure we know where everyone is. We’re kinder to each other and appreciate one another more.”
One of the ways the Thornton family keeps track of each other is to attend each other’s sporting events. Everyone in the Thornton family enjoys sports. Even Jenelle (2) loves to wrestle with her brothers. Josh (6) likes to play tetherball at school. He played T-ball when he was five and had the highest batting average of anyone on his team. Now he plays Little League, and first base is his favorite position. But Josh’s favorite games are playing baseball or football outside with his brothers. He also likes learning about other athletes, and he collects and trades sports cards. One of his most prized possessions is a personally autographed football card that a professional quarterback sent him.
Josh’s brothers Scott (16) and Brian (14) have both done well in basketball and football, but Greg, now nine, wanted to do his own thing—swim. He’s always loved the water and has been on a community swim team for three years. It practices every weekday evening for an hour and a half and on Wednesdays for two hours. After practice, there is open swim at the pool, and from the start Greg has been self-motivated and has chosen to stay for the extra practice time. He likes to compete with others, but he mostly likes to compete against himself. He has a personal timing book, and every time he races, he writes down how well he did so that he can keep track of his progress.
Darin’s (11) sport is football, although he also likes baseball and basketball. But he doesn’t spend all of his time playing. He works hard in the summertime, mowing lawns, weeding, and raking to earn money. And when his family has scripture study at night, Darin often shares his feelings about what the scriptures mean to him.
Although Josh, Greg, and Darin are very different individuals, they love and support each other in what they do. And they share a love of life and the joy of being part of a family that can be together forever.