When I was young, my father often wasn’t home because of a serious alcohol problem. My mother had to work full-time to support us, and when I was ten or eleven, I began to do many of the household chores for her.
Mother taught me how to scrub floors and how to wash clothes in an old washer. In those days we had to put the clothes through a ringer on the washer, and we had to be careful that we didn’t get our fingers caught, because it could do a great deal of damage. We always washed and rinsed the clothes twice. When I hung them out to dry, I hoped that they’d be as white as the neighbor’s wash.
Mother was not a member of the LDS Church at that time, and she left it up to us whether or not we went to church. I made the decision to go. I ironed all my clothing and shined my shoes to prepare for Sunday.
One Saturday night when I was about eleven, many of Mother’s relatives came from out of town to have dinner with us. Such visits were rare, so she spent the whole day getting the dinner ready. She prepared a pot roast and all the vegetables to go with it, mashed potatoes and gravy, salads, hot rolls, and dessert. She cooked all day, and soon the dirty dishes started stacking up.
After dinner, everyone brought the leftover food to the kitchen, then went into the living room and began to visit. I remember going back to the kitchen, thinking, Mother works all week long, and now she’ll have to do the dishes late at night after everyone leaves. Then I thought, I’ll do the dishes for her.
In those days, we didn’t have a dishwasher; the dishwasher was either me or someone else. I filled up the sink and started washing. I stood there for three hours, washing every dish—and I learned that when dishes or pans are dirty, it’s best to clean them immediately, before the food hardens!
Finally I finished drying the last dish, wiping off all the counters, and scrubbing the floor. I heard the relatives walking out onto the porch, and I heard Mother bidding them good-bye.
The kitchen door swung open, and Mother entered. She stopped and looked around and then looked at me. I cannot describe the look on her face. I think that at first it was shock, then appreciation, and then I think it was more than that. It was a feeling of love and pride, and of something I couldn’t measure. I think you understand. There was a light in her eyes. I made the decision then that I would like to put that kind of light into people’s faces.
Mother hugged and thanked me, and I went to bed contented and happy, knowing that she wouldn’t have to stand there doing dishes until two o’clock the next morning.
I learned that serving family members is one of the most Christlike things we can do. It’s easy to be kind to people outside of our homes—we probably wouldn’t offend them for the world. Yet we shouldn’t offend the people in our own homes for the world, either, and we ought to love and appreciate them and serve them the most.
Children can learn to turn on the lights in the eyes of their parents and family members. When you go to Church, pray, and study the scriptures, and when you keep your rooms neat and clean, you find that your parents are happy and seem to shine when you are around them. They love and appreciate you even more for the things that you do.