More than twenty years ago, my Primary-age daughter tore out a newspaper ad that featured a beautiful, two-story Victorian playhouse. She showed her father the picture and asked, “Can you build us one of these?”
That was the beginning of a five-year project that taught our family the joy and value of working together to accomplish what we thought was an important goal. Our son drafted the plans, and our seven children, my husband, and I all worked side by side building the playhouse. We hammered and nailed. We sandpapered and painted. We installed electrical wires and plumbing.
Our little family sacrificed a lot to build that house. We gave up vacations and playtime. We spent our money carefully so that we could purchase the materials needed to complete the project. Together we built the playhouse of our dreams, and to this day, that darling little building symbolizes the feelings of accomplishment and unity that we enjoyed when we worked together.
When Brigham Young built his house in Salt Lake City, he named it the Lion House and placed a stone lion head over the door so that his children would remember to have courage. We placed a little lion head on the door to our playhouse so that our children and their children and their children’s children would be reminded to have courage. Children need courage to “Choose the Right.”
Building the playhouse only reinforced the principles of work I had learned as a young girl. My parents taught us that work was essential. We helped Dad feed the chickens, gather the eggs, and then deliver them. We helped Mother prepare meals and wash clothes.
We also had wonderful times playing together. Some of my favorite family playing memories are of fishing and camping. My family felt united and close when we worked and played together.
In addition to working hard, we learned to be willing to serve others. When I helped deliver the eggs from our chicken farm, I visited with the people who bought the eggs. They were grateful for the eggs, and they always thanked me for delivering them. I felt that I was helping them, and I liked that feeling. The Spirit tells us when we do good things that make a difference in other people’s lives. I wanted to always have that wonderful feeling.
As a mother, I have tried to follow the example of my parents. When we cleaned the house, we often put on aprons and tied scarves over our hair, pretending to be a hired cleaning crew. Other times, when we were in a hurry to get our cleaning chores done, we pretended to be a tornado, roaring through the house and blowing away all the clutter and dirt.
When my son was younger, he had a hat with a bell tied to it. He would put on his hat and then surprise us by performing unassigned chores and other secret service. Whenever we discovered the surprise, we called out, “Tinker Bell has been here!” It was a fun way to serve others, and “Tinker Bell” truly made a difference in our family.
Heavenly Father needs us to make a difference in people’s lives. He gives us many opportunities to serve others. I don’t think it’s just coincidence that Heavenly Father asks us to do temple work and missionary work and other Church work. Heavenly Father knows that work is important. But, as my earthly father taught me when I was young, Heavenly Father wants us to know that work can be enjoyable—and it can make our lives worthwhile.
The Spirit will help us feel important and wonderful as we obey Heavenly Father’s counsel to work and serve. Some of the most important work we can do is done in our own homes and in our own families. Look for opportunities to serve your brothers and sisters and your mother or father. I testify that even though you are young, you can make a difference in your families and in your homes. That doesn’t mean that everything will always be happy in your homes or that things will always be easy. It does mean that you can make your families happier and strengthen your family relationships and that your families can bring you great joy and peace.
One of my favorite scriptures talks about the importance of families. Malachi 4:6 states: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.”
When we serve our families and play with our families, our hearts are turned to these very important people in our lives. We can do no greater work than serving and making a difference in our families. Heavenly Father will help you and bless you as you work to make a difference in your families and as you look for opportunities to serve those around you. I know that Heavenly Father loves you and that He will answer your prayers and guide you to know how you can serve your family.