Megan’s older brother Jake looked handsome in his military fatigues. But Megan wished he didn’t have them on today. He stood by his packed suitcases in the hallway, ready to leave for active duty, as the whole family gathered around wishing him good-bye. After a big bear hug for Megan, Jake was gone.
On Monday night, everyone gathered in the living room for family home evening. Megan sat on the center cushion of the couch next to the empty spot where Jake always sat. A letter from Jake had let the family know he arrived at his military base safe and sound, but Megan missed him—especially tonight. Family home evening was a special time for compliments, songs, stories, lessons, and testimonies. Jake had often whispered the answers to questions in Megan’s ear so she could get them right, his strong arm around her shoulders.
When Megan’s older sister Liz began playing the piano for the opening song, Megan missed Jake even more. “Families can be together forever through Heavenly Father’s plan,” Megan sang. “But Jake isn’t here together with our family,” Megan thought. She sang the next line. “I always want to be with my own family, and the Lord has shown me how I can.”* “How can we be together with Jake?” she wondered. “He is thousands of miles away.”
Megan heard her father’s voice asking her to say the opening prayer. Her heart skipped a beat. She hopped to her feet and folded her arms. She would ask Heavenly Father to show them how their family could be together when Jake was so far away. “Dear Father in Heaven, we’re so thankful to be here in family home evening. But Jake isn’t here. He can’t sing with us and learn with us. He is going to be especially lonely on Monday nights. Help us to know how we can be a close family even though he is far away. And please watch over him so he’ll be safe.”
Megan sat down. She saw her purple school notebook on the floor by the couch and grinned. She had an idea. She picked up her notebook, opened it, and began writing furiously.
Dad opened the family council part of the evening by announcing, as always, “Greeps, Gripes, and Grumps.” No one could remember how this silly name came to be. Greeps were calendar items and compliments. Gripes and Grumps were comments and complaints to be addressed. Megan usually had lots to say. But this time she was busy writing.
Dad soon began giving the lesson, which was from an article in the Ensign about humility.
“Megan, can you tell us what becoming like a little child means to you?” Megan, who was busy writing, didn’t hear him.
“Is that homework, Megan?” Dad asked. “We’re having our lesson.”
Megan stopped writing. “I know how we can be a family!” she said excitedly. The whole family stared at her. “With Jake gone, I mean. I know how we can still have family home evening together!”
“How?” everyone asked.
Megan turned her notebook around for them to see. It said,
Megan’s family gathered around, patting her on the back.
“What a great idea!” Liz said. “But you could leave out the part about the mistakes!”
“He’ll love it!” declared Mom.
“Why didn’t I think of that?” Josh asked.
“Jake won’t be here,” Megan said. “But every week in the mail he’ll get our family home evening in an envelope, sealed with a hug!”
“I think Heavenly Father answered your prayer,” Dad said.
Megan was already writing again, her pen bobbing across the paper and her face beaming bright.
Family Home Evening, October 8
Opening song: “Families Can Be Together Forever”—accompanied by Liz with only a few tiny mistakes, led by Josh who is still wearing his sweaty soccer uniform.
Opening prayer: Given by Megan who asked a special blessing on Jake who is far away and who Megan is missing very much because he won’t be whispering the right answers in her ear.
Greeps, Gripes, and Grumps: Josh told everyone what time his soccer game is this week. Liz said she loved the new sweater she wore today that Mom gave her and could everyone please come to the school choir concert she’s in next Thursday. Jillie asked what we’re having for treats after the lesson. Mom said rice pudding. Jillie asked if we could have ice cream sandwiches next week. Mom said we probably could if Jillie reminded her in time.
Lesson: Given by Dad—about humility, taken from Elder Marlin K. Jensen’s talk in the Ensign. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. This is what makes us have pride. It is a great thing to become as a little child and love everyone.
“Parents and children must work together in unity to fortify family relationships, cultivating them day in and day out.”
Elder W. Douglas Shumway of the Seventy, “Marriage and Family: Our Sacred Responsibility,” Ensign, May 2004, 96.