Eric couldn’t stop grinning as he walked off the soccer field, the field where his team had just won the league championship. Eric was hot and tired but he knew he had played his best.
As he picked up his bike, he thought of his dad’s familiar words: “Not much of what is important in life comes easily,” his father said. “Our effort puts a shine in things—such a shine sometimes that they glow for years and years in our hearts.”
“This game will definitely glow for years!” Eric thought.
“Hey, Eric!” a voice called from behind him. He turned around and grinned at his teammate, Clay. “Where are you going?” Clay asked. “The victory party is at the coach’s house.”
“I can’t go,” Eric said. “I promised Davy I’d come over right after the game. I was going to spend the rest of the day and evening with him.”
Clay looked upset. “How much fun can you have with someone who’s sick all the time, and can’t even leave the house? We just won the championship, Eric. Isn’t that worth something?”
“Coach said a reporter is coming to the party. He’s going to take our pictures and interview us. We’re going to be in the newspaper!”
Eric’s eyes widened. “Really?” Clay’s excitement was contagious. “I guess I could just see Davy later tonight,” he said.
“You can’t,” Clay said. “Don’t forget the coach said if we won the game he would take us on an overnight campout to Big Bear Falls. Well, the campout is tonight. You don’t want to miss out on that, do you?”
“No way!” Eric said.
“Davy’s just a sick kid with nowhere to go and nothing to do, except ruin somebody else’s fun,” Clay said, spinning a soccer ball on his finger. “Come on, Eric. It’s time to celebrate!”
Eric eyed the spinning soccer ball. The more he looked at it the more his mind began to spin, and he got caught up in the moment. “OK, let’s go!” he said. He jumped on his bike and headed across the field toward the rest of his team.
During the reporter’s interview, Eric looked at the clock in the coach’s living room. It was three o’clock. He had promised Davy he would be to his house by one. He knew Davy would be disappointed. He always looked forward to Eric’s visits with excitement. But because of school, homework, soccer practice, and family and church activities, it was hard for Eric to spend a lot of time with Davy. But today Eric was going to spend the whole afternoon and evening, and Davy had been marking off the days on the calendar for weeks.
The reporter asked each boy how it felt to be part of a winning team. When Eric’s turn came, he didn’t answer. He was thinking of the time he and his father were hiking in the Big Bear Mountains. They had come to a three-way fork in the trail and had to decide which path to follow. “Like most things in life, Eric,” his dad said, “it comes down to choices. It’s getting late, so …”
Eric studied the three paths. One was overgrown and hard to see in the evening shadows. It looked jungly and mysterious. The second was straight, narrow, and clearly defined, but uninteresting. The third trail was wide and curving with room to wander.
“What will it be?” Eric’s dad asked.
“The wide one, I guess,” he said. “There are lots of turns so it will be more exciting, not knowing what’s ahead.”
They started down the path, but 20 minutes later it ended at the edge of a cliff. Below them in the distance they could make out the small lake where their family had set up camp. Shadows crept across the woodlands below and the sun had sunk behind the mountains.
“Now which path, Eric?” his dad asked.
“How about the jungly one?” Eric suggested. “It looked cool.”
They made their way back to the original path, then started down the dark, overgrown trail.
After a few minutes, though, the path was lost in the tangles of underbrush. “What do you think we should do now?” Eric’s dad asked. “It’s getting dark and we’re no closer to camp than we were two hours ago.”
Eric pulled a thorn from his shirt and rubbed a scratch on his arm. “I guess we better get back to the path we were on in the first place.”
His dad nodded, and the two started back. They finally set their feet back on the original path and faced the trails at the triple fork. It was dark now, but the stars lit up the final path. “What do you say we take that third trail, Eric?”
Eric glanced around uneasily at the darkening woods and took hold of his father’s hand. “Yes,” he said. “I can see the path clearly because it’s straight, and it’s narrow so we won’t wander off it.”
As they made their way through the night, Eric’s dad spoke up. “The Savior said that we should always take the straight and narrow path for the very reasons you pointed out. We can clearly see our way and won’t stray from the path unless we choose to. This path is like the iron rod in Lehi’s dream, isn’t it? Straight and true. And look,” he said, pointing toward the stars. “They light the path, like the prophets we have to guide us back to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”
They paused on a small knoll above the lake, and looking down they could see a glowing light in the darkness where Eric’s mother had started dinner over the campfire. “Kind of looks like the tree of life in Lehi’s dream, don’t you think?” his dad asked. “A welcome sight to any weary, faithful traveler on the road of life. And just like the food your mom is preparing, the Lord has filled His living tree of life with sustenance to nourish our spirits and lift us up in our darkest hours.”
Eric squeezed his father’s hand, and his eyes filled with warm tears.
“What are you crying for, Eric?” Clay laughed. Eric looked around and suddenly realized he was still in the coach’s living room surrounded by his teammates.
The reporter quickly wrote on his notepad and said, “It’s his way of saying what it feels like to be part of a winning team.”
“What it is,” Eric said, “is my knowing that I want to be a part of another winning team, as well.”
The boys looked confused. “Another winning team?” one of them blurted. “What team is that?”
Eric whispered something to the coach, waved good-bye, and left the room.
“What did he say, Coach?” Clay asked.
Their coach smiled. “He told me the name of the other team he wanted to be a part of—the Lord’s team. And he said to be a part of it, he needed to be somewhere else. Any of you boys know where that is?”
“Davy’s place, I think,” Clay said slowly.
The coach’s smile deepened.
Two weeks later, Davy passed away quietly in his sleep.
A few weeks after that, Eric and his father were hiking in the Big Bear Mountains. When they reached that familiar triple fork in the trail, Eric paused and studied the straight, narrow path. He took his dad’s hand and they stood quietly for a few moments.
“Which path do you want to take, Eric?” his dad asked.
“The straight and narrow one, Dad,” he said.
“You’re sure?” his father asked, smiling.
“It’s one thing I am sure about,” Eric smiled back. “It is the right way.”
[Stay within the Lines]
“If we stay within the lines that God has marked, he will protect us, and we can arrive safely at our destination.” Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Straight and Narrow Way,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 64.