I was in the hospital, waiting to have surgery the following day, and my husband stopped to check on me on his way home from work. He told me that Jackie, our favorite baby-sitter, had taken our three little girls to the ward picnic with her own family. Five minutes later, Jackie’s father was in the room to tell us that our youngest girl had fallen off the see-saw at the picnic and was downstairs in the emergency room having a badly cut chin sewn back together .
Meanwhile at the picnic, our six-year-old daughter looked around her and suddenly realized that most of the members of her family weren’t there. The only sister who remained at the picnic with her was playing with the children who attended her Sunday School class. The park was unfamiliar to her, and with every passing moment it grew darker. Many feelings filled her mind, and suddenly her cries were heard over all the festivities. She knew exactly what she needed: “I want my home teacher!” Within minutes, she was on Brother Braden’s kindly lap, and the crisis was over.
I am certain there is no other home teacher quite like ours. But although his approach is unique, his results are exemplary for all of us who wish to serve well as home teachers or visiting teachers. Every family for whom he is responsible regards Brother Braden as their own particular best friend, the first person who would give them help, the first person they would telephone in the middle of the night.
What is Brother Braden’s secret? At what moment in all of his months of service to the families he was in charge of did it become comfortable for us to stop saying, “Yes. We’re all fine here!” and start saying, “You know, I’m worried about——. I’d appreciate it if you would talk with her”?
Maybe it started on one of the many nights when Sister Finley, confined to her bed with a back ailment and struggling to cope with a painful, endless night, telephoned Brother Braden to ask for a blessing from him. He was there in a few minutes.
Maybe for our family it happened the night my husband John, was working late. Our daughter Katie had developed a sudden fever after dinner and was lying stretched out on the couch, whining and uncomfortable. Just then came Brother Braden’s knock at the door. Katie crawled into his lap the moment he sat down, and with a deep sigh of relief she fell asleep. I was unable to persuade him to put her into her bed and go home. Instead, he sat without moving, unwilling to disturb her, until her father had come home to take his place. Then he offered to stop at the pharmacy on his way home to get some medication for her. Later that night and again the next day she received phone calls from “my home teacher” to see that she was well.
Another thing that may have made the difference is that Brother Braden never rushes his visits to us. He never finds us on the lawn after church, inquires how we are, and scratches our family from his list of concerns. He not only comes to our home—he talks to us. We have never been made to feel that he must hurry to more important assignments, We are Brother Braden’s important assignment, and he lets us know it.
Brother Braden’s method of teaching must be unique. As a native of Tennessee, he is full of stories about moonlight and watermelon patches and hilarious shipboard adventures from his years in the Navy. For him to leave our home after a quick checkup without at least one good story would be a terrible disappointment. His willingness to share his time is evidence of his commitment to us.
And surely there is no one who has as much endurance as he does. For one thing, he can hold all three girls on his lap at once, a feat I have attempted once or twice in times of crisis but have never been able to accomplish. And he can let children comb his hair for prolonged periods of time without flinching or getting grumpy. Brother Braden is a meticulous man; to see him with his beautiful silver hair sticking straight up after he has played with the children is to see solid evidence of a man with a celestial personality.
He not only demonstrates obvious love and concern, but he also makes it clear that the concern is a natural result of his call to serve us. If there is a birthday at our house, we know that he will knock at our door. Each holiday he brings the children some remembrance, “… with love from your home teacher.” In this way he teaches them that caring for others is part of our responsibility to our Heavenly Father.
Brother Braden’s involvement in important family events isn’t just because he wants to be involved. During the fast and testimony meeting when our oldest daughter, Jane, was to be confirmed, she restlessly searched the congregation for him, not satisfied—even though she was surrounded by her own family—until she saw Brother Braden come in late from another meeting and take the seat nearest to the back door. She knew that he had given up other plans to be with her and that he was glad to do so. When Jane’s name was called, she walked down the aisle to Brother Braden, and the two of them came hand in hand to the circle where she would be confirmed to share one of the most important moments of her life.
How much clearer and more readily understood are heavenly concepts when they are demonstrated for us by those here on earth! In the book Brother Braden gave Jane for her eighth birthday, he wrote essential principles of baptism and service. The last sentence of what he wrote reads, “Your Heavenly Father loves you and wants you to be happy. Love from your home teacher, Brother Braden.” How much easier it is for our children to feel the love of their Heavenly Father when they’ve learned to extend their own feelings of love and trust to someone beyond their immediate family members.
I want very much to become more like Brother Braden in my own visiting teaching—not because someone gave a good talk about it, not because someone reminded me of my duty, not because our visiting teaching statistics might be low—but because one person with true understanding of his calling demonstrated its great potential.