It’s the Little Things That Make a Difference


A few months ago, Bonnie had a bit of a rough day. Admittedly, that description doesn’t really narrow things down much, but I don’t remember the exact circumstances. She was probably frustrated or feeling overwhelmed. As we were sitting in bed, I was messing around on the computer, and she was looking at her phone (don’t judge. You can’t have a deep conversation every night). Anyway, I came across some youtube videos that had us both laughing our heads off. The only one I can remember specifically is the one at the top.

In the grand scheme of things, there’s probably not a lot of value in the massive number of ridiculous, mindless videos on the internet, but a good laugh was something we both needed. I think there’s a kind of beauty to the idea that even something silly and small can be just what someone needs.

This sort of thing translates very well into a good approach when we’re trying to offer comfort to those who are struggling. People often ask Bonnie and me what they can do, looking for some big (or small) way that they can change our lives for the better. While there have been a few instances where we needed a big thing (moving comes to mind), the truth is that there usually isn’t anything they can do to actually change our situation. Most of the time that will be the case. Instead, the things that I remember and the things that mean a lot to me are usually the small things:

– People saying hi to me – not the “pity-eyes” sort of greeting, but a real friendly hello.

– People who talk about things other than cancer, college and kids. (I considered spelling all three of those with a “k” so they would underscore the alliteration, but that would make an unfortunate acronym).

– Basically anyone who acts like I’m still a normal person and not a project.

In essence, I’m finding that small gestures make a difference. As I was writing this, I remembered a story that President Eyring told in the Oct. 2010 general conference:

Once I was at the hospital bedside of my father as he seemed near death. I heard a commotion among the nurses in the hallway. Suddenly, President Spencer W. Kimball walked into the room and sat in a chair on the opposite side of the bed from me. I thought to myself, “Now here is my chance to watch and listen to a master at going to those in pain and suffering.”

President Kimball said a few words of greeting, asked my father if he had received a priesthood blessing, and then, when Dad said that he had, the prophet sat back in his chair.

I waited for a demonstration of the comforting skills I felt I lacked and so much needed. After perhaps five minutes of watching the two of them simply smiling silently at each other, I saw President Kimball rise and say, “Henry, I think I’ll go before we tire you.”

“I thought I had missed the lesson, but it came later. In a quiet moment with Dad after he recovered enough to go home, our conversation turned to the visit by President Kimball. Dad said quietly, “Of all the visits I had, that visit I had from him lifted my spirits the most.”

I think I finally get this story. President Kimball didn’t come in trying to say the right thing. He wasn’t there with some idea about the perfect thing to say to buoy up Henry’s spirit and faith. He also didn’t make him give detailed explanations of his diagnosis and condition. He just came as a friend to see someone that he cared about.

“‘Give,’ Said the Little Stream” and chores

“‘Give,’ Said the Little Stream” is one of my favorite primary songs. In the back of my mind I have this thought that my mom doesn’t like it, but I don’t remember why. Regardless, I love the simple way that it teaches important principles, in particular the idea that you should make your surroundings better.

I’ve been thinking about it because it connects to a conversation I had with Bonnie a few days ago about chores. Philosophically I’m having some issues with chores the way I usually see them implemented. Frequently people give their child a responsibility which they have to take care of at a specified time (i.e. clean the kitchen on Saturdays).

Here’s my issue: I worry that it might encourage a sense that once you’ve done your chores then you’re done with helping out around the house. Or more broadly, once you take care of yourself then your job is done. I can remember lots of times as a kid when one sibling or another was still working on their Saturday job while the others were already done. There was never any inclination (at least on my part) to help that person out with their job. I’m admittedly not the most compassionate person, but even my siblings who are nicer than me (all of them) didn’t usually help that I can remember.

I’d rather that my kids develop a habit of always helping out with everything. If there are dirty dishes, then we all do them, since we’re all part of the family and we all try to contribute. When we’re cleaning the house, I rather that we all just clean until it’s done. Like in the song, I think the kids should adopt an attitude of “wherever I go the grass grows greener still.”

On the other hand, I also want them to learn to take care of their own responsibilities and not be a burden on others. I think traditional chores actually do a decent job of giving kids a sense of responsibility and a sense of taking care of a job. The two ideas compete with each other a little bit. Is it better to teach a kid about their independence or their interdependence? I’m leaning toward the latter, but most people I know seem to (most likely unconsciously) choose the former.

Bonnie suggested that instead of specific responsibilities we just have everyone work for a certain amount of time. I think that’s moving in the right direction, but I worry that it just substitutes one problem for another. Instead of feeling “done” when you finish your room, you’ll just feel “done” when the timer runs out.

Clearly I don’t have any right answers, but I’m really interested in developing this habit in my kids (and myself to be honest–I could probably walk into the house and step over a dead body and not notice or think twice if I didn’t put it there). How do you teach someone to just be aware of their surroundings and to act to improve them without being asked? That habit has a much broader application than just simple chores, and I’d really love for my kids to learn it. Any suggestions, O wise internet people?

Fun at the Museum

IMG_20140908_163541256

This is the picture you get when you tell your kids to say “dinosaurs!”

We’ve taken our little family to a couple of museums lately. The first one was actually a backup plan. Since it was a sunny, beautiful day, we decided to go to the park. Of course, by the time we shaved the yak and were ready to get out the door it had started raining. Time for a visit to the BYU Earth Science museum.

IMG_20140908_163638950

I was always scared to put my head in that thing as a kid. My kids take after me.

Photo Strip

Photo booths are totally fun, and totally overpriced.

There are tons of fossils in Utah. Because of that, even a small museum can have some really cool stuff. Bonnie and I have been to the museum of natural history in New York and it’s one of the only museums out East that I’ve seen with a good fossil collection. The BYU museum, on the other hand, lacks the massive budget and resources of a New York museum, but it still has some great fossils, and was the perfect size for the two kids. There are tons of things to look at and touch, so it’s really fun.

The other museum that we went to last week was the Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point. We have a family pass that lets us get into a bunch of children’s museums all over the country, so we didn’t have to pay when we went. It’s basically a huge activity center. We didn’t see the whole thing, but we spend a lot of time in a room with a bunch of science demonstrations on movement and mechanics (or something like that). It was super cool.

We also had a great time in the section with a lot of wind and water things. There’s even this huge area where kids (and adults) can build structures that can spray water, or direct the flow different ways. You don’t even have to worry about getting the floor all wet. It’s really well done that way. Anyway, we all had a great time taking a few field trips, especially since we were able to go during non-peak hours. Hooray for having cool stuff (almost) completely to ourselves!

So, does anyone else know any really fun and free museums or activities in the Orem/Provo area (or thereabouts)? We’re always looking for fun stuff that we can take the kids to.

image

R is really good at smiling naturally.

Exciting Developments in Homeschooling

Picture taken by Morgan Leigh at Linda's wedding. It has nothing to do with the post, but my kids look awesome. See more of her work at http://www.morganleighphotography.net/

Picture taken by Morgan Leigh at Linda’s wedding. It has nothing to do with the post, but my kids look awesome. See more of her work at http://www.morganleighphotography.net/

Bonnie and I have been planning on homeschooling our kids for a while. We’re not sure exactly how it’s all going to look, but Bonnie has been wanting to teach L to read for a while. She found an awesome book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and we’ve started working our way through it.

We finished lesson 9 this morning, and L sounded out the words “mat” and “sat.” After getting the words right, she ran through the house screaming, “I can read! I can read! I can read two whole words!” It was a great experience for everyone. I’m sure home schooling isn’t all sunshine and roses, but if I can get more moments like that with my kids, I think it will be totally worth it.

This could easily be a Thankful Thursday post, since I missed it yesterday. It’s one in spirit at least. Anyway, I’m excited to keep going in the book with L. I’ll keep you all updated as we get further through it.

 

Bonus Cute Kid Story: I made pizza with the kids for lunch today, and as I was rolling the crust out, L said, “What are you doing?”

“I’m rolling the crust out.”

“Are you rolling it out thin like a good wife.”

“What?”

“Like a good wife, are you rolling it thin?”

“Uhhhhh…sure.”

“Okay.”

I’m still not sure if she was saying that a good wife would roll thin pizza crusts or that a good wife would be really thin…

Thankful Thursday 4 – Silver Linings Edition

W-23We finally arrived in Utah after our long road trip. We had a great time, and I’ve got a few more posts coming about that in the next few days. However, it’s Thursday, so it’s time to talk about gratitude. There have obviously been a lot of challenges this month, but I’ve been surprised at how many things have worked out well. For every bad thing, there are a lot of reasons why it was the best possible time for that bad thing.

Bonnie was talking to her Mom yesterday about how well so many things have worked out. For instance, Clark and Wayne were already planning a road trip through Cleveland, so we were able to meet up with them and spend some time in Kirtland and Nauvoo.

Most people expected Laura to go on a French-speaking mission, since she’s studied it a lot. Instead, she got called to Taiwan, which means that she spent twelve weeks in the MTC instead of eight. In addition, she put in her papers in December, but didn’t leave until April. All of these things meant that the timing of her mission coincided with Bonnie getting sick. Because of that, she can take a break for a transfer to see Bonnie without the massive inconvenience of travelling from Taiwan to Utah.

A particularly noticeable bad/good thing happened last night: our car failed catastrophically. Go 2014! Obviously that’s bad, but the timing of the failure couldn’t be better. We drove that thing almost 3000 miles in the last two weeks. Then when we got here, we drove it back to Provo and then up to Pleasant Grove. It did (relatively) fine for all of that.

Last night, however, we drove it a distance of maybe two miles to see Gran. When we pulled into the parking lot, I heard a sort of hissing/fizzing sound. We looked under the car and green fluid was spraying everywhere, while smoke leaked out from under the hood. I’m not sure what’s wrong yet, but it couldn’t have happened in a better place. Gran has a van that she doesn’t use a lot, so we were able to move all the stuff from our car to hers and make it back home.

Like I said, this is the silver linings edition of Thankful Thursday. Just moment ago I typed out this sentence, “Of course, I would be happier if all these things hadn’t happened.”

As soon as I typed it out, I stopped. In reality, I don’t know that that’s true. I’m not glad that Bonnie is sick, and I’m not glad that our car broke down, but I feel like these little things illustrate what seems to be a common theme for Bonnie and me these last two years: even when things go wrong, they still work out. You can still be happy in the middle of all of that. I’m not even sure if the happiness comes in spite of or because of the challenges.

Think about it for a second. What really makes you happy?

  • Feeling connected to others
  • Sensing God in your life
  • Feeling like you matter
  • Family
  • Friends
  • A purpose
  • Security

You can probably add a few things of your own to the list, but the truth is that a major catastrophe like an illness in the family can improve most of those things (with the exception of security). I’m not saying that Bonnie getting sick is some awesome thing that has made me much happier, but it hasn’t destroyed my happiness like you might expect. More than anything it’s given me perspective on life and what I want to do with it. I’m grateful for that most of all.