“‘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?

Fine then, I guess I won’t be mad anymore

Hymn book

The other day I was super annoyed at someone. Actually, I was beyond that. I was furious with them. My rage burned with the heat of a thousand suns. I was mentally plotting ways to shun them and cut them out of my life.

Sunday morning rolls around and I quickly threw in something in my prayers about helping me forgive this person. Ask and ye shall receive, right? The last song in Sacrament meeting rolls around, and it was one of the few that I can’t immediately hum the tune: “Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses.”

If you’re like me, you’re sitting there thinking, “I’ve seen the title of that before.” I was expecting something like “Oh Say, What is Truth?” with a sort of huzzah for the Restoration theme. Not so. Here is the first verse to this obscure hymn:

Truth reflects upon our senses;
Gospel light reveals to some.
If there still should be offenses,
Woe to them by whom they come!
Judge not, that ye be not judged,
Was the counsel Jesus gave;
Measure given, large or grudged,
Just the same you must receive.

I sort of missed the first verse while I was distracted by kids, but I caught the last few lines and skimmed the rest, while singing verse two:

Jesus said, “Be meek and lowly,”
For ’tis high to be a judge;
If I would be pure and holy,
I must love without a grudge.
It requires a constant labor
All his precepts to obey.
If I truly love my neighbor,
I am in the narrow way.

And, since I’m dense and tend to resist relatively clear messages from Deity, there are three more verses:

Once I said unto another,
“In thine eye there is a mote;
If thou art a friend, a brother,
Hold, and let me pull it out.”
But I could not see it fairly,
For my sight was very dim.
When I came to search more clearly,
In mine eye there was a beam.

If I love my brother dearer,
And his mote I would erase,
Then the light should shine the clearer,
For the eye’s a tender place.
Others I have oft reproved
For an object like a mote;
Now I wish this beam removed;
Oh, that tears would wash it out!

Charity and love are healing;
These will give the clearest sight;
When I saw my brother’s failing,
I was not exactly right.
Now I’ll take no further trouble;
Jesus’ love is all my theme;
Little motes are but a bubble
When I think upon the beam.

The moral here is that you shouldn’t pray for things you don’t want.* Also for you ward music directors there, pick a weird hymn once in a while. Sometimes if we haven’t heard it a million times then we’ll be more likely to listen to the words.
*Technically I did want to forgive this person, just not right away.

Nauvoo Thoughts 1

Allison familyphotos 0614 050It’s been about a week since we visited Nauvoo, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Our whole trip had nice weather, except for the day we decided to spend in Nauvoo. It rained. Lots. We took a covered wagon ride around the town, and even though it was covered, everyone still had to wrap up in several layers of blankets in order to stay dry and warm. While there were dozens of old houses and other attractions to visit, the one thing that I really felt excited about was the brass band’s hymn concert.

Before each hymn, a band member would stand up and give a little information about the hymn and a short testimony.We haven’t had too many Sundays since Bonnie got her most recent diagnosis, so I wasn’t really prepared for how much the hymns would affect me. The hymns talk about faith and hope, but those virtues are often described in the context of exercising them while experiencing loss, pain, and death.

Praise to the Man is all about the martyrdom of Joseph Smith.
How Firm a Foundation talks about God being with us in our trials. Sickness, fear, fiery trials, poverty–all of those and more get a mention in this song.
Lead, Kindly Light takes us through encircling darkness so thick that you can’t even see one step ahead.
Be Still My Soul describes all of us as burdened with a cross, which is not immediately lifted. The advice given is to have patience and bear your cross along thorny ways.
Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy talks about people stuck in sin and being lost and alone in life’s storms.
Come, Come, Ye Saints is especially poignant in Nauvoo when it talks about dying “before our journey’s through” because of all the people who lost their lives before making it to Utah.

Listening to all the hymns, I was struck with a sense of how much the composers understood life. These hymns deal with difficult subjects, and they’re not meant to be simple platitudes or lip service to faith and endurance. The people who wrote these words understood. Bonnie’s cancer is an overwhelming, heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, soul-crushing experience.

But (and here’s the important part) this experience won’t break my little family if we don’t let it, and the way to get through is to cling to God. I find comfort in one of the other hymns that the band played: If You Could Hie to Kolob. Pain, sorrow, and heartache-even death-are all temporary things. The things that really matter are eternal.

There is no end to virtue;
There is no end to might;
There is no end to wisdom;
There is no end to light.

There is no end to union;
There is no end to youth;
There is no end to priesthood;
There is no end to truth.

There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is not end to being;
There is no death above.