We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by sharing stories from personal and family history. I received a different but interesting and appropriate gift for Mother’s Day. One of my daughters gifted me with a subscription to “StoryWorth.” The idea behind the subscription is for me to write the stories of my life. Each week my daughter will select a question, and the company will email it to me. I am supposed to write the answer to the question and send it back. The company will send the answer to my daughter as well as combining the answers into a book at the end of the year.
Here is the question for Week 3: Who had the most positive influence on you as a child?
This is an interesting question and one that I have not previously considered. My parents and siblings had a lot of influence for good in my life. However, I feel that I should write about a man who was a member of our ward. Doug and his wife Donna were involved with the youth program. I think that they were the ward dance directors at a time when each ward put on a ward Gold and Green Ball. I was not old enough to go to the dances but heard from my siblings about Doug and Donna and how much fun they had with them. Doug was later a member of the ward bishopric, and he was friendly with everyone.
Doug’s influence on me came as the school bus driver. My earliest memory came when he drove the bus route at night in order for all the children and their parents to get to the elementary school for the Christmas program. It was so fun to watch for the bus lights to come down the hill to pick us up and to ride the bus with my mother and younger siblings.
Another experience was track and field day. My older brother Dick had taught me how to pole vault. He gave me a “pole” made from a small tree that was about 10-12 feet long. I wanted to do pole vaulting at school and took my pole to the bus stop. Doug allowed me to slide the pole under the seats to take it to school and again to return home.
Doug taught me a lesson about integrity while I was still in grade school. One of my friends invited me to go to her house after school the next day, and my mother had given me permission. However, I failed to have my mother write a note to the bus driver. My friend helped me to write a note, and I signed my mother’s name. When it was time to get off the bus at my friend’s house, I handed the note to the bus driver and got off the bus. When we got to school the next day, the bus driver told us to stay on the bus while the other students got off. He told us that he knew that Mom had not written the note. I assured him that I had Mom’s permission, but he did not let it slide. (Did we think that he would not notice the childish writing?) He talked to us about being honest in our dealings and asked us to not pull that trick again. I never did.
When I was a sophomore in high school I wanted to join the Future Homemakers of America (FHA). As part of the initiation I had to wear a long dress (had to sew a big ruffle on one of my dresses), put baby powder in my hair, wear shoe boxes on my feet, and scrub the steps of the school with a toothbrush. I also had to beg for pennies. My friend Allen told me that he would give me a bunch of pennies (maybe 25-50 – I do not remember) if I would ask Doug to marry me. I went to the front of the bus and kneeled by his seat and proposed to him. I cannot remember if he laughed or if he said yes or no, but whenever he saw me afterwards he would tell me that I was the girl that proposed to him.
There was another man in our second ward. After our meeting house burned when I was twelve years old, our ward met at a nearby ward building while waiting for a new one to be built for us. About a year after the fire, the ward was divided. Doug’s family and neighbors became part of one ward while the rest of the ward was put in another ward.
Apparently, my age group was difficult to teach because we went through a number of teachers. We were not bad kids, but we did do a lot of talking and laughing in class. As an adult I understand how such behavior can frustrate a teacher, but I was too self-centered to realize that my class was frustrating teacher after teacher.
One Sunday a new teacher came to teach our class. He was also new to the ward. I do not remember his name, but I remember that he lived in a tiny house close to the junior high school. On his first Sunday he flatly told us something similar to this: “I do not care what you do or say because you are stuck with me. You cannot drive me out!” His statement shocked me because I had not realized that we were the reason why we kept getting new teachers. Like Doug, this teacher was not afraid to be tough with us and to challenge us to change our behavior. As I remember, this man and his family did not stay in our ward more than a year or so, but he was there long enough to teach us how to behave in Sunday School class. Whenever I am assigned to teach a difficult group of children or youth, I remember this man and how he stuck with our class until we learned. The remembrance of his example gives me the fortitude to stick with any class!
I am grateful for this Mother’s Day gift that encourages me to write the stories of my family. I feel certain that knowing these stories will strengthen my family and our communities and nation.