There are so many days when I feel as if I have failed. Nothing seems to go right. By the end of the day the to-do list has increased exponentially and somehow nothing even got crossed off. All day long I hear, “Mom! He’s poking me!” or “Mom! Do you know where I put my book?” “Mom! Mom! Mom!” The laundry that was caught up the day before seemed to find long-lost cousins and hold a family reunion right there on the floor in front of the washer and dryer. Someone spilled milk and while they did wipe it up the wet towel was thrown into the clean and dirty clothes party happening in the laundry room and I can smell the sour scent starting to get even more foul.
Last week as I knelt down for prayers right before bed I contemplated yet again on another failed day. And the words to a familiar hymn began to hum through my head, “Have I done any good in the world today, have I helped anyone in need?” And I started to cry. I didn’t even have time to shower today let alone do service for someone else.
Then a voice whispered, “Listen again and pay attention.”
“Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need?” An image flashed through my mind of me helping my 9th grader with her geometry, another of me putting on the two-year-old’s shoes.
“Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?” The wrappers for Tinkerbell band-aids are in your trashcan, put there after wiping away the three-year-old’s tears and cleaning up a scraped leg. You also spent an hour playing Settlers of Catan with the seven and nine year olds. And it was actually fun.
“If not, I have failed indeed.” Today was not a failure. You served your family.
“Has anyone’s burden been lighter today, Because I was willing to share?” You made hot chocolate and warm spiced cider to share with those who were out in the cold wind working on your roof.
“Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way? When they needed my help was I there?” You got the antibiotic for Mr. Ferrero Rocher, gave him an advil for his headache, and made sure the kids were occupied so he could have a much needed 2 hour nap.
Today was not a failure. You served your family.
In a letter to his son, Pres. Henry B. Eyring explains why he began keeping a gratitude journal. One day he came home late from church work and as he was walking up to his house he met his father-in-law who was carrying pipe to work on a sprinkler system.
“I was struck at that moment, as I always have been, by his pioneer style. As he passed me, almost on a run, I heard a voice in my mind say clearly, “I’m not giving you these experiences just for yourself. Write them down.” I never knew whether the prompting was about the spiritual experiences of being a bishop or the inspiration of Grandpa’s example, but from that night to this, for more than 10 years, I’ve done as I was told.
“And I knew this: I was doing it for you to read someday, because you and your brothers and sisters would be the most important people I would ever serve. And I knew that I was to make a record of how God watched over you and helped me be your father. When I was ordained a bishop, Elder Henry D. Taylor said, “Your family will be your most important work.” That’s still true, and will be forever.
I love you,
Many times we are so intent on wanting to help others – donate money to this cause, volunteer our time to that group – we fail to see the service and good we are doing right now in our own homes for our own families. Our time, our money is being used on the most important people in our lives. It is the most important act of service we will ever do.
“Then we have the unselfish service rendered by mothers. There is no greater service than honorable motherhood, not just the biological service of motherhood, but the rearing of children and teaching them the ways of the Lord, teaching them what they should know and what they should do that they might live with him some day. To me, the greatest title of all is the title of “Mother.” The Lord has said, “. . . he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” ( Matt. 23:11). What better way to describe motherhood!” (Eldred G. Smith, Go Forth to Serve, April 1967 General Conference)
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life don’t ever forget that you are doing a great work! Every book being read with a child on your lap, every fevered brow you wipe, every toilet you scrub, every meal you cook, every broken dish you sweep up, every spontaneous dance in the kitchen, every child’s prayer you oversee does not go unnoticed. Those children you are raising will go out into the world, create families of their own, and spread the goodness you planted in their hearts. And the world will take note.
Elder Craig A. Cardon shared the following experience:
Several years ago, prior to my calling as a General Authority, Sister Cardon and I attended a dinner for members of the Dean’s Alumni Leadership Council at the Harvard Kennedy School.
After the dinner the president of the council invited the council members and their companions to stand and introduce themselves. He suggested that each person share educational and professional background information, along with what each considered to be his or her most significant accomplishment. Because of the way the room was organized, our table would be the last to participate.
Sister Cardon later explained to me that as she saw all in attendance standing and listing their many academic degrees and professional accomplishments, she thought, “What can I possibly say to these people who have been ambassadors, high government officials, educators, professionals, and leaders of gigantic enterprises? I don’t even have my bachelor’s degree yet” (though she subsequently received it in 2008).
Sister Cardon’s mind continued racing: “I’ve got to think of something to say. No, I’ve got to find an excuse to leave.” Then, in an instant, she thought, “I’m going to pray.”
She said a silent, earnest prayer, pleading with the Lord for His help and direction. In that moment, a voice came into her mind with perfect clarity. It said, “Debbie, who in this room has achieved more important things in this life or has had more amazing experiences than you? You are a mother in Zion. You have brought eight children into this world. Those who are of age are happily married and are having children of their own. What is more important than that? Debbie, get up and tell these people with power what you have done.”
At that moment, the microphone was passed to our table. I had seen Sister Cardon shifting in her chair and looking a bit uneasy, so I extended my hand to take the microphone, thinking to give her additional time to prepare herself. Imagine my surprise when her hand stretched out in front of mine and literally grabbed the microphone.
She confidently stood, and with an elegance difficult to describe, she said, “A few years ago I accompanied my husband here to the Harvard Kennedy School. And my most important achievement is that I am the mother of 8 children and the grandmother of 18 grandchildren” (the number of grandchildren at the time).
With that statement, spontaneous applause erupted in the room. It was the only applause of the entire evening. Sister Cardon shared a few additional thoughts relating to the central, societal role of the family and the happiness found therein. Then she handed me the microphone and sat down. I stood and added simply, “I’m her husband.”
The significance of what the Lord did through Sister Cardon was evidenced by the fact that for the remainder of the evening we were inundated with questions about families, children, and marital harmony––subjects eminently more important than anything else that had been addressed. Because Sister Cardon had earnestly sought direction from the Spirit and had exercised the faith and courage to respond to what she was told, the Lord had magnified her in a powerful way in furthering His purposes. (Craig A. Cardon, Becoming Men and Women of God)
Mothers are serving all day long. It may not always be unselfishly, it may be with a grumble in the voice, but we do it anyway because we know, we know, in the end our efforts are worth it.