I have learned that there are things that can be given to children that are invaluable; none of which cost a dime.
The most valuable gift is the gift of God in their lives. When parents give this gift to children, they enable their children to have a mentor and an ally with them for the rest of their lives – through thick and thin and through highs and lows.
The next most important gift is the gift of two solid, dependable parents who love each other and who blatantly and boldly are committed to each other and their relationship.
The third most valuable gift is the gift of knowing how to work. Most children balk at this gift at some time in their lives. Yet, a child who knows how to work will be an adult who is not afraid of work or responsibility.
The fourth most valuable gift is the gift of independence and/or self-responsibility. A parent is responsible for their initial guidance but it is the child who will ultimately become responsible for his/her actions and for their life.
One of the most amazing examples I have ever witnessed was a man who was new to a congregation I attended. He was a professional man and clearly very capable. At the time, I was only a young teenager. This man was asked to be a door greeter on Sundays. Everyone else that had been asked to be a door greeter had considered it to be such a trivial and insignificant task that they ignored the task and left it undone – considering it to be beneath them. Not this man. He made sure that everyone was greeted with a warm smile and a hand shake. Within just a few weeks, he had learned the names of everyone who regularly attended and he addressed each of us by name with sincere questions about how we were doing. Little did he know the keen eye that I kept on him as he welcomed members each week. Little did he know what a remarkable example he set for me. From him, I learned that there is no insignificant task and that one person addressing a seemingly trivial task with love and devotion can change the world (at least my world!).
I love the following quote by Gordon B. Hinckley:
“I do not mean to say this with egotism. But I believe in my capacity and in your capacity to do good, to make some contribution to the society of which we are a part, to grow and develop, and to do things that we may now think impossible.
I believe that I am a child of God, endowed with a divine birthright. I believe that there is something of divinity within me and within each of you. I believe that we have a godly inheritance and that it is our responsibility, our obligation, and our opportunity to cultivate and nurture the very best of these qualities within us.
Though my work may be menial, though my contribution may be small, I can perform it with dignity and offer it with unselfishness. My talents may not be great, but I can use them to bless the lives of others. I can be one who does his work with pride in that which comes from hand and mind. I can be one who works with respect for my associates, for their opinions, for their beliefs, with appreciation for their problems and with a desire to help them should they stumble. I believe in the principle that I can make a difference in this world. It may be ever so small. But it will count for the greater good. The goodness of the world in which we live is the accumulated goodness of many small and seemingly inconsequential acts.
This quote sums up well for me all that I know and believe to be true about work, addressing insignificant tasks and the importance of strong, positive examples for children. I think today’s story does a great job of teaching the same precept! I hope you enjoy!
An Insignificant Task
The day when the jobs were handed out was one of the most exciting for all the children in the class. It took place during the first week of the term. On that day, every boy and girl was given a job for which they would be responsible for the rest of that school year.
As with everything, some jobs were more interesting than others, and the children were eager to be given one of the best ones. When giving them out, the teacher took into account which pupils had been most responsible during the previous year, and those children were the ones who most looked forward to this day. Among them Rita stood out. She was a kind and quiet girl; and during the previous year she had carried out the teacher’s instructions perfectly. All the children knew Rita was the favorite to be given the best job of all: to look after the class dog.
But that year there was a big surprise. Each child received one of the normal jobs, like preparing the books or the radio for the lessons, telling the time, cleaning the blackboard, or looking after one of the pets. But Rita’s job was very different. She was given a little box containing some sand and one ant. And even though the teacher insisted that this ant was a very special ant, Rita could not help feeling disappointed. Most of her classmates felt sorry for her. They sympathized with her, and remarked at how unfair it was that she had been given that job. Even her father became very angry with the teacher, and, as an act of protest, he encouraged Rita to pay no attention to this insignificant pet. However, Rita, who liked her teacher very much, preferred to show the teacher her error by doing something special with that job of such little interest.
“I will turn this little task into something great,” Rita said to herself.
So it was that Rita started investigating all about her little ant. She learned about the different species, and studied everything about their habitats and behavior. She modified the little box to make it perfect for the ant. Rita gave the ant the very best food, and it ended up growing quite a bit bigger than anyone had expected…
One day in spring, when they were in the classroom, the door opened, revealing a man who looked rather important. The teacher interrupted the class with great joy, and said,
“This is Doctor Martinez. He has come to tell us a wonderful piece of news, isn’t that right?” “Exactly”. said the Doctor. “Today they have published the results of the competition, and this class has been chosen to accompany me, this summer, on a journey to the tropical rain forest, where we will be investigating all kinds of insects. Among all the schools of this region, without doubt it is this one which has best cared for the delicate little ant given to you. Congratulations! You will be wonderful assistants!”
That day the school was filled with joy and celebration. Everyone congratulated the teacher for thinking of entering them in the competition, and they thanked Rita for having been so patient and responsible. And so it was that many children learned that to be given the most important tasks you have to know how to be responsible even in what are apparently the smallest tasks. And without doubt, it was Rita who was most pleased at this, having said to herself so many times “I will turn this little job into something really great”.