Lesson on the Garage Roof

“Lesson on the Garage Roof,” Ensign, Apr. 1988, 55

Lesson on the Garage Roof

After the signal from Dad to commence our family’s mock disaster, each person ran in a different direction. We passed each other in the hallways of the house like busy ants, gathering needed items. With no preparation, we were forced to decide on the run just what we needed. Some of us tried to carry too much; others, in haste, forgot essentials. Mother purposely struggled, hoping someone would help her.

Our goal—to reach the safety of the garage roof in ten minutes.

Once assembled there, we looked around self-consciously, hoping our neighbors were all inside. No such luck! There stood Joe, in the yard next door, trying not to be obvious as he observed our every move. How embarrassing!

Earlier, Dad had called us together for home evening and told us that we would work together as a family to see how we would react in the event of a major citywide crisis. It had sounded like fun, because normally we were not allowed on the garage roof. Father had given each of us just ten minutes to gather what we believed were essentials. It had been exciting!

There we sat, wondering what the six of us must look like. Surrounded by our blankets, sleeping bags, crackers, bread, canned food (and no can opener), cookies, books, genealogy records, and scriptures, we soon forgot Joe and the rest of the neighborhood and began concentrating on the lesson.

We reflected on Lehi’s dream as he and his family were ridiculed by those in the spacious building. (See 1 Ne. 8:26–27.) We came to appreciate, at least partially, the feelings they must have had as they were sent from their home on short notice. And we remembered Noah’s persistence amidst peer ridicule. Dad reminded us that our present circumstance was a result of obedience to a father’s guidance, just as Lehi’s and Noah’s families’ had been in days of old.

As we took stock of our provisions, we found that our last-minute scramble had left us ill equipped for such an emergency. Our disjointed, uncoordinated efforts had not only resulted in serious oversights, but had also shown some degree of selfishness and lack of concern for each other.

As we spent that evening on the roof, enjoying a beautiful summer sunset, watching our neighbors cutting lawns and gardening, several lessons were indelibly fixed in our minds because of this unique family home evening experience. We drank our juice, ate whatever food was not in tins, and came to know each other better. We strengthened our family bonds through this evening on the roof.

We were each impressed deeply with the lessons of the evening: the need to follow parents’ inspired counsel, be prepared for emergencies, care for family members, follow commandments—even under the uncomfortable observation of others—and have faith in the Lord.

Some time later, at a stake conference, our father shared our experiences with an amused congregation. Our faces reddened at the time, but we still find today that there are people who remember us as the “garage roof” family.

  • Steven K. Patterson is a counselor in the bishopric of the Wetaskiwin Ward, Red Deer Alberta Stake; his father, Robert S. Patterson, is a patriarch in the Edmonton Alberta Riverbend Stake.

Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh