“Best Family Home Evening Ever!!” Friend, Jan. 1978, 8
Best Family Home Evening Ever!!
“Next week,” said Dad at the end of family home evening, “the lesson will be about why family members shouldn’t say unkind things to each other when they’re angry.”
“Yippee!” shouted nine-year-old Alan. He was glad the lesson was on family members not getting angry with each other. Alan’s brothers and sister always seemed to be angry with him.
He remembered borrowing Ryan’s electric shaver to practice shaving and Ryan had yelled at him. At Christmastime he tied red bows on Alice’s geranium to surprise her and she became really upset.
Even Dad and Mom had become irritated with him—like the time when he taped the two halves of the dining room table together underneath so that they couldn’t be pulled apart to put extra leaves in. Alan thought it was funny. Dad and Mother didn’t.
I can’t wait for next Monday to come, Alan thought.
Then Father continued, “And I’m going to assign Alan to give the lesson.”
“Uh-oh,” Alan said.
“You can do it,” encouraged Mother. “You were so enthusiastic a moment ago.”
Alan thought for a minute. “I guess since I’m an expert on making people angry, I probably could give a lesson on how to keep all of you from being cross with me.”
Everybody laughed. But Alan really meant what he said.
He had never given a lesson in family home evening before—at least not all by himself—and he wanted to do a good job. And so he thought about it all week.
Every now and then Mom would say, “Alan, how’s the family home evening lesson coming? Want any help?”
“It’s coming great, Mom,” Alan would say. “I’ve decided to do it all by myself, but thanks anyway.”
On the Sunday night before family home evening, Alan spent a lot of the evening downstairs in his room, writing.
“What are you writing?” Dad asked.
“Things,” Alan answered, “for the family home evening lesson.”
As soon as he got home from school on Monday afternoon, Alan put a sign on the basement door. It said, PLEASE DO NOT ENTER! FAMILY HOME EVENING LESSON UNDER CONSTRUCTION.
His second oldest brother Harry knocked on the basement door. “Alan,” he said. “I want to watch television.”
“Sorry,” Alan called. “You can’t come down right now.”
Harry became upset. “I’m warning you, Alan, this better be a mighty good family home evening!”
“Don’t worry,” Alan said.
After a while his sister Alice knocked on the door. “Alan,” she said, “all my sewing stuff is in the basement. Can I come down?”
“I’m sorry, sis, not now,” Alan replied. “Can’t you crochet for a while instead?”
“I want to sew, Alan,” she said, sounding cross.
“Sorry,” Alan repeated. “But if I let you come down it would ruin my family home evening lesson.”
“It better be good,” Alice threatened.
“It’ll be one of the most interesting family home evenings we’ve had,” Alan promised.
Finally it was dinnertime and Alan came upstairs, closing the basement door carefully behind him. When dinner was over, the family gathered together in the living room for family home evening.
After the song and the prayer, Alan stood up and said, “Tonight the lesson is on how family members shouldn’t yell or talk unkindly to each other even when they’re upset. When someone yells at another person it makes that person feel bad, and that isn’t the way we’re supposed to make people feel.”
Everyone agreed that Alan was right. Then he passed out pieces of paper to everyone. Dad read his first: “If you came home from work and you set down your briefcase and then some of us got into it and made paper airplanes out of the papers, what would you do?”
Dad thought for a minute. “I would probably get angry.”
“But what would you do about it?” Alan asked.
Dad smiled. “I’d call in the ones who made the paper airplanes and explain to them that these were important papers that other people were depending on, and I would ask them to unfold the paper airplanes and flatten out the pages as best they could.”
“You wouldn’t yell?” Alan asked.
“I wouldn’t yell,” Dad promised.
Mom read, “If you were making a cake and one of your children came in and jumped real hard in front of the oven and the cake fell, what would you do?”
“Well, I would feel just awful,” said Mom. “I’d explain to that child how his jumping made the cake fall and ruined the family’s dessert and that I felt really bad about it.”
“But you wouldn’t say anything mean?” Alan asked.
“Not if I were acting the way I should,” said Mom, smiling.
Soon all the family promised that they would not be cross or unkind to other family members anymore even when they had cause to be angry.
“Is that the whole lesson?” asked Ryan.
“No,” Alan said. “Now we’ll go downstairs to the family room.”
Everyone went downstairs, Alan first. He watched them very carefully as they saw what the family room looked like.
Everything was in the wrong place. All the books were out of the bookshelves. Alice’s sewing things were scattered everywhere. The boxes from the storage room were piled up around the bottom of the stairs. There were little pieces of wadded up newspaper on the floor. And facedown on the Ping-Pong table was what looked like an expensive picture that Mom was going to frame, ripped right in half. It was the worst sight any of them had ever seen.
“What a terrible mess!” said his mother, irritably.
“I know it, Mom,” said Alan. “But you can’t yell at me. All of you promised you wouldn’t be cross no matter how upset you got.”
Dad looked at Mom. Mom looked at Ryan. Ryan looked at Harry. Harry looked at Alice. Alice looked at Alan.
“Alan,” Alice said, “if we can’t yell, can we at least whisper that we want to knock somebody’s block off?”
“No,” Alan said.
Alan gave them all a little time to think. Then he asked, “Is anybody here going to be cross at anyone else, namely me?”
After a while they all said, “No, we won’t.”
Then Alan smiled. “All right, you passed the test. Now I’ll tell you about this mess. Actually I didn’t just scatter these things around even though it looks that way. I set them all very carefully where they are so that nothing would be damaged. And see, Mom, I cut out some paper the same size as your picture and you just thought I’d ripped up the original one. I’ll have everything back in place in a couple of hours.”
Then everybody laughed, because Alan had really made them realize how they had been behaving toward each other. They decided that Alan shouldn’t have to put everything back alone, so they all worked together, and soon everything was back in place.
When it was all cleaned up, Alan said, “Well, I guess my lesson’s over. Thanks for helping.”
“It was a good lesson, son,” Dad said. “And if we could keep from yelling about the way this family room looked a few minutes ago, I think we can keep from being upset about anything.”
“It was a good lesson,” Ryan said, “but I hope you never make the family room look like that again.”
“You must be kidding!” Alan replied. “I’ll never make a mess like that again in my whole life. It took hours! You guys may think being a messy kid is easy, but I can tell you it is really hard work!”