Stay Calm

    “Stay Calm,” Friend, July 1997, 16

    “Stay Calm”

    (Based on a true incident)

    Listen to the still small voice! … He will guide you always. (Children’s Songbook, page 107.)

    My name is Job Abram Goldrup. Several years ago, when I was four years old and my older brother, Matt, was six and a half, Dad took us camping at a place called Blue Lake in northern California. It was in the middle of a very, very hot summer. Although most of the other lakes around there—even bigger ones like Clear Lake in Mendocino County—were very low and muddy, Blue Lake was filled with water.

    We slept in sleeping bags on the ground that night, and Dad told us a story. I can’t remember what it was about, but I liked the soft sound of his voice and the feeling of being with him by the lake in the woods. I felt safe and loved and excited. The moon made silver, bouncy light on the water, and I heard an owl hooting in the dark trees whose branches swayed back and forth in the dry wind. I looked a long time at the warm, bright glow of our campfire. It made the dark not too scary, just like Dad’s voice did. Yep, I liked it there. A lot.

    In the morning Dad made hot chocolate and cooked hot dogs. The chocolate had a few twigs in it because he spilled the chocolate powder on the ground and some stuff got mixed up with it when he scooped it up. But that was OK because Dad said there was hardly any use being in nature if you didn’t get a little of it in you. “Besides,” he added, “a little roughage is good for the system.” We just laughed and drank it down. It was kind of a strange breakfast—what we ate should have been for dinner, and what we had for dinner we should have had for breakfast—that was part of the fun of camping with Dad.

    After breakfast, we rented a rowboat and went out on the lake. Dad made us wear orange life jackets. That’s the only part that wasn’t much fun because it was already getting hot and the life jacket made me hotter. But Dad said that just as the words of the prophets are meant to help keep us spiritually safe, life jackets are made to help keep us temporally safe.

    I scrunched up my face something awful and fidgeted as if to shake that life jacket right off me.

    “You have to plow your own furrow, huh, Joby?” Dad said, smiling and shaking his head.

    I didn’t know what he meant. I scrunched up my face again and reached my hand down into the cool water. The water felt good. And, I have to admit, so did Dad’s counsel. Even if I didn’t understand it sometimes, I knew that it meant that he cared about me and my brother.

    We kind of went around in a few circles before Dad started rowing straight. Matt whispered to me that Dad was about as good at rowing as he was at cooking.

    Dad heard us and laughed. “I’m just taking the scenic route,” he joked.

    After a while, we reached a small island near the other side of the lake. I felt like an explorer as Dad pulled the rowboat partway onto the pebbly beach. The island was covered with trees. A few big ones had long before fallen into the water along its edges, and there were logs on the beach.

    There was only one problem: It was very hot! It helped to take off my shirt and shoes and wade in the shallow water along the beach, looking for rocks and small fish. It helped, but it wasn’t enough. “Dad,” I begged, “can’t I take off my life jacket? It’s so hot, and the water isn’t deep here. It hardly comes up to my knees.”

    Dad, who was wading higher up the beach ahead of us, scratched his head and scrunched up his face. “I guess it would be OK, Joby,” he said at last, “as long as you don’t wade out any deeper.”

    I promised that I wouldn’t, and Matt helped me get out of the jacket. I threw it up onto the beach. It felt great to have it off! My brother and I continued to look for rocks and fish below the surface of the water, Matt poking and turning the rocks over with a stick he had brought from camp.

    A few minutes later, Dad looked back to check on me and my brother and yelled, “Where’s Joby, Matt?”

    Matt looked this way and that, then, bewildered, back at Dad. “I don’t know—he was right here a minute ago.”

    Dad raced up out of the water and faced the thick, tangly island trees. “Joby!” he yelled again and again, hoping I had decided to venture into the trees.

    Matt was worried too. “Where is he, Dad?”

    Dad didn’t answer. He ran into the shallow water close to where Matt stood, scanning the water about him. Then he ran along the beach, first in one direction, then another. Suddenly he stopped, looked down into the shallow water by a fallen tree, and screamed, “Joby!” He threw himself beneath the surface and pulled me up!

    A big gasp came from me as I breathed in air at last.

    “Are you all right?” Dad looked at me with tears filling his eyes.

    I nodded. “I guess I stepped into a hole. A feeling like a voice told me ‘Stay calm. Your dad will come for you.’ So I did. I just started looking around at the big tree roots, waiting for you to find me.”

    Dad started crying hard. He hugged me like he would never let go. And for a moment, I didn’t want him to, and I started to cry too.

    Afterward we all sat on a log up on the beach, and Dad explained what had happened. He said that I had stepped in a pothole and very well could have drowned. It was because of Heavenly Father’s loving, watchful care that I was spared. Dad said that the voice-feeling I had was the Holy Ghost telling me what to do. I know that that’s true because of the special feeling I had while I was waiting for Dad to find me. “If you had panicked,” Dad said, “You would have swallowed water and might have drowned.”

    I will always remember that day—listening to Dad’s story and sleeping by the campfire, eating those hot dogs and drinking the twiggy hot chocolate that Dad had lovingly prepared, the cool lake water on a hot summer day. But most of all I will remember my experience with the Holy Ghost that taught me how near He is to us—as near, Dad would say, as an amen at the end of a prayer.

    Illustrated by Dick Brown