Whenever I hear about families not knowing who their home teachers are or another round of direction from our priesthood leaders to do our home teaching (and visiting teaching for that matter), I lovingly think of the home teacher of my childhood. Because of his faithfulness in fulfilling this calling, I have a firm testimony of the importance of home teachers.
When I was quite young my dad was the bishop. There were eight children in our family, and from the outward, put-your-best-foot-forward Sunday appearance, I'm sure we looked like a model Mormon family. We were far from it, but I suppose it would have been easy for any home teacher to think, "The bishop's family is doing fine. I don't really have to check in on them." But Brother Washburn wasn't just any home teacher.
I'm actually surprised at how many vivid memories I have of him considering I was between ages three to nine during that time. Brother Washburn was an old man with thick, white, wavy hair and wrinkly skin. He moved slowly but had such sparkle in his eye.
I remember how he always gave his suit pants a quick tug at the knee before he sat down on our wobbly piano bench. He always sat on the piano bench. I remember him slowly walking up the street with his cane and a broad smile on his face especially for all the children.
One time he was quite ill, and I wanted to make a get well card for him. My mom said I could walk down to his house to deliver it. Sister Washburn welcomed me and led me to the bedroom where dear Brother Washburn was recuperating. I'm sure it wasn't much of a beautiful card from a five-year-old, but he and his wife seemed to cheer right up when I came to their home. I learned that day how a small kindness can bring so much sunshine to someone who isn't feeling well.
A couple of times he would have me and a sibling over to his garden to see his "banana tree." He had a large tree in his backyard, and next to it he planted a banana squash plant. As the vines grew, he would train them up the trunk and out onto the main branches of the tree. Thus when the squash grew, it looked like a banana squash tree with the fruit hanging down. Such a small thing, yet I thought it was completely magical.
Then there was the Halloween we went trick-or-treating to his home, and next to the front door was a large, tall bush. Just after we said trick-or-treat, he jumped out from behind the bush and gave us an apple with a jolly laugh. The trick was on us!
He was always prepared with a lesson and even went one step further to ask each month, "Is there a specific topic you would like us to prepare for your family next month?"
I loved him because he first loved us.As an adult reflecting on what made him such a wonderful home teacher, I realized it was all these little things, yes--but one thing much more significant. Brother Washburn was the model of unconditional love. I knew he genuinely cared for me and my family. I loved him because he first loved us.
His was the first funeral I ever attended. I can't wait to see him again and throw my arms around his young, healthy neck and wet his cheeks with tears of joy and gratitude. Thirty-five years later I still have such a deep and abiding love for this dear home teacher.
Our callings as visiting teachers have the same power, I'm sure, but encourage your husbands and fathers to do their home teaching. It can be such a force for good in the lives of your young children. I have such a strong testimony of that.