Thursday, August 30, 2012

Eleven Year Old Girls Anticipate their Children

Ideas like favorite toys and children
Your Own are always Wonderful!
One of the greatest teaching moments for me was in Primary in the then Branson Branch when I worked as Santa and Emcee for the Osmonds in that Missouri Resort town.

Soon after arriving in town, I went to the affable Branch President and told him I needed a job.

"Don't you already work for the Osmonds?" he asked with a quizzical smile.

"Of course." I replied.  That's what I do 9-5 (or more accurately from about 3 PM to 10 PM every day) but the job I was referring to was a church assignment.   The next week I was called to teach the Merry Miss (Eleven year old girls) in Primary.  I must mention that the Osmond Brothers and I were the shock troops--the first to arrive in August of 1998 in time to write and produce the end of the Summer Show and turn around and do it all again for the  Christmas Show to open in September.  The wifes and kids came later.  It was a busy time..but on Sunday I was alone, praying for a dinner invitation from the locals--that never came until the very end.  (more about that later)

Turns out the five girls were typical LDS Tweens with one exception:  Diana Hinnen, a bright daughter of a recently widowed art teacher at Branson High School who also taught the gospel doctrine class.  Diana's dad had been, well, me-- chubby, jolly, faithful (the former Branch President) and victim of a sudden heart attack.  I came to know that I was called in Primary to take his place in her life for an hour a week.

As Santa (and a former marketing director for a couple of radio stations) I had learned the value of "trade"  I got approval from the Osmonds to work out arrangements with the wholesale toy store in the Duty free Branson Mall to trade toys to give away on stage as part of my Santa exchange for a little referral card taped to the bottom of the chairs at our theater.   It worked great for both of us:  Santa and the toy store.  I got great props and they got foot traffic.

On one of my first "buying" trips I noticed a dozen GIANT white teddy bears high above the display floor that didn't seem to be moving.   Most customers came to Branson on the bus...and the three foot something bears were not flying off the shelves  because there was limited seating and luggage capacity on the 48 seat busses that streamed in and out of town every day.   I took 'em all; freeing up the space...and stored them in an unfinished loft that eventually several seasons later became Jimmy's office at the theater.  We spread the giant bears over the Christmas season as giveaway "stage decorations" under two big Christmas trees on either side of the stage...and Jimmy once in a while would award them as after show prizes to little kids, often smaller than the bears themselves.    We worked to ration the bears...and finally gave away the last one on the closing night of the first season as Branson closed up shop in anticipation of the show stopping ice storms that closed down theaters from January to March every year.

Much like President Monsen did when he was Bishop, writing persistently to a young serviceman with barely a hope of reply, I sent post cards to Diana Hinnen inviting her to our class.  It worked and she showed up, returning to activity in the gospel after many months away.

With six girls and a great opportunity to build testimonies and mold motherhood, I had the idea of a special lesson on anticipating mortal children...and what needed to be done in these eleven year old lives to prepare for that day--likely some ten years away.   The big white bears seemed like the perfect props.

Back in the day, Primary was at the end of the block...and kids went home afterward, not to other meetings, so I had the luxury of being able to set up my classroom early and use the element of suprize.  I sat six identical white bears opposite six empty chairs and waited at the door until all six of my students had gathered outside after opening exercises.  I chuckled a warning that there were for each little sister inside, but they could not touch them until I gave them the signal.

My own daughter was a year younger at 1- so I mailed a bear with a summary of the lesson to her by parcel post...and the result was as expected...all warm and fuzzy.  Her great mom, Rosie led the discussion at a family home evening and I hopefully came off a hero within my own family.

The lesson followed a simple outline:

"Dear little sisters,  Over the next ten years you will become the next mothers in Zion.   Right now your children are waiting in the spirit world for you to get ready for them to arrive.   What are some things you can do now to be ready when that time comes?  The discussion progressed with a little more serious tone...and the anticipation of taking home a giant bear, just like everybody else in the class.

Under most normal circumstances such a lesson might be costly--but even a small bear from a dollar store to each member of an all girl primary class will yield great benefits.

See the post about the SPIRITUAL SURVIVAL KIT for more information on this class of Merry Misses and now National Merit Scholar Diana Hinnen!