I wasn’t ready.

That’s all it really came down to. The family was ready to go, and I wasn’t, so I encouraged them to head on without me. It was my second chance to attend the Provo City Center Temple open house. I had gone already once before with my wife. But nonetheless, I let my schedule get in the way and the family had to go without me. So it was a seemingly insignificant mistake. I will go again with others in my family. And there is plenty of time left. But this entire instance while they were attending the open house, I was thinking under different circumstances, this is not a situation I want to repeat.

Just few misguided decisions or thoughtless actions, and I could jeopardize my ability to be with my family forever, and that is true for you and your family as well. That’s not a situation where any of us want to find ourselves. But it is also true that our choices today will greatly impact our decisions in the future. Those with young adult children at home know this all too well. Education, life skills, relationships, friends, and professional decisions are paramount at this point in their lives. I have come to appreciate and cherish President Gordon B Hinckley’s message regarding small decisions—like moving a piece of metal three inches—that may produce severe and costly consequences:.

hinckley_mediumOne morning I received a call from my counterpart in Newark, New Jersey. He said, ‘Train number such-and-such has arrived, but it has no baggage car. Somewhere, 300 passengers have lost their baggage, and they are mad.’

“I went immediately to work to find out where it may have gone. I found it had been properly loaded and properly trained in Oakland, California. It had been moved to our railroad in Salt Lake City, been carried to Denver, down to Pueblo, put on another line, and moved to St. Louis. There it was to be handled by another railroad which would take it to Newark, New Jersey.

“But some thoughtless switch man in the St. Louis yards moved a small piece of steel just three inches, a switch point, then pulled the lever to uncouple the car. We discovered that a baggage car that belonged in Newark, New Jersey, was in fact in New Orleans, Louisiana—1,500 miles from its destination.”

Small seemingly insignificant decisions can have monumental consequences. That is true for trains, and it is true for life. What we esteem to be of little consequence may be the defining moment of all time.

We often fail to recognize the significance of a story or experience at the time it occurs. There are several reasons for that:

  1. Perhaps we are young and did not realize the importance of the event at the time
  2. We find additional insight and edification as we ponder life’s experiences
  3. The situation becomes more pertinent at a particular time in our lives
  4. As we review our existence, time has a way of increasing the importance of life experiences

And these reasons are not unique or surprising. The same thing happens when reading the scriptures. At different times in one’s life, the same verse of scripture may have completely different meaning to the reader. There are dozens of examples. You have them, too. I have included a personal example to illustrate. These are the words of my father taken from his journal:

There was an experience I had with Mother when I was seventeen. It was when she was working and would go to the merchandise markets in California, Chicago, or New York.

chicago-200496_640The first time I went was when I was still in high school. I was between semesters, so she invited me to go with her. She made a reservation for us at the LaSalle Hotel in Chicago. A check was sent and she got back a confirmation. She always had to make reservations early because so many people attended the markets that the hotels would fill up.

We flew to Chicago and drove to the hotel by taxi. We went to the front desk, Mother gave her name and told them we had a reservation and wanted to check in. They told us they couldn’t find it. Mother told them, “That can’t be, because I sent my check and you sent me back a confirmation for a room with two beds.”

They looked again but couldn’t find her reservation. In all the years, that never happened to her before or after. This time it was lost. Mother felt like they just had to make a place for us. But they told us they were completely filled up and didn’t have one room left.

The sympathetic desk clerk told us she had a friend who owned some furnished apartments, and that she would probably have an empty one. She called her friend and made arrangements for us to stay there, so we did.

In the middle of the night, we were awakened by lots of fire engines. They came across a bridge over a river and headed down the same street as we were on. We marveled at how many fire engines came one-after-the-other. We wondered where the fire was. The next morning, the bold newspaper headlines told about how the LaSalle Hotel, where we were supposed to have stayed, had burned. Fifty-two people had died and two hundred were injured. This was one of quite a few times in my life, when the Lord spared me, and I am most grateful.

To read more articles by Walter Penning, click here.

To read more articles by Walter Penning, click here.

Associating with my father and reading from his journal has always given me a lift—as a boy, a missionary or a young, newly-married husband, and as a father. I am well past my prime now and hope my example has the same kind of influence for my children and grandchildren.

It is a pleasure to have a father of such high character. I have many more stories of him that I often read.

Future posts will focus on a few more of the life stories of people significant in my personal history and family life today.

About Walter Penning
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.

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