I am surrounded by talented and artistic people in and out of my family: illustrators, artists, graphic designers, and interior decorators to name just a few.


Remember the classic old movie set in the depression of the mid-1930s. A 12-year-old boy who has very little money decides to get up early on Christmas morning to do the farm chores for his dad. My favorite part is when the father learns of the gift his son gave him and emotionally says: “Do you know I have never seen you children when you first came down Christmas morning?  Never. I was always out in the barn. Now I thank you son, and I will remember this every year for as long as I live.” It still chokes me up when I watch it. And then I nostalgically remember the gift my father has given me.


It is a gift that lasts a lifetime.



I still remember that particular program fondly today. You see, when I was a 12-year-old boy, my family made a move to the country so that we could experience the good life…or at least that’s what we called it then. Life on the homestead required lots of hard work and dedication. The novelty of the animals and farm life wore off quickly, but the focus on working the land and relishing family has lasted a lifetime.


Perhaps this is particularly poignant to me today because I used to watch this story as a child, and then I had the opportunity to live it. Farm work was difficult. It took me away from friends and activities common for a young city boy. I remember sometimes feeling robbed back in those days.


The others at school lived in fine houses and their families drove cool cars. They wore the most fashionable clothing, and life for them seemed simpler and better in some way. I envied the other students at the time, because they could attend sporting events, be involved in the extracurricular activities, and have the fine things in life…or at least that’s what I thought.


When we still lived in Salt Lake City, Utah before our move to the country we used to watch ‘The Walton’s’. Do you remember that program? The series is an American television classic about a family in rural Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II. Every Thursday night, they breathed the farm life we wanted so dearly into our home.


My mother was particularly fond of this show. I think she hoped that someday we could experience life in the country like that she pictured in her heart of hearts. Her imagination, as eloquent and beautiful as it was, didn’t fully capture the ecstasy of life on the farm. It has taken me a life time to appreciate what we had.



The amazing thing about all this as I look back now is that my mother’s dream of living off the land in the country was fully realized. The experience changed our circumstances then and literally every day of our lives afterward. She and Dad did it for us children, because they loved us. That lesson has carried me through the hard times and the good times during my life.


My father was a remarkable man. I miss his companionship every day, but the gift he and my mother gave me supports me constantly. It gives me happiness when times are tough, resilience in the face of hardship, and hope in the midst of despair. This gift has given me direction throughout my entire life. It was their lives and example that made me who I am today.

The important gift my father gave us all is a love for the Savior Jesus Christ.


Paint what is in your heart. Whether it is a brush or byte or a sculpture or your example, let your influence for what is good and right permeate time and proximity to bless others’ lives. Because we are all artists, every deed we do is a stroke in our painting.


And remember that the greatest portrait of all time is the life of a common carpenter whose love and sacrifice changed the world forever.



Yes. The greatest portrait is the love and sacrifice of a common carpenter. And like him, every deed is a stroke in the painting of our lives.


I tend to look back to what brought me here.


It does matter.


Because of them we can.



These are still great memories and treasured experiences for me and my family. But I am getting the sense that this is just an inkling of what is coming right around the corner. Allow me to use a personal experience to demonstrate.


Actually, my first involvement with computers was in college. I took an information management course wherein we learned about computer software and spreadsheets at the time. It was all new for me, complicated, and a bit mysterious. Take for instance the idea of a spreadsheets that could grow beyond the bounds of the screen to “limitless” rows and columns. Perhaps that doesn’t seem so miraculous now, but at the time it was mind-boggling.



So subsequent to this course, we began learning about spreadsheets and word processing and databases for our college assignments. Back in those days we would have to get up early in the morning to get to the computer lab to complete our assignments and print our papers before other students occupied the computers. Finally, I purchased a computer of my own and a dot matrix printer so I could begin using them for my assignments in college. My brother was still typing everything out on a typewriter, which was common for the time.


Though my computer was the peak of technology at the time, it sounds unimpressive now. My computer had 256K of memory and two 5 1/4” floppy drives and a monochrome screen. After some time, I advanced to a 30 MB hard drive, which was enormous for that day. That was long before the Internet, and even when that technology did come to public homes, it was generally dialup access to the Internet, slow, and archaic when compared to the standards of today.


Cable, wifi, broadband 15Mgps, and dual broadband are common today, and Internet speeds seemingly increase daily by nearly 10 times or more faster. Dual broadband transfers data upwards of 100 Mgps or 200 Mgps or more. Blogs, social media, posts, messaging and instant data is everywhere.


Mormon men

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Cell phones are widely adopted today and enjoy prolific use. Their capacity and speed is often far superior to anything we have previously experienced. Contact between loved ones, videos, pictures, snapchats, and messaging are abundant and common at home, work, and social scenes. Personal and family histories are being created at lightning speeds.


I have mentioned before about applying for a job to help build a system to share the family history records at BYU with other schools. The task seemed enormous. Just a couple years later the Internet exploded to the scene and what we anticipated as sharing between universities became common place access to the media from within our own homes. And the end is nowhere in sight. Technological developments continue to outdo past achievements at phenomenal speeds.


What’s next? We can only imagine, but know that the discoveries and inventions will move the work of the Lord forward at lightning fast rapidity.


And the task of writing and saving your personal and family history will be more accessible, easy to do, and prolific than anything you ever imagined.



Your history is waiting to be discovered. It too is a gift.


Embrace it.

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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