There is an old story about a young woman who, in fixing her first Sunday dinner for her new husband, cut the ends off of a pot roast, and threw the perfectly good meat into the garbage. Her husband asked her why she was throwing the good meat away.
She stared at him for a minute, and then shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know. It’s something my mother always did.”
Her husband scratched his head and said it didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to him.
So the young lady made a call to her mother. Her mother said, “I don’t know, honey. I always cut the ends off because I saw my mother do it.”
So then a call was placed to grandma, who was able to clarify things. “Sweetie, your mother saw me cut off the ends of a pot roast one Sunday because it was too big to fit in the roasting pan. I had to cut those ends off just because it wouldn’t have otherwise fit. I had no idea she was even watching me!”
“Well, Grandma,” the young woman said, “Mom has tossed out a lot of good meat through the years. But we won’t do it anymore!”
No doubt, that tradition will no longer continue!
We never know who is watching us. Nor do we know the example we are being to those who quietly watch and learn. On the other hand, who are we watching? And what may we have misinterpreted because we did not have all the facts?
We will want to make sure that we are in the habit of keeping good and efficient habits, and that we aren’t following “just because.” And while it is wonderful to lovingly be an example to those we love and care about, we will want to ensure that our example is not misunderstood. While the best intent is there, we may find that something gets lost in the translation.
Elder Marion D. Hanks once spoke of the power of example:
One of mother’s grandsons said he had watched with wonderment as his tiny daughter paged through her storybook, moistening her first finger to turn the pages as she had seen her daddy do as he read his books. Actually, she was moistening the finger on her left hand and turning the pages with the finger on her right hand! But that only served to emphasize both the power of example and the fact that she, like all the rest of us, is yet learning. (Ensign, May 1979, p.74.)
This is such a sweet illustration of how little ones are learning as they quietly watch. We are like little children in that we emulate those who have influence over us. Some choose as their examples people who forge strong character and are beautiful within (see I Samuel 16:7) , while others follow after the trends of the world, seeking to be like those in television, magazines, movies and videos. Many of these influencers are far from harbingers of integrity.
Similarly, we may want to re-check ourselves, making sure that we are worth emulating.
Who is watching when we are at school? At work? At home? At the grocery store or at the skating rink? In the library or at the gas station? What are they learning, from us, by example?
President Lorenzo Snow once made a beautiful observation about the influence of our example:
You exert a certain degree of influence, and be it ever so small, it affects some person or persons, and for the results of the influence you exert you are held accountable. You, therefore, whether you acknowledge it or not, have assumed an importance before God and man that cannot be overlooked. (Journal of Discourses, 18:299.)
Example is powerful and potent. For us, and from us. We won’t want to toss out any good parts simply because we have seen someone else do it. Nor will we want to pass along any throw-away mentalities.
Watch and learn — and gain wisdom by gaining all the information. Perhaps some traditions need to be put to rest.
Then, there are good and valuable lessons to pass along. Many of these lessons come from our own actions and words — even when we have no idea who’s watching!