When I was in law school, I grew to love a family of children who lived a few miles from me. The Jenkins were a family of 14 children though I only ever knew 5 of them. The other 9 were in foster care. They all had the same mother but different fathers. The 5 I knew and loved were being raised by their wheelchair bound grandmother as their mother and varied fathers were all in prison.
Somehow I started taking them to church every Sunday. And I sat with them through Sacrament meeting. I taught several of them in seminary and others in primary. They lived in one of DC's rougher neighborhoods. The oldest was 16 and already had a juvenile record. I tried to inspire them every week that they could avoid that life and be more if they would follow the teachings of Christ and apply themselves in their education.
I am not sure whatever became of these children. I still love them. I am a little afraid to know what became of them. There is only so much someone outside the home can do to help someone out of such circumstances. But this experience changed the way I looked at motherhood.
I remember distinctly walking through the ghetto to work one morning and thinking to myself about how sad it was that these 14 spirits had to come to earth in such hard circumstances. I felt so blessed to have been born to good parents who loved me and took care of me and taught me to be honest and to have basic values. I thought about how there are so very many good parents out in the world today, but very few of them have 14 children. What is the average now? 2.3?
This was back when Jonathan and I were nothing more than friends. But I knew he would be an excellent father and I knew that if he and I ever did get together we would make a great partnership as a couple and as parents. I said to myself in that moment, "If I ever married Jon Waite, I think I would have 12 kids. I would want to give as many spirits as I could the chance to come to a home with stable parents who love each other and would love and teach them truth and goodness."
Now my whole idea about the number 12 has been rather altered :) by reality and experience. But this line of thinking changed my perceptions of motherhood. I now see that being a good mother is the greatest act of community service we can do.
I practiced criminal defense law for a year before I had Sabrina. I look at my transition from that life to motherhood as a shift from damage control to prevention. Good mothers everywhere - whether they work outside the home or not - are all engaged in that great community service. We are doing the best we can to raise up productive, honest, contributing members of our society. We are investing our efforts into the literal creation of a brighter future for our society.
In a world that sometimes seems so dark and troubled, I don't know of any better way I can serve help it than to bring more good people into it and teach them to share their goodness with others. So to all you mothers out there who are loving your children and taking care of them every day, teaching them right from wrong -- THANK you for the great act of community service you are doing day by day, year by year.