Standing in wonder at my mother's accomplishments and influence
Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the book "Life Lessons from Mothers of Faith," published by Covenant Communications.
President Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “People wonder what we do for our women. I tell you what we do: We get out of their way and look with wonder at what they are accomplishing.”
Today I stand in wonder at everything my mother, Connie M. Toone, has accomplished and how she has influenced my life. Looking back over the past 30 years, so many examples of her showing, teaching, achieving and loving come to mind.
She demonstrated tremendous patience the day my brothers and I were playing football in the living room and accidentally broke a small crystal piano that was special to her.
She rarely missed our numerous choir concerts, school plays, piano recitals and sporting events.
When a junior high teacher gave me the option of taking an A- or redoing a large assignment for the A, I settled for the A-. Mom was not happy with my decision and let me hear about it.
On many nights, Dad, a farm equipment mechanic, stayed out late, helping farmers repair their balers and harvest their crops. When he wasn’t in a distant northern Utah field, he was fulfilling his calling as bishop at the church. Mom seldom complained and only threw the saltshaker at him once.
She has always been generous in sharing her time with others and very rarely says no when someone calls for help. For Mom, service has always been second nature.
One of Mom’s finest moments, however, came during a pivotal time for our young family. In 1992, my younger brother, Cameron, became very sick. He was taken to the hospital, where we learned he had diabetes. This experience presented a whole new challenge for us.
While Cameron adjusted to diabetes, my parent’s next concern was finding additional income to cover the costs brought on by his condition. It was determined that Mom needed a full-time job. But rather than apply for some job she didn’t care about, Mom decided to return to school and finish her teaching degree. This plan required us to make some sacrifices — “Nothing simply happens,” she taught us. “But,” she continued, “If you try hard enough, you can usually find a way to reach your goals.”
As early as 6 years old, Mom aspired to be a teacher. Her mother was a teacher. Mom liked to pull out Grandma’s old, dusty teacher-edition textbooks, study their words and pretend she was standing in front of a classroom full of students.
When she got into high school, Mom became interested in other things. For a short time, she wanted to be a dietitian. She took a job at a nursing home in North Logan, but didn’t find a lot of joy in that line of work, so she again focused on education.
She graduated from Sky View High School and accepted an academic scholarship to Utah State University. Then, when she was 18, my father proposed marriage and Mom’s educational pursuits were put on hold for almost 20 years.
When my older brother and I were in elementary school, Mom volunteered to help in our classes by playing the piano, singing and reading with students. She enjoyed herself immensely and vowed that when all of us were in school, she would return and finish her education.
During those early years, Mom taught piano lessons part time in our home to supplement the family income. She had instant rapport with students, and as they excelled, word spread quickly about Connie Toone. Soon mothers from neighboring towns were dropping off students at all hours of the day for a 30-minute lesson. At one point, she was teaching as many as 50 students a week. For years, we awoke at 6 a.m. to basic scales and renditions of “Hot Cross Buns” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” After school, we hid in the basement to escape the sound of the piano pounding.
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