I always prided myself on being the "easy" child.
I was the calm between two storms (a.k.a. my older and younger sisters) and I thought I must have been an absolutely delightful child to raise.
Obviously, I was wrong.
I was in college and had come home for Christmas break and was enjoying one of my favorite things—a trip to Costco with my mom (insert absolute golden-child status here)—when I realized the full meaning of "honor thy mother and thy father" and how I was falling short.
We were looking at Christmas decorations, when, to our great amusement, we saw a man roughly about the age of 65 zipping around the aisle in a Jazzy chair calling "Marco" to his adult children.
It was such an unexpected display of child-like whimsy and parental love, we couldn't help but feel an instant attachment to this man.
Then, out of the blue, he zipped up our aisle.
"You better thank your mother, you cornflower-haired young lady."
I fought the urge to look over my shoulder, even though I knew there was no one else in the aisle he could possibly be talking to.
"Yeah, I'm talking to you," he said, with a kind stare that seemed to reach into my flabergasted soul.
"There were times when you were a teenager that your dad wanted to kill you, but she stopped him. I'm not joking either. He probably would've, if your mother hadn't stopped him," he said sternly.
"Okayyy," I replied as my mom chuckled in agreement.
"You better thank your mother every day for that. Marco!" He called, turning and zipping away as quickly as he had come.
"Ummm," I said, looking at my mom who was still chuckling.
"He's right," she agreed.
My pride felt mortally wounded at those two words. Had I not been "the calm between two storms?" Had I not endured years of teasing from my siblings that I was the "golden child," the "favorite" because I was good at honoring my parents?
Obviously, I wasn't as good at honoring my parents as I thought I was if my mom was agreeing with this stranger.
Right then, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Ex. 20:12) suddenly had new meaning.
When I got home, I replayed all the disagreements, all the yelling matches, all the times I had stubbornly refused to listen to my parents' counsel and advice.
I realized what they had done for me, how patient they were with me.
I had not always honored them as I should have when I was younger
Was I honoring them now as an adult? Was I even taking this commandment seriously?
Elder Oaks said in his April 1991 conference address:
"The commandment to honor our parents has strands that run through the entire fabric of the gospel. It is inherent in our relationship to God our Father. It embraces the divine destiny of the children of God. This commandment relates to the government of the family, which is patterned after the government of heaven."
It's important to note that Elder Oaks focuses primarily on how we can follow this commandment as it pertains to the righteousness, focusing on the "emulation of righteous parents."
"The Apostle Paul illuminated that focus when he taught, 'Children, obey your parents in all things [I believe he meant all righteous things]: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.' (Col. 3:20)," Elder Oaks says in his talk.
With this focus in mind, Elder Oaks names ways we can obey this vital commandment at any age by listening to our parents' counsel, giving them our respect, showing them our appreciation, seeking "to emulate their best characteristics and to fulfill their highest aspirations for us," caring for them as they age, and showing "commitment to the great causes in which departed parents spent their lives."
I realized after that unusual encounter with the man at Costco that I could do more to honor my parents. I wasn't following Elder Oaks's counsel to emulate their good example in my life and try to develop the good qualities I had noticed in my parents. Generally, I just wasn't taking the commandment seriously; I thought I was an adult and no longer needed to focus on it.
I wouldn't imagine that a grown man playing Marco Polo with his grown children in Costco would be the wake-up call I needed, but I'm glad he did.