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Sunshine in the New Year
By James W. Petty, AG, CG

The man on the screen was short and stout. He was dressed for the beach in Southern California, covered with long ropes of seaweed, and he was dancing. He had a smile that lit up the room for all who were watching the film. The time period of the home movie was the mid 1930’s. The scene changed to a camping vacation in Yellowstone National Park, showing a happy family of five; three children frolicking with their father, joyfully feeding off of the energy from his antics and laughter. Another portion of the film was devoted to scouting. He was now a scoutmaster, leading his young men to the first National Scouting Jamboree at Washington D.C. in 1937. Again his smile and happy glow was felt by everyone. He wasn’t simply managing boys playing in the mud; he was the first one in the puddle.

My Aunt Jo fairly giggled at the sight of this giant elf, her father. “You know, Daddy once told me, that his mother was very studious, but that his father was a ‘Sunshine’. Grandpa’s mother was also a ‘Sunshine’, he said. Then referring to himself, he said ‘I’m a ‘Sunshine”; and pointing to me, he said ‘you’re a Sunshine, too.'”

The giant elf on the screen was my Grandfather, and he was every bit the “Sunshine” of which JoAnne described him. This was the first time I had heard this characteristic of our family legacy described, and my spirit soared at this revelation. I had gathered with Aunt Jo, my father, and their brother, to study early family films that had been collected and digitized, with the purpose of helping to identify people, places, dates, and events portrayed on the films. As we concentrated on the scenes of the family movies, faces were recalled, and stories from the past were remembered.

Viewing these films and listening to the accounts, brought to my heart the humanity and character of who these people were. Once again as has happened so many times in my life, my heart was being turned to my Fathers, and gospel principles illustrated in their lives were taught to me with special conviction. And I want to be remembered as a “Sunshine.”

This realization comes at this special time of the year where we traditionally ponder new goals and resolutions, and my goal now is to become a “Sunshine.” This doesn’t mean that I have to be center-stage, or the life of the party. It does mean that I need to be cheerful, kind, quick to praise, and helpful. Seventy four years ago, Aunt Jo was told that she was a “sunshine”, and she has been one ever since. She fairly glows when she enters a room. When she talks, she lifts and inspires each person with whom she speaks, because each person is special to her in that moment. She looks for the good in the people with whom she deals; and she loves to laugh.

In thinking of Sunshine, I am reminded of the counsel of our Savior, Jesus Christ:

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” (St. Matthew 5:16)

I invite everyone to join me in this New Year’s resolution, to become kinder, more loving, more forgiving, and an example of who our Father in Heaven is.

I want to be a Sunshine.

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