When I was a boy many decades ago, my mother would pack my lunch for school. I never cared much for what she put in the lunch—even the sandwiches weren’t especially enticing, because she insisted on using brown bread instead of my all-time favorite, Wonder Bread, so white and tasty.
However, I have a story for you about packing a lunch. Frank and John worked as construction workers together. They were always assigned to the same sites and always ate their homemade lunches together.
One day, Frank said to John, “I’m so tired of always having the same lunch every day.”
John answered back, “I’ve noticed over the years that you always have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the same kind of bread. And always an apple. Who packs your lunch, anyway?”
Frowning, Frank answered, “I do.”
This story is a classic in our family, especially with my wife, Bette, and me, who have now been married 56 1/2 years.
You see, whenever I start complaining about how busy I am, or not, or how tired I am of an activity or challenge, she often asks, “Who packs your lunch?” This is our secret code that means: Who controls what you do every day? Who plans your activities? On an even-deeper level, who controls your destiny?
I believe with all my heart that we can plan and control our lives, with few exceptions. The scriptures testify to this fact: “Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves” (2 Nephi 10:23). And I love what President Thomas S. Monson said: “Our decisions determine our destiny.”
In other words, we can and should pack our own lunch. And if we, like Frank, don’t like what’s in there day after day, we need to do something about it! If we let someone else pack our lunch for us, we give up some of our agency. That, my friends, is the first step toward servitude, which can lead to slavery and, in an eternal perspective, damnation.
I believe nothing affects our eternal progress more than letting someone else pack our lunch. From my perspective, this includes providing drugs that get us hooked, taking care of us from crib to grave, keeping us tied to our parents’ apron strings by letting us stay on their insurance until we’re 26, sending us stimulus checks we no longer need, and forgiving student debt we agreed to pay back.
Maybe I’m getting too political, but to me these are all forms of giving up individual rights and letting someone else pack our lunch, rather than taking individual responsibility. No wonder so many of our single adults are staying single adults. They find it more comfortable to let someone else pack their lunch.
If we’re tired of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we ought to do something about it. But perhaps we’re too afraid, like the one-talent employee in the parable of the Talents; or too impatient, like the prodigal son; or didn’t plan ahead, like the five virgins. I believe with all my heart that we can change, but we must determine to change and then, as President Spencer W. Kimball used to say, just do it.
As we teach in the Academy for Creating Enterprise* in the Philippines, Mexico, Peru and Brazil, we have to get out of our comfort zone. One of my favorite sayings of all time is, “If we keep doing what we always have, we will keep getting what we have always got.” To get out of our comfort zone, we must be willing to change.
I’m excited for today, March 10, when we have yet another national day, this one called—believe it or not—National Pack Your Lunch Day. If on no other day than this Wednesday, let’s review our daily life. Let’s see if we’re happy with the way things are “tasting.” If not, let’s determine to take action, take control of our situation, and start to make changes in the way we pack our lunch. It works for Bette and me!
* Academy for Creating Enterprise: A nonprofit that teaches tens of thousands of returned missionaries and others in less-developed countries (LDC) how to increase family income and bring self-reliance to their families. https://www.the-academy.org