When No One Is Watching

Suzanne Burnett
2 min readMay 17, 2023

Family prayer had just ended on a Saturday night. Pajama-clad people were standing and trudging to their sleeping quarters. Then I remembered.

“Oh, yeah. Big Brother just messaged from the party and asked if anyone would be willing to milk the cow.”

Silence. Younger siblings, suddenly unbelievably fatigued, disappeared into their rooms until it was just the newly weds and me.

“Well, I usually never turn down a chance to serve, but…..” my son-in-law began. His wife smiled, stood up, and left the room. I shrugged, not surprised by the family’s response to an after-9-p.m. request, and walked to the kitchen to finish dishes.

About a year ago, our 15-year-old struck up a bargain wherein he happily chose to milk the cow twice a day, rain or shine, in exchange for being left out of the household chores rotation. Since everyone else was still vacuuming and cleaning toilets, only if sports events kept him out late did people step forward to milk the cow.

Tonight our high schoolers were still at a surprise birthday party as I crawled into bed. “Gracious, what is all that racket?” I wondered to myself as “lamb in distress” sounds came through my open window. Slipping on shoes, I wandered out our porch door to investigate. One lamb met me with joyful leaps. The other lamb continued to bawl as I disengaged its head from a strangely bent panel hole.

Distress signal instantly ceased. Standing, I began thinking of my waiting pillow when another out-of-place sound turned my head: metal cups bouncing against a steel tank as the milker was carried to the barn. Huh?

The sun having sunk over the horizon long ago, shadows chased each other through the barnyard. Across the driveway, I could see the tall outline of the person hauling the milker to the waiting cow. At first I wondered at my husband’s kind heart, but my breath caught in surprise as the figure turned toward the barn. It was my son-in-law! The whole house had gone to bed, comfortable with our justification that it would take the missing son five minutes to complete the task when he arrived home. Only one person had chosen to quietly do what the Savior would have done.

“You’re a good man!” I called out to the moving shadow.

The footsteps stopped.

“I try.”

And with that, he moved forward to finish what he started.

Two thoughts came to mind:

“Never suppress a generous thought.”1

“Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”2

Thank you, Favorite Son-in-Law, for teaching me so clearly to do what is right, even when no one is watching.



Suzanne Burnett

Mother of twelve children and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shares spiritual insights learned through parenting and marriage.