99969_000_021(Based on a true story)But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, … and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly (Matt. 6:17–18).
Melissa whistled happily as she made her bed. Today was the day. Last night she had felt a little nervous about her decision until she said her prayers. After that, she knew that she was doing the right thing, even if she was only nine years old.
She thought of Misha, and the whistle died on her lips. Melissa had been in church when she first heard of the terrible accident. Brother and Sister Barton were in one hospital with broken bones and surgeries. Tanna and Brian were in another in traction. Misha was all by herself with a head injury in still another—and in a deep coma. Melissa didn’t understand everything about it, but she did know that it meant Misha might never wake up.
Melissa was smoothing out the bedspread when her mom called. “You’d better hurry. You don’t want to be late for school.”
Melissa smiled again. This was one morning she wouldn’t have to hurry.
“What’s taking you so long this morning?” Mom asked as Melissa came out of her room. “You should have finished breakfast by now. It’s almost time for scriptures.”
Melissa smelled the yummy aroma of orange biscuits fresh from the oven. “Oh, Mom!” she cried. “I didn’t know we were having biscuits today.”
“I know they’re your favorite,” Mom said. “I decided to surprise you.”
Melissa looked into the kitchen at the yummy biscuits and sighed. Then she walked into the living room and picked up her scriptures from the end table by the flowered couch.
“What’s going on, Melissa?” Mom asked. “You know you have to eat before we read.”
I have to tell her now, Melissa thought. I wish I could do it in secret like the scriptures teach, but I’ll have to explain to Mom. No one else, though.
“Mom,” she said, “I’m not going to eat today.”
“You certainly are!” Mom exclaimed. “You need a nutritious breakfast to do well in school.”
“I’m not just going without food,” Melissa said. “I’m fasting today for Misha. We’ve learned in family home evening and at church that we should do everything we can to help one another. Well, I’ve been praying for Misha, and I thought that that was all I could do. But then I remembered that I could fast for her, too, so I decided that today I would. Mom, I just have to do this! I know I’ll get hungry, but I know that Heavenly Father will help me. Please.”
Tears welled up in Mom’s eyes. “Oh, Melissa,” she whispered, “I’m sure that Heavenly Father will bless you and Misha both.”
By eleven thirty, Melissa began to feel really hungry. Morning recess had helped take her mind off food, but back in class, the hunger pains started to bother her again. Soon it was time for the class to line up for the cafeteria.
“Melissa, where is your lunch?” Jennifer asked. “I thought you hated the cafeteria food.”
Melissa looked at the floor. “I’m not eating today.”
“Not eating!” Jason squeaked. “Are you nuts?”
Ignoring him, Melissa hurried forward with the rest of the class. When they arrived at the cafeteria, she quickly washed her hands and moved toward their class table.
“Miss Black, are you on a diet?” the school principal teased. “Your lunch looks a little on the light side.”
“Oh, ah …” Melissa stammered, but the principal’s attention had turned to a commotion in the snack-bar line. Whew! Melissa thought. That was a close one. She walked quickly to her table and sat at the end of the bench.
“May I sit by you?” Tiffany asked.
“I see you’re not eating today. Do you feel OK?”
“Oh sure, it’s just that … well, I’m just not eating.” It sure would be easier if I could just explain. I hope no one else asks me about this.
“Melissa,” said Megan, “why—”
Melissa stood up. “Excuse me.” She started toward the door.
“Where do you think you’re going, young lady?”
Melissa’s heart jumped. She turned and saw Mr. Winterton.
“Mr. Winterton,” she began. “I need to … to …” She didn’t want to lie, but she needed to be alone for a few minutes. “I need to go someplace quiet,” she finally blurted.
Mr. Winterton’s face crinkled in puzzlement. This was indeed an unusual request—one that he had never heard in three years of cafeteria duty. He studied Melissa a long moment, then surprised himself by saying, “All right, I think we can work that out. Come sit quietly outside this side door. No one should bother you there.”
Grateful, Melissa slipped through the doorway and sat down against the wall. The coolness of the cement blocks felt good against her hot back. She bowed her head and began a silent prayer. Dear Heavenly Father, please help Misha and her family get better. I know that Thou lovest me and that Thou lovest Misha. Please help her to get better and wake up. Please!
As Melissa ended the prayer in Jesus’ name, and sat quietly, a comforting warmth filled her, and she felt peaceful and happy. She knew in her heart that Heavenly Father had heard her prayer, and she was glad that she’d done everything she could to help Misha get better. She no longer felt hungry. She wasn’t worried about what to say to her friends, either. The Spirit was with her, and right now she didn’t need anything else.