“Stand Up for Love”

It was one of those Sundays when I was to substitute in a Primary class on short notice. Although I had little time to prepare, the class went smoothly. There were Christmas songs to rehearse, and the children were easy to manage. I was particularly impressed with a young girl of Hispanic background. She was very well-informed and participated with enthusiasm. She was from the only Hispanic family in our Idaho ward and was just as comfortable around the other children as my handicapped son was around children who had normal hands.

On the way home, my wife questioned me about the class. As I told of my experience, I mentioned how impressed I was with the little Hispanic girl. I told Lynette I also thought the little girl was very pretty. Then it hit! Rumblings from the back seat. My handicapped six-year-old corrected me, “Dad, she’s brown!” I again asserted how pretty I felt the girl was. Aaron again, with increased disdain, stated, “Dad, she’s brown!” I could see something had to be done, but with seven meeting-weary people in the car, I couldn’t overcome the roar to teach my son.

I had always been proud of my children. They had been raised to accept others. Because of my son’s handicap, we had a great interest in avoiding prejudice and ignoring physical characteristics in people. Yet, we had not gone far enough in our teachings. Our son was able to be friends with children of a different color than himself, but he could not accept them as beautiful.

That evening we had our family home evening lesson. It was Lynette’s turn to conduct, and just as the lesson was about to end, I saw a way to teach the necessary lesson of acceptance.

Our family has several diverse characteristics. Out of seven people we have one with brown eyes, four with hazel, and two with blue. We also have two people with blond hair, two with light-brown hair, and three with brown hair.

I directed the members of the family with brown eyes to go to one spot, those with blue to another, and those with hazel to yet another. Then we switched to hair color groups. Only Lynette and Jonathan had been together in both groups. We had skin-tone groups, nose-shape groups, baby front teeth versus adult front-teeth groups, ten-finger and nine-finger groups (this left our one son alone), and ten-toe groups. By now the children had the message: in some way everyone is different from everyone else.

To make the second point of the lesson clear, I directed all those who enjoy having fun to sit on the couch. All sat. Then all those who enjoy being loved to stand up. All stood. All those who enjoy having friends sit. All sat again. We went through several examples of emotional needs, and all acted in unison. I asked the family what these things meant. They answered that in some ways all people are alike.

We then discussed that it doesn’t matter what someone looks like on the outside, because inside we all have the same feelings and desires to want to be accepted. We talked about the spirit of each person and decided that all spirits came from God and that we are all children of God. Our three-year-old son could no longer restrain himself. He burst out with a chorus of “I Am a Child of God.”

We all joined in singing all three verses of the song. Together we knelt in family prayer, thanking our Father for the beauty in each of his children.

[illustration] Illustrated by Scott Snow

Dennis W. Clegg, father of five, is a Sunday School teacher in his Moreland, Idaho, ward, and a seventy in the Blackfoot Idaho Northwest Stake.