Michael didn’t want to attend my Sunbeam class. He seemed to feel more comfortable in the nursery. But I introduced myself anyway and invited Michael and his father to come to class.
After some resistance from Michael, they both came. But Michael wouldn’t leave his father’s side, share toys, or sit in a chair. After Michael’s father left, and during closing exercises, I had to hold Michael on my lap.
That Sunday convinced me that Primary would be a challenge every week if I didn’t do something soon. I decided that the place to start was a personal visit with Michael. I had already made a commitment to visit with each child at his or her home, and I put Michael at the top of the list.
On the appointed day, I went to Michael’s house with my camera and my “Sunbeam Notebook.” The notebook contains a “Sunbeam Personal Profile” for each child—a sheet of paper with each child’s picture and his or her answers to such questions as “What is your favorite food?” “What makes you feel happy?” and “Who do you like to play with?” The children love to look through the book, and at the end of the year, I give them their profiles so they can place them in their books of remembrance.
My fifteen-minute visit with Michael changed both of our attitudes about his coming to class. Somehow, our hearts had touched. Michael’s father told me that after our visit, Michael looked forward to coming to Primary, and his behavior improved dramatically.
As the months went on, I grew to love Michael, and when he and his family moved, I felt a great sense of loss. Though he had been my most difficult student, he was also one of my most cherished.
I felt the same sense of loss when our ward was divided and Sheila no longer attended my Sunbeam class. She sat quietly in class and nearly always did as she was told. She never talked, not even to say hello or to answer a question. But when I visited Sheila at her home, I was pleasantly surprised. There, she talked with me. After that, she spoke in class, too!
I could tell similar stories of joy and struggle about each of the Sunbeams I have taught. I know each one of them well—because I visited with each of them, one-on-one, in their homes.
I had first learned the value of these visits while I was serving as a ward Primary president in southern California several years earlier. The stake Primary president had challenged me to visit each of the Blazers in our ward. Like Blazers throughout the Church, they were energetic and mischievous. They thought that Primary Sharing Time was for “little kids,” and they often were least reverent when they needed to set an example for the younger children.
I was willing to try anything that could help me with those Blazers. Yet part of me hung back from visiting them. How would I find the time? Who would stay with my children while I visited them? Would the boys be willing to talk with me when I arrived?
Despite my doubts, I made appointments with the boys and then confirmed the date and time with their parents. I took with me a “Personal Profile” sheet the stake Primary president had drawn up, with questions followed by blanks where answers could be written.
The visits were eye-opening. I found that the boy who most disrupted Primary was exceptionally bright. He loved Scouting and knew the Scout Law and the Scout motto by heart. What he needed was to be more involved in Primary.
None of the interviews lasted longer than fifteen to twenty minutes, yet from each one I reaped great rewards. With the information gained from my visits, our Primary presidency made some modifications, and we found that the Blazers behaved better. By trying to reach the one, we improved our whole Primary. And when I moved from the ward, I found that I most regretted leaving those Blazer boys, the ones I had visited with individually.
There are many ways to show love and concern for individuals; one-on-one visits are only one way of doing so. Our bishop sends handwritten notes to ward members. I have sent postcards and made telephone calls. Visiting with ward members at the chapel or inviting them to participate in ward activities can also be effective ways of fellowshipping others. But I have found that, generally, visits to children in their homes prove more successful than visits held at the chapel or elsewhere. The comfort of the children’s own “territory” helps them relax and open up.
One-on-one visits are effective not only with children but also with adults. They can help unite a Primary presidency and the teachers who serve with them. The questions asked may be different, but the feelings of love and caring that are exchanged during one-on-one visits are much the same. The visits provide an opportunity for hearts to touch and love to blossom.