“How long have you been serving in Primary?” the bishop asked me one hot Sunday. With the building’s air-conditioning not working, I had been spending the last hour trying to persuade a roomful of droopy-eyed, uncomfortable children to sing over the monotonous humming of fans.
“About two and a half years,” I answered. The bishop smiled. I knew that smile. I had seen it when our family first moved into the ward. It was his new-calling smile. A new calling, but why?
When I was called as Primary music leader, I didn’t know the first thing about leading children in singing. I was not musically inclined. I couldn’t tell an upbeat from a downbeat, and I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Despite childhood piano lessons, my talents had become buried under years of college, marriage, children, and a part-time job.
However, over time I was able to figure out what I was doing in Primary. Opening songs, prayer songs, birthday songs, theme songs, sharing-time songs, sacrament-presentation songs, quiet songs, and nursery finger plays became second nature to me. Each week I looked forward to a new song, a different teaching tactic, or a new way to spark the tender voices of the children. The sweet smiles on their faces would make my heart melt. I grew to love each child, and often their vibrant voices brought tears to my eyes as they proudly sang “Called to Serve” (Children’s Songbook, 174) or reverently and thoughtfully sang “Search, Ponder, and Pray” (Children’s Songbook, 109).
One of my most powerful experiences as Primary music leader happened one Sunday as I tried to teach the children the beautiful hymn “I Believe in Christ” (Hymns, no. 134) in preparation for an upcoming sacrament meeting presentation. I had spent hours arranging pictures and word strips on a poster. The children readily practiced the song, but something was still missing. As I pondered how to encourage them, I recalled that the hymn was the personal testimony of Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I explained this to the children, and we talked about how special the hymn is. Then we tried the song again. The children sat up, opened their eyes wide, and sang with stronger voices than ever before.
I could not sing along because my eyes were full of tears and my heart was full of gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the blessings and joy we can receive from our callings.
Now the bishop was extending a new call—to be Young Women president. What a challenge I felt that calling would be for someone who had spent the last two or three years pinning “Super Singer” awards on little three-year-olds and singing “Popcorn Popping” (Children’s Songbook, 242) until there was nothing left of me to pop. My testimony and musical talents had been rekindled in the Primary, and I had worked alongside sisters who inspired me with their endless hours, energy, and love given in service of our children and our Heavenly Father. How could I leave all that behind?
The Sunday I was sustained in my new calling, my heart almost broke when a little four-year-old child tugged at my dress and said, “Sister Olsen, you weren’t in Primary today. Did you retire?”
Happily, we never retire from service in the Church. The Lord knows where we each can contribute and learn. Following my service in the ward, I served as stake Young Women president for almost six years. Despite my feeling of inadequacy, I was able to serve and develop my leadership skills in this new calling, resulting in even more growth. I am grateful for the Lord’s inspired servants who prayerfully give us new callings. Even when I have personal misgivings about leaving a beloved calling or starting a new one, I have learned that blessings come when I try my best in whatever capacity I am called to serve.