Discovering the Song in Their Hearts


My wife and I had been in our new ward only a few weeks when I was called as Primary music leader. The following Sunday I armed myself with a few ideas and headed undaunted into the Primary room. As I stood face-to-face with the children, I found doubts about my ability to work with young people compounded as I noticed three of my newfound neighbors in the room: David, a young friend from across the street; Aaron, his cousin down the block; and Willie, a neighborhood boy.

All eyes were on me, and we sang our opening song. As I looked into the bright eyes of the children, I began to see what caused people to love working in Primary. Even children who didn’t understand how to sing were trying their best—except my three companions. It seemed all they did was wiggle and poke each other. These three became my biggest challenge, and I committed to showing them that singing could be fun.

During sharing time I asked for help. Several hands shot up, and I felt that if I were ever to get these three on my side, now was my chance. “David and Aaron … ,” I said, then hesitated, looking over the room. “And Willie.” The three came forward.

“OK, I’m going to blow up this balloon for as long as you can sing a note. Do you think you can make it pop?”

“No problem,” came their confident reply.

We began, and they sang a single note. I blew into the balloon. Their sound wavered and grew dim. The balloon shrank. They sang louder, and the balloon grew bigger. They sang more strongly, and the balloon stretched and tested my lung capacity, then suddenly popped. My friends had a victory, and it was a start.

Over the following weeks I made word games to help the children learn lyrics and divided them into separate choirs to sing to each other. The more we did, the more fun they had doing it. Not only did their music improve but they even began singing in simple counterpart harmony. As I worked to stretch their abilities, they responded with greater effort—except my three tuneless wigglers. Many Sundays I wondered if I was even reaching them. My frustration was so deep that I was happy if they could just get through singing time without disturbing other children, let alone singing. Yet slowly, over the weeks, I did occasionally catch them singing.

One summer day I decided to walk across the street to share produce from our garden. I knocked, and as I waited, I heard voices—young voices—coming from David’s backyard. I quietly moved to the corner of the house to get a better view. As I peered over the fence, I saw David, Aaron, and Willie playing in the dirt—and singing “I Am a Child of God.”

On the walk home, cheer flooded through me. I realized then that service is a matter of giving of ourselves, whether or not we see results. How was I to know that the three most disruptive boys in Primary left the meetinghouse each Sunday carrying songs in their hearts? In an instant my greatest challenges had become my great joy.

[illustration] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh

Michael Clapier serves as teachers quorum adviser in the Olympus Fifth Ward, Salt Lake Olympus Stake.