The flight attendant led the way down the aisle of the airplane. “Here is your seat,” he said, smiling at Audrey. He pointed out the small window. “Look, they’re loading the baggage. Can you see your suitcase?”
Audrey pressed her nose against the window and watched workers place luggage into a big compartment in the side of the plane. “I can’t see mine. There are too many.”
“Well, I’m sure yours is there,” the flight attendant said reassuringly. “I have to go now, but I’ll be back to check on you.”
A tall man with silver-gray hair and smiling eyes sat down in the seat next to Audrey’s. “I’m Mr. Hampton. And whom do I have the pleasure of sitting by?”
Audrey shyly ducked her head and mumbled, “Audrey.”
“Did you say Audrey?”
“What a lovely name.”
“I was named for my grandmother,” Audrey volunteered. “I have red hair like hers.” Audrey smiled, forgetting to be self-conscious about the gap in her teeth.
“Ah ha! It looks as if the tooth fairy has been busy,” Mr. Hampton teased. “Let me guess—you’re about six years old.”
“I’m seven. My teeth are just poky.”
“Maybe you were so busy growing your beautiful hair that your teeth just had to wait.”
They both laughed.
“I have a granddaughter about your age,” Mr. Hampton said wistfully.
“What’s her name?”
“Laura. I don’t get to see her very often, though.”
“Because she lives too far away.”
“That’s what my grandpa and grandma said!” Audrey exclaimed. “So we planned for me to stay with them for two weeks.”
“That explains why you’re traveling alone.”
“Yes. It sounded like fun when we were planning it. I didn’t know it would be scary.”
“Is this the first time you’ve flown?”
“Yes. Can this giant airplane really fly?”
Mr. Hampton chuckled. “It really can. Amazing, isn’t it?”
“It looks like you two are getting along famously,” the flight attendant interjected. “Audrey, let me help you with your seat belt.”
As the giant engines roared to life and the plane taxied down the runway, Audrey nervously twisted her CTR ring around and around her finger, taking it off one finger and putting it on another, then repeating the process.
“That’s an interesting ring,” Mr. Hampton said, picking it up for her when she dropped it. “Where did you get it?”
“It’s a CTR ring. I got it in Primary.”
“What’s Primary, and what does CTR stand for?”
“Primary is a meeting in our church that’s for kids. I’m in the CTR class. CTR means ‘choose the right.’ When you’re a CTR, you get a ring like this to remind you to always choose the right.”
“Choose the right what?”
“Choose the right everything. Like if you’re tempted to tell a lie, you choose the right and tell the truth instead. We learn in Primary about Heavenly Father and Jesus and how They want us to live.”
Mr. Hampton gazed intently at Audrey’s upturned face for a minute. “What else do you learn?”
“Last week our lesson was about showing appreciation. Our teacher told us the story about the ten lepers and how Jesus healed them but only one came back to thank Him. Have you heard that story?”
Mr. Hampton nodded. “What church has this Primary in it?”
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Mr. Hampton thought for a moment. “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of it.”
“Have you ever heard of the Mormons?” Audrey asked.
“As in ‘Mormon Tabernacle Choir’?”
Audrey smiled. “Yes.”
“I’ve heard of them, but I never thought of it as a church organization, I guess. If it’s part of The Church … The Church of …”
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Audrey prompted.
“Then where did the name Mormon come from?” Mr. Hampton wanted to know.
“It’s a nickname that came from our belief in the Book of Mormon. That’s a book of scriptures Heavenly Father helped Joseph Smith translate. Like the Bible, it tells about Jesus Christ, but it’s about His teachings to the Nephites and Lamanites, who lived in ancient America.”
“Very interesting. I recall having heard of a Joseph Smith and a Book of Mormon, but I never took it seriously. Did you learn all this in Primary?” Mr. Hampton asked.
“No, not everything,” Audrey explained. “I learn a lot in our family home evenings.”
“And what is family home evening?”
Time passed quickly as Mr. Hampton asked questions and Audrey answered. In what seemed like minutes, preparations were being made to land.
Twisting the CTR ring nervously around her finger, Audrey looked up expectantly at Mr. Hampton. “I’m scared. Will you help me find my grandpa and grandma please?”
“Of course,” Mr. Hampton assured her. “I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to meet them.”
Grandpa and Grandma were standing right next to the exit ramp. With a cry of joy, Audrey ran into their arms. After greetings and hugs were over, Audrey remembered Mr. Hampton. She looked around anxiously before spotting him just a few feet away watching the happy reunion. “Oh, Mr. Hampton, I was afraid you were gone,” Audrey called, running to his side. “Grandpa and Grandma, this is Mr. Hampton. He helped me not be afraid on the plane.”
“Your granddaughter is quite a young lady,” Mr. Hampton said as everyone shook hands. “She’s a wealth of information for one so young. She’s been telling me about your church. I’m very impressed with a church that teaches such important principles to children. I’d like to learn more about it.”
“Give me your address and telephone number,” Grandfather said, “and I’ll make arrangements for the missionaries to visit you.”
“I must be going,” Mr. Hampton said, handing Grandfather his business card. “Audrey, if I send you her address, will you write to my granddaughter Laura? She needs a friend like you.”
“Good-bye. It’s been nice meeting you. And Audrey,” Mr. Hampton added, taking her small hands between his large ones, “I’ll never forget you.”
Grandpa, Grandma, and Audrey watched as Mr. Hampton walked away.
“Mr. Hampton, Mr. Hampton,” Audrey called, running after him. “I forgot to thank you. And I want to give you this,” she said, pressing her CTR ring into his hand.
He leaned down to protest. “I can’t take this—it’s your special ring.”
“It’s OK,” Audrey reassured him. “I can get another one. I thought it might help you to ‘choose the right.’” She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek.
Mr. Hampton smiled. “I will, young lady, I will.”