Janet was new in my class. I knew right away that she wasn’t someone I wanted for a friend because whenever Mrs. Shell said anything to her, she put her finger in her mouth and said, “Duuuuuh,” then laughed as if it were really funny. A lot of other kids laughed too. Mrs. Shell didn’t.
On the playground, Janet was a bully. One day she was pushing a little kid around until a teacher stopped her. When she called the teacher a name, she was sent to see the principal. From then on, it seemed that Janet spent almost as much time in the principal’s office as she did in our classroom.
I stayed away from her because she was always getting into trouble. She didn’t like me, anyway. She couldn’t call me by my name, Esther—she called me Redhead-Wet-the-Bed. I thought she enjoyed being mean.
In January I went into the Merrie Miss class in Primary. There were seven girls in my class, but only six of us came. Janet was the seventh. When Sister Card asked us about Janet, we told her what kind of a girl Janet was. She hadn’t been to church since her family had moved into the neighborhood, so we hadn’t even known that she was a member.
Sister Card went to Janet’s house several times to invite her to Primary, but she didn’t come. Nobody in her family came to church. Sister Card suggested that we try something as a class to see if we could get Janet to come to Primary. We weren’t very eager to do it, because we were all a little bit afraid of her. She was different from us, and we didn’t understand her. But Sister Card said she would help us, so we finally agreed.
We had a hard time deciding what to do. “Maybe we need to try to understand why Janet acts and talks the way she does,” said Sister Card. “That might help us come up with a good idea.”
I knew why she acted and talked like she did. I said, “Her whole family acts and talks like that, even her mother and father. I’ve heard them when I walk past their house.”
“Yes, I suppose they do,” said Sister Card sadly. “Do you think there are any other reasons for her behavior?”
“Maybe she’s lonely,” said Christina.
“Maybe she is,” said Sister Card. “What do you think we could do to help her realize that we like her?”
“Let’s be pixies to her for a week!” said Mandi excitedly.
“That’s a good idea,” Sister Card said, smiling.
Well, we planned to deliver something to Janet every day for a week, beginning on Sunday. It was kind of scary going up to her porch after dark to ring the doorbell and hope we could run and hide fast enough to not get caught. Each night it got to be more and more of a challenge because everyone in her family began watching for us. We decided to reveal ourselves on Saturday and take her a necklace with a little gold heart and a note telling her that we loved her and wanted her to come and be part of our Primary class.
Ringing the doorbell and hiding had been fun, but meeting Janet face-to-face was going to be different. We were all nervous, even Sister Card, because we didn’t know what Janet would do or say. As we stood on the porch, getting ready to ring the doorbell, the door flew open and Joel, Janet’s eight-year-old brother, yelled, “I caught you!”
We must have all jumped a foot in the air. Then we started laughing. Finally Sister Card asked if Janet was home. Joel left us standing on the porch while he went to look for her.
Just when we began to think they had forgotten us, Janet appeared at the door. She looked a little uncertain when she saw all of us standing there.
“Hello, Janet,” Sister Card said, breaking the uncomfortable silence. “I’m Sister Card, your Primary teacher. You remember me, don’t you? And I think you already know all of these girls from school.”
Janet barely nodded her head.
Sister Card then looked at us expectantly. We had decided earlier that we couldn’t let Sister Card do all the talking, or Janet might think it was only the teacher who wanted her to come to Primary. We looked at each other, and then Kelly said, “We wanted to do something special for you so that you would know that we like you.”
“Yeah,” I said, feeling a bit more courageous. “We hope you got all the things we’ve been bringing you.”
Before I could go on, Janet said, “Oh, so it was you guys who were bringing that stuff. I guess you’re trying to bribe me into going to Primary. That’s kind of what they tried to do where we lived before, too, but it didn’t work. I just don’t like to go to church.”
We were all stunned. No one said anything. Janet looked triumphant, like she had just scored a crucial point.
Then Sister Card spoke. “No, Janet, we’re not here to bribe you. We brought you those gifts to let you know that we like you, just as Kelly said. We brought one more today.” She handed Janet the necklace, beautifully wrapped in a small box, accompanied by a card with the note we had all signed.
“Thanks,” Janet said, as she took the gift, “but don’t expect to see me at church.”
And she went inside and closed the door.
(To be continued)