Making Friends:

Shonesty L. Johnson of Mobile, Alabama

By Melvin Leavitt

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    Family is important to eight-year-old Shonesty Johnson. When she turned eight, her father, Alexander, was out of town, working in the oil fields. She postponed her baptism a month and a half so that he could perform the ordinance. Her fifteen-year-old brother, Alexander, Jr., (Zack), sang “When I Am Baptized” as part of the service. Shonesty says, “I liked being baptized. It made me feel good—especially because Dad baptized me and my brother sang to me.”

    When Zack plays his trumpet with his high school marching band, Shonesty is there. When her other brother, MacKenzie (Mac, 18), makes a tackle for his middle-school football team, she’s there. She wouldn’t think of missing a chance to support her family.

    Everyone in the family is so busy that it would be easy to drift apart, but she won’t let that happen. Her mother, Sheila, says, “Shonesty is always reminding us to spend more time together. When we were in the car the other day, she said, ‘Mama, we really need to sit down and eat together as a family.”’

    Shonesty especially treasures the times when her dad is home, because his work in the oil fields has kept him away much of the time. He was recently transferred to Russia, where he works thirty-five days in a row, then has thirty-five days off to be with his family. Before returning to Russia each time, he has a private conference with each child. Shonesty always reminds him when it’s time for the conferences.

    Some of the things Shonesty enjoys doing with her family are fishing for croakers, sheepshead, and crabs; visiting the USS Alabama, a battleship anchored in Mobile Harbor; attending church; eating out (especially if pizza with Canadian bacon is on the menu); shopping; singing; dancing; going to movies; and family home evening. One of her favorite family home evening lessons was about sharing and caring.

    Shonesty came into the family in a very special way, About a year before she was born, Brother Johnson had a strong feeling while in the temple that there was to be a little girl in the family, He felt so sure that he went home and wrote about her in his journal. When he and Sister Johnson heard that Shonesty was available for adoption, they knew that she was the girl. She was sealed to them in December 1985 in the Atlanta Georgia Temple, a wonderful Christmas gift for the whole family.

    She loves her big, strong brothers but insists that she can beat them in friendly wrestling matches. And she claims to have taught Zack how to swim. “He was watching me, and he just learned how. I showed him how to dive too.”

    Shonesty has a lot of friends. “She’s easy to get along with,” her mom explains. Two of her best friends, Joel and Tanya, live in her apartment complex, too, and she often jumps rope, swims, or skates with them after her homework is done. She has learned how to turn around and skate backward on the skates she got for Christmas.

    They were exactly what she wanted, but that’s not surprising, in view of a Johnson holiday tradition. Mom and Dad give the children money to buy their own gifts, which they wrap themselves, then open on Christmas morning with every sign of surprise and delight.

    Before the family moved to Mobile two and a half years ago, they lived in Mississippi. They still go back to be with Sister Johnson’s family at Thanksgiving and Brother Johnson’s at Christmas. Shonesty always looks forward to decorating the Christmas tree, stringing lights, and helping to cook Christmas dinner.

    Liking Christmas isn’t unusual, but she can hardly wait for school to start again after the holiday. She loves her teachers, and she thinks learning is fun, especially in math, English, reading, and spelling. When she doesn’t understand something, she asks for help right away, and she does her homework each afternoon before playing. As a result, she plans to be on the A and B honor roll. One of her favorite books is You Won’t Believe Your Eyes. She relishes learning in Primary too. Her teacher is a recently returned missionary.

    Like her brothers, Shonesty enjoys athletics. Her class won “class of the week” honors for being physically fit. She plays soccer at recess and dances enthusiastically at school dances.

    When she grows up, she wants to be a courtroom lawyer, and maybe president of the United States. She also wants to be a mother because she loves children. Her mom tends a neighbor’s child each day, and Shonesty helps.

    Shonesty is happiest when she’s with her family and friends, and they’re happiest when they’re with her. As her mother says, “She came full of love. She’s a special child sent here to bring love and happiness, not just to her family but to everyone she meets.”

    Photos by Dick Brown

    Mac, Shonesty, and Zack

    Shonesty at school

    Mom reading Shonesty’s favorite book

    Zack in his marching band uniform

    Mac with his teammates

    Cheering for Mac at a football game

    Helping Mom tend Selie