“Sanford, what happened to you?” my little sister, Nadine, gasped as I slipped in the back door with my friend Chris. “You look sick! Your face is all bloody, and it’s on your shirt, too!” she jabbered. “Did you fall off your bike?”
“No,” I growled quickly. “Just keep quiet.” Usually I’m not so gruff with her. Even though I’m ten and she’s only six, we’re great friends. I even let her hang around when my other friends come by. There isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for me. And if I ever need someone to talk to, Nadine is there for me.
She hung her head, poked out her lower lip, and hunched her shoulders. She looked like she was about to bawl, so I put my hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Nadine. I just don’t want Mom seeing me like this. Will you do me a favor?” She looked up, her face brightening. “I need a wet washcloth. Bring it out back. Please.”
Nadine bounced away and got it, then met Chris and me on the back lawn. While I cleaned up, she demanded, “Now tell me what happened.”
“Ronny started a fight!” Chris burst out.
“A fight? Mom and Dad don’t like you fighting, Sanford. You know that. And in Primary—”
“Shhhh,” I hissed, glaring at Chris for spilling the beans. “It wasn’t my fault,” I explained. “Ronny started it. We were playing football, and he rode in on his bike and said we had to let him play.”
“Why didn’t you let him play?”
“Because we’d already picked teams. It was too late to let him in.”
“So he started pushing Sanford around,” Chris took over. “But Sanford didn’t take any of his garbage!” he added smugly. “If Ronny hadn’t landed that one lucky punch on your nose,” he said to me, “that fight wouldn’t have even been close.”
“You were fighting, Sanford?” Nadine asked again. Even without looking at her, I could feel her disappointment. She was always crushed if I did anything wrong.
“Sometimes you just have to fight, Nadine.”
“I don’t like you fighting,” Nadine muttered sadly. She took the washcloth to the laundry room.
I didn’t think much more about my fight with Ronny. But for the next few days Nadine kept asking about my nose and wondering if I’d had any more trouble with him.
“I haven’t even seen him since that day,” I told her. “Just forget the whole thing.”
A few days later, Nadine and I were sitting on the front steps after dinner, eating ice-cream bars, when the bishop dropped by to see Dad. When he saw us, he smiled and shook our hands. Then he said, “Well, Sanford, I need to see you too. I have a favor to ask of you.”
“Sure, Bishop,” I said, pleased.
“A new family has moved into our ward. They have a child about your age who needs a good, friendly welcome. Their son, Ronny, should be going to Webelos. I thought you could invite him to go with you.”
“Ronny? He isn’t new. He’s been in town a couple of years.”
“But his family just recently moved into our ward,” the bishop explained, “and he says that he won’t go to Webelos because he doesn’t have any friends in this ward.”
“Sure he’ll do it,” Nadine spoke up unexpectedly. “Just last week in home evening, we learned that we should do whatever the bishop asks us to do.”
I was so surprised that I didn’t even have a chance to protest. And Dad came out right then and invited the bishop into the house.
“Why’d you tell him I’d invite Ronny to Webelos?” I growled at Nadine. “Ronny can’t stand me. And I don’t particularly like him, either.”
Nadine got that sad, droopy-eyed look. “I was just trying to help.”
“How’s that helping? Now the bishop thinks I’m going to be Ronny’s friend.”
“I guess that’s what you’ll have to do, then.”
I rolled my eyes. “You don’t know Ronny. If I went over to his house to invite him anyplace, he’d punch me in the nose again.”
“Then I guess you’ll have to be his friend first.”
“I’m not going to do it!” I burst out, standing up. “And you shouldn’t have told the bishop that I would.”
But that evening when we kneeled for family prayer, Nadine asked Dad if she could say it. “And please, Heavenly Father, help Sanford be friends with Ronny so he can invite him to Webelos,” she prayed sincerely.
That night before going to bed, when she said her own prayer, she prayed for the same thing, she told me. In fact, every time she said a prayer, even if it was the blessing on the food, she asked Heavenly Father to help me be friends with Ronny.
“You’ve got to stop praying for me,” I grumbled to Nadine a few days later. “I’m not going to invite Ronny anyplace. No one at Webelos even likes him. No one wants him there.”
“No one?” she asked, surprised.
“Name someone, besides the bishop, who wants Ronny to go to Webelos.”
Nadine didn’t even wait to think about it. “Jesus wants him to go. And Jesus wants you to invite him. That’s why I pray for you.”
“Jesus doesn’t count,” I said, suddenly feeling guilty.
“Of course, He counts. He’s the one who counts most of all.”
It was no use arguing with Nadine. I saw Ronny a few times as he rode his bike down the street. Twice he watched from a distance as we played football in the park, but he didn’t come around again. Every time I saw him, I thought of the bishop and Nadine and Jesus Christ. Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer. “All right, I’m going to invite Ronny,” I told Nadine one afternoon.
A huge grin crinkled her eyes and scrunched up her nose. “I just knew you would!”
“I’ll walk over there and say, ‘Ronny, you’re invited to Webelos.’ Then I’m going to turn around and leave. I hope I don’t get in a fight doing it.”
Nadine’s happy smile sagged. “Well, that won’t do any good,” she pointed out. “Just because you invite him doesn’t mean he’ll go. Maybe he will get in a fight with you, if you invite him like that.”
“What do you expect me to do?” I asked. “The bishop just said to invite him.”
Nadine hung her head. “I want you to do what Jesus would do,” she answered sadly. “Is that how Jesus would invite him?”
“I’m not like Jesus,” I said. “Do you think He would have gotten in a fight with Ronny in the first place?”
Slowly she shook her head. “But if He had,” she said, looking up, “He’d have said He was sorry. And after Jesus had said He was sorry and become friends with Ronny, He’d invite him to Webelos. Jesus did lots of things that were hard—harder than saying ‘I’m sorry’ to Ronny.”
I could never win with Nadine. I was older and thought I was lots smarter than she was, but when it came to things like this, she won the argument every time. “I’m not talking to you anymore,” I grumbled. “You just don’t understand.”
“I’m going to keep praying for you, Sanford,” she said sadly.
“I’ve already told you, I don’t want you to pray for me.”
“Maybe if you’d pray for yourself, I wouldn’t have to.”
I didn’t let her know it, but those words hurt. She was right. I didn’t want to pray for help. If I did, it would show that I’d made up my mind to go. And I was too afraid to go! At least I was until that night, when I knelt down to pray. I wasn’t planning to pray about Ronny, but as soon as my knees hit the floor, I thought about him, and I knew that if I was going to say a prayer that meant something, I’d have to pray for Ronny and me.
The next morning after breakfast I told Nadine, “Well, I’m going over to Ronny’s place. I hope he doesn’t punch me in the nose.”
“I’ll go with you.”
I shook my head, smiling. “You don’t have to. I won’t chicken out.”
“Well, you don’t think I’m going to let Ronny hit you again, do you? Jesus wouldn’t want that, either. Besides, I got you into this, so I’m coming. We can both be friends with him.”
We walked the three blocks to Ronny’s place. He was in the front yard, putting decals on his bike when we went up his driveway. He stiffened when he saw me. Nadine whispered, “You can do it, Sanford, just like Jesus wants you to.”
“I’m sorry about the other day,” I burst out, holding my hand out to him. “Ever since we fought, I haven’t felt right.” I fidgeted uneasily. “It was my fault.”
Ronny stared at me. I think he was trying to figure out if I was really serious.
“Sanford doesn’t usually fight,” Nadine spoke up. “And he wishes he hadn’t fought you. And so do I.”
Ronny just kept staring at us like we’d stepped out of a spaceship or something.
“We’re going to be playing over at the park this afternoon.” I told him. “I’d sure like you to be there. You can play on my team. There’s no sense in us not being friends.” I licked my lips. “You want some help putting on your decals?”
Ronny didn’t really answer. He just sort of shrugged his shoulders. Nadine took that for a yes, and before we knew it, the three of us were kneeling around Ronny’s bike, putting on decals and talking.
“You didn’t invite him to Webelos,” Nadine pointed out later as we went home.
I laughed. “Don’t worry—I will. That’s the easy part. I can do that now. Thanks to you.”