Fasting for Billy


(Based on a True Incident)
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? … To undo the heavy burdens … ? (Isa. 58:6.)

Something was different about nine-year-old Heidi after school that cold afternoon. Instead of flinging her jacket like a Frisbee, she carefully hung it on the hook. Rather than pouncing at the refrigerator like a hungry tiger, she stared quietly out the window as if she was looking at something far beyond the border of the yard.

“Well, hi there!” Mom said, hoping to get her attention.

Like a person awakened from a dream, Heidi looked at her mom and smiled. “Oh, uh, how was your day, Mom?”

Mom wiped her hands on her apron and studied Heidi’s face. “My day was fine. How was yours?”

“Well … ,” Heidi began slowly, “it was … different.”

“I believe you. You seem to be a million miles away.”

“Well, maybe not a million. But at least as far as Arkansas.”

“Arkansas is a long way from California. What started you thinking about Arkansas?”

Mom cut an apple into four pieces and offered one to Heidi, who just cradled it in her hand.

“There’s a new boy named Billy coming to join our class tomorrow. The teacher told us his parents were both in a car accident in Arkansas. His mother died, and his father is in a hospital, not expected to live. Billy was sent here to California to live with an uncle.” Heidi looked down at the apple she was holding. “Can you imagine being that boy, Mom?”

“No, but you’re really trying to, aren’t you?”

Heidi nodded. “I just wish that there was something I could do for him. He’s going to feel so alone tomorrow.”

“I’m sure that there are some things you can do to help. Let’s think of some.”

“I can smile at him.”

“Good idea.”

“I can show him around the school and tell him about our classroom routine.” Heidi put her chin on her hand and looked up at her mother. “But it isn’t enough. Isn’t there something special I can do?”

“Well, there is something special we can do for Billy. Something that just might be ‘enough’.”

“What?”

“You and I can fast and pray for him. We can ask Heavenly Father to bless him to feel at peace in his new home and at his new school. We can also pray for his father to get well. What do you think about that?”

Heidi thought a moment about fast Sundays. She had been taught that fasting would help her feel the Spirit, but she usually just felt hungry and grumpy. She hesitated, but then something inside made her feel that it was going to be OK. She smiled at her mother. “I like that idea. Let’s do it.”

Just then, Heidi’s thirteen-year-old brother, Chris, entered the kitchen. Hearing Heidi’s last sentence, he asked, “Do what?”

Mom briefly told Chris about Billy and explained their plan. Chris said, “I’ll fast with you.”

“Wow! Really?” Heidi asked.

“Yeah, sure,” he answered, reaching for some cookies. Stopping his hand just above the cookie jar, he asked, “When do we start?”

“After dinner,” Mom answered.

The next day, Heidi came home, looking a little pale but happy.

“Wow! I thought fasting on Sundays was hard! Try playing kick ball and watching everyone else eat lunch! But you know, I believe our fasting and prayers helped Billy.”

“Oh good! Tell me about it.”

“Well, when I smiled at him, he smiled back at me. The other kids were pretty nice to him, and he seemed to have made friends with a couple of boys by the end of the day.”

“That’s great,” Mom said.

“And then—it was weird,” Heidi added. “You know how the language on the playground has been really bothering me lately?” Mom nodded, and Heidi continued, “Well, it was amazing, because I heard those same swear words but for some reason, they couldn’t get inside my mind. It was as if my brain was protected all day from getting dirty! Neat, huh?”

“That’s wonderful, Heidi,” Mom said, smiling.

“I’m really tired, but I feel happy. I hope Billy feels as peaceful as I do right now.”

Mom gave her a little hug. “I have a feeling he does.”

Chris came home, flopped into the nearest chair, and let his heavy pack thud to the floor. He leaned his head against the big cushion and closed his eyes. “When do we eat?”

“Let’s finish our fast together with a prayer. We’ll have dinner soon,” Mom suggested. “But first, tell me how your day went.”

“Well, you know how I’ve been dreading P. E. for weeks because a certain guy has been trying to shorten my life span?”

“Yes,” Mom answered, wondering what new form of violence this “gym enemy” had tried on Chris.

“I don’t know how to explain it, but today I didn’t feel any anger toward him, and he left me alone.”

As the three of them knelt to say one more prayer for Billy, Mom put her arms around her children’s shoulders. Was it her imagination, or had they both grown a little taller that day?

[illustrations] Illustrated by Sherry Thompson