“Look! There she is—let’s get her!”
Mrs. Goodson was outside, calling her kitten. “Ready, set—now!” the boys started to pelt the elderly lady with snowballs that they had been making.
Startled, Mrs. Goodson turned towards her attackers. “You boys—get on to school! Stop that!” One of the snowballs hit a stinging blow to her forehead. She cried out.
“We’d better get out of here!”
Most of the boys ran off, but one of them hesitated. He had seen Mrs. Goodson fall. A hard tug on his sleeve spun him around.
“C’mon, Jake! She’ll be OK. But we won’t if we go back there. Come on!”
Jake joined the others as they ran to school.
All day long, though, Jake couldn’t get Mrs. Goodson out of his mind. He kept remembering the way she fell—and the way he ran away. He’d pass her house on the way home from school. He wanted to see if she was all right, but he was afraid. He knew that what they had done was wrong.
Jake had moved to town right before school started. His next-door neighbor was the first boy he’d met who was his own age, and Jake had begun hanging around with him and his friends, even though he often felt uncomfortable around them. Sometimes they did mean things to people and thought it was funny. Sometimes they talked about cutting school or doing things even worse. Jake realized that he’d better find some new friends before he got in trouble with them—if it wasn’t already too late. …
As he turned the corner, a boy that Jake remembered seeing at school was coming out of Mrs. Goodson’s garage. The boy was holding a gray-and-white kitten.
“Hi, Jake.” The boy hurried toward Jake, who stood on the other side of Mrs. Goodson’s fence. “Do you live around here? Do you remember me? I’m Jeremy Slater. We have science class together.” The boy’s nose was red from the cold, but his smile was genuine and his eyes were friendly.
“Sure—hi, Jeremy. Yeah, I live just down the street. Do you live here?”
“No, my grandma lives here, and I’m staying with her after school until my mom gets off work. Do you want to come in? We’ll have to be quiet, because my grandma isn’t feeling well today.”
Jake studied the snow on the fence post. “What’s wrong with her?”
“Some punk kids threw snowballs at her this morning. One of them hit her in the head, and she fell. She had to get a cast on her ankle—I guess she broke it when she fell.”
Jake swallowed hard. “I’m sorry to hear that. But I’d better get going. My mother gets upset if I’m late coming home from school. See you.” Jake ran almost all the way home.
That night, Jake knelt to pray. He hadn’t prayed much in his life, but he was troubled, and he hoped that prayer would help. His family didn’t have a regular church they attended, and most of their prayers were at the dinner table. He had heard that some people prayed both at night and in the morning, that they talked to God like He really listened and would help them.
Jake didn’t know where to begin, so he just bowed his head and started to talk to Heavenly Father. He prayed for help in finding new friends. He prayed for Mrs. Goodson. He prayed for the heavy feeling inside of him to go away. He fell asleep later that night with a strange warmness about him—the way he’d felt when he was little and fell asleep in his mother’s arms.
The next morning, Saturday, he remembered everything that had happened the day before. He made up his mind to apologize to Mrs. Goodson.
When his chores were done, he told his mother where he’d be. His heart raced as he approached Mrs. Goodson’s house. He hoped that Jeremy wouldn’t be there. It was going to be hard enough to talk to Mrs. Goodson, and he figured that he’d eventually have to tell Jeremy, too. Jake liked Jeremy and hoped that they could be friends. But if Jeremy knows that I was one of the boys who threw snowballs at his grandma, Jake thought, he won’t want to have anything to do with me.
It was Jeremy who answered the doorbell. “Hi, Jake. Come on in.”
Jake stepped into the hallway but stayed next to the door. “Actually, Jeremy, I came to see your grandmother. Can she have company?”
“She’d love it! Grandma’s cool. She’s fun to be around.” Jeremy led the way into the living room, where his grandmother was sitting with her leg propped up on pillows, the kitten beside her.
“I didn’t know you knew Grandma. Come on in.”
Mrs. Goodson’s cast was bright white except for the large Jeremy scrawled on it with a bright blue marker. She set aside the afghan she’d been working on and looked up at Jake.
“Hello, Mrs. Goodson, I’m Jake Lowder.” Jake took a deep breath. “I’m one of the boys who hurt you yesterday, and I’m sorry. I don’t know why it happened. …” He stood there staring down at his feet, waiting to be thrown out of the house. Or yelled at. Or something.
“Jeremy, why don’t you go into the kitchen and start some popcorn and hot chocolate for you boys. I’d like to speak to Jake alone.” Mrs. Goodson smiled at her grandson. “It will be all right.”
Jake saw the shock on Jeremy’s face and watched him head reluctantly toward the kitchen, glancing back to make sure that his grandmother really would be OK.
“Jake, sit down.” She patted the stool next to her ankle. “It took a lot of courage for you to come see me today. Do you want to tell me about it?”
Jake nodded, but he had a hard time speaking. He hadn’t expected to be treated this nicely. He was in the middle of his story when Jeremy poked his head in the doorway. Jake motioned for him to come in, feeling it would be easier to explain everything to both of them at once.
“You see, Mrs. Goodson, I never meant any harm. I’ve already decided not to hang around with those guys anymore.” He hesitated, then blurted out, “I even prayed about you last night.”
“Tell me, Jake,” Mrs. Goodson said. “Tell me about your prayer. What church does your family go to?”
Jake explained that his family didn’t have a regular church. He told her what he’d heard about prayer, and he shared some of what he prayed about with her.
“Jake, in our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we call what you’re doing ‘repentance.’ Do you know what repentance is?”
Jake nodded. “It means to feel bad about something you’ve done wrong and to not do it again.”
Mrs. Goodson smiled. “That’s right, Jake. You have already admitted that you have done something wrong, and you have prayed for forgiveness. Now you are asking me to forgive you. Do you see that your prayers are being answered?” Mrs. Goodson smiled again.
Jake raised his head. “Is there anything else I should do, Mrs. Goodson?”
“Yes, Jake, two things. One you’ve also already done—you’ve promised to never again throw snowballs to hurt someone. The last thing is to try to make restitution to that person whom you have wronged. Do you know what restitution is?”
Jake shook his head.
“‘Restitution’ means to compensate for—make up for—anything you have done wrong or said or damaged.”
Jake looked up at her. How could he make up for what he had done to her?
“I know that sometimes that can be hard to do, Jake, but it is important.” Mrs. Goodson smiled. “I know—I’m going to need help around the house for a while. How do you feel about coming over and helping me every day until my ankle is better?”
Jake’s face lit up. He really liked Mrs. Goodson and Jeremy. It wouldn’t be hard at all to come over and help!
The rest of the afternoon went by quickly. As he and Jeremy swept the floors and helped get Mrs. Goodson’s supper for her, they became friends. As Jake left, he heard Jeremy and his grandmother talk about getting ready for church the next day. Jake decided that he wanted to hear more about their church.
When Jake arrived home, he told his parents everything that had happened—throwing snowballs, Mrs. Goodson’s fall, and his need to pray. He told them how forgiving Mrs. Goodson was, and he asked permission to spend time helping her. He also asked if he could talk to Mrs. Goodson more about her church.
Monday morning Jake woke up to fresh snow on the ground. That meant he’d need to get over to Mrs. Goodson’s house right away to shovel her walk before school. Maybe Jeremy would be there, too. He smiled. If he hurried, he’d probably have time to talk to them before he went to school. He was going to see if they’d tell his whole family about their church. He smiled again. He just knew that it would be a wonderful day!