By Ray Goldrup

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(Based on a true incident)“I’m trying to be like Jesus; …
I’m trying to love as he did”
(Children’s Songbook, pages 78–79).

May 2. I played baseball with the guys after school, like I always do on Fridays. And Mondays. And Wednesdays. And if it were up to me, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, too!

May 5. Tonight we had a family home evening lesson about Jesus’ love for others. Dad read Matthew 25:40 [Matt. 25:40], where Jesus said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Then he read in Matthew 22:35–39 [Matt. 22:35–39] about the two greatest commandments and talked especially about loving others like ourselves. Dad said that the Savior spent His whole life helping others. That He even died for others. For everyone. Then Dad bore his testimony about Jesus. At least he tried to—halfway through he started to cry. I guess his tears are the most powerful part of his testimony. That’s how it seems to me, anyway.

May 12. At school today some children were being mean to Billy. They were calling him names and saying unkind things. Especially Cory and Timmy. It’s because Billy is, well, different. Mom says he’s “mentally challenged.” He has a harder time learning than most children his age. But he can still go to the same school as everyone else. The teachers just help him a little more.

Anyway, I remembered what Dad had taught in family home evening, so I sat with Billy at lunch today and shared my sandwich with him. His sandwich and potato chips were soaked. Cory and Timmy had filled his lunch box full of water, then laughed and said, “We’re doing you a favor, Billy. We know you have a hard time doing things. Your lunch should go down real easy—you won’t have to chew it at all!”

May 20. Billy asked me if I wanted to go with him on his paper route after school. The other guys wanted me to play ball. So did I, but something inside me said that going with Billy was more important.

We rode our bikes. I helped carry some of the papers in a sack. Afterward, Billy bought me a soda pop. Then we went across the street and lay on the grass in the park. After a while he asked me why I wanted to be his friend, why I liked to do stuff with him. I didn’t know what to say. Finally I told him, “I guess I just like you, that’s all.”

He looked sad. “Is it because you feel sorry for me because I’m … different? Some people make fun of me because I can’t do things like other people. And some are nice because they feel sorry for me.”

I told him that I get mad when other people treat him unkindly and that at first maybe that was why I wanted to be nice. “But after a while, I started liking you because you’re you,” I said. “I like how you sound when you laugh. It makes me feel happy inside. And I like how you treat other living things. Even little things. Like the pollywogs in the creek behind the school last week. You felt bad because the sun was drying up the little ponds of water, so you put the tadpoles in that applesauce jar and moved them farther up the creek where it was deeper. Most people aren’t that kind,” I told him. “You remind me of Jesus.” His eyes got full of tears, and he didn’t say anything. He just tapped me on the arm with his fist and kept looking the other way.

June 7. Billy’s mother called me and asked if I wanted to come over and have dinner with them tonight. Billy was too shy to ask, she said, and wanted her to ask me. (Mom and Dad said it would be fine.) She also said that Billy can’t stop talking about me, that the past few weeks he’s been happier than she can ever remember. “He thinks the world of you,” she said, and she thanked me for being so good to him.

I could tell that she was crying, because her voice started breaking up. I told her that it was easy to like Billy because he was so good. I didn’t tell her, but I had been starting to feel happier inside myself than I had in a long time, and I was already happy. Dad says, “When we open our hearts to others, like Jesus did, we feel a whole different kind of joy.”

June 18. Today Billy and I saved a wild bird. A big kid named Donny, who lives close to Billy’s place, caught it and was going to hurt it. We started yelling at him, and it made him jump and the bird got away. He pushed us down, but we felt so good on the inside that it made what he did to us on the outside kind of not matter.

July 11. Our family got back this morning from a three-day trip to Buck’s Lake. I called Billy to see if we could get together, maybe go to a Saturday matinee or hike in the hills or something. His mother said he could not play … because he’d died two days ago. She began to cry, and Billy’s father got on the phone. He told me that Billy had seen a neighbor’s puppy in the street, and when he ran out to carry it to where it would be safe, he’d been hit by a car. It wasn’t the driver’s fault, Billy’s dad said. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. It just happened. I asked Dad if he could give me a blessing of comfort. I guess I’m having a hard time dealing with it.

July 12. I didn’t go to Billy’s funeral today. I just couldn’t. His parents said that they understood. I know that after we die, we will see our loved ones again, and, I believe, our close friends, too. But right now I miss him so bad! We were like brothers. I guess we are brothers. Spirit brothers. And blood brothers. I know we’re spirit brothers because we are all Heavenly Father’s children. And I know we’re blood brothers because we sat under the old fig tree in the field one day and made a pact.

Maybe we can play together in the next life. There might be creeks with tadpoles, but in heaven I’m sure there will always be enough water. Maybe a fence to sit on. And clouds to watch go by.

I know Billy’s happy where he is because he was always more of heaven than of earth. But right now I miss him so much! I will never forget him. Not ever. My mom says I will always have the memories, and so, in a sense, he will always be with me. Memories are eternal, she says, like our spirits. I guess I will always hear his laughter, then. I like that.

July 14. Billy’s parents came over today. They told me how much they appreciated what I did for him. They said that I had made the last part of his life happy and meaningful. “You were a gift from God to him,” they said. I couldn’t say anything back because it’s hard to cry and talk at the same time.

After a while, I told them that Billy was a gift from God to me. That he taught me by the way he lived the things Jesus teaches us. About loving. And caring. And showing kindness to all living things.

July 25. I checked on the tadpoles in the creek today. That’s what Billy would have done. They are doing fine. And so am I.

Photos by Tamra Hamblin

Painting of the Savior by Del Parson