It was the last day of school. The sun was shining. The temperature was perfect. Everyone had fun playing softball, running races, and eating hamburgers. But now it was time to go home, and for Jena, it wasn’t fun anymore.
This was her last day at Buckingham Elementary. This was her last day to see her teacher, Miss Wilson. This was her last day to be a fifth-grader and have recess. This was her last day to see many of her friends. Most of them were going to Pilot Butte Middle School next year. She was going to High Desert Middle School.
Jena cried when it was time to get on the school bus. All her friends cried, too. They hugged each other over and over. The deep noise of the bus engine started up, but the driver waited patiently. Finally, after more tears and hugs, she and her friend Randy boarded the bus. Jena lowered the bus window and yelled, “I’ll call you this sum—”
Jena never finished her sentence. She remembered that she couldn’t call anyone this summer. She was going to live with Grandma Hunt while her parents took summer classes at the university.
“This is going to be the worst year of my life,” Randy choked out. And even though everyone else on the bus seemed happy and excited, she slumped down in her seat and cried. “We probably won’t get to see our friends from Buckingham any more, and we won’t even see each other all summer.”
Jena wanted to say something to make Randy feel better, but she didn’t know what to say. She knew that if she tried to talk, she’d cry, too.
Just before the bus came to her stop, Jena turned to Randy and gave her a hug. “Write me,” she said. “I’ll write back. I promise.”
The first night at Grandma Hunt’s, Jena thought about Randy. She wondered if Randy was as lonely as she was.
“How about a good game of Irritation?” Grandma Hunt asked as she got out the board game.
Normally, it was Jena’s favorite game. But she didn’t feel like playing this time.
“You really miss your family, don’t you?” Grandma asked.
“Yes. I can’t quit thinking about them and my friends back home. Most of my friends are going to a different school next year. It won’t be any fun without them.”
“It’s true that we have some friends for just a short time and some of them longer. But they each make a difference in our lives forever. So each friend is to be treasured. And new experiences should be fun because they give us a chance to meet new friends.”
“If you say so, Grandma,” Jena faltered.
“Jesus Christ was the perfect example of a good friend. He served His friends. He fed the people, He visited them when they were sick, and He shared the gospel with them. He did things for all of us that we can’t do for ourselves.”
“Their lives were happier because He was their friend,” Jena said.
“That’s right. Their lives were different, better, because of what He did. Our lives are better because of what He did for us. You should look forward to going to your new school and meeting new friends. Be excited about it. You will have experiences you’ve never even dreamed of, experiences that can make you a better person. Just make certain that the friends you choose are trying to do what is right. Now, let’s play this game!” Grandma declared. “In the morning I’ll take you to visit one of my very good friends. I treasure her friendship. I hope you will, too, even though you’ll probably know her for only one summer.”
“Could we take the Irritation game with us and ask her to play?” Jena asked.
“She’d like that.”
The next morning, Jena and her grandma stopped at a store and purchased four large red marbles and four large yellow marbles.
“June B., that’s my friend, just got out of the hospital. She was in a terrible car accident and broke about all her bones, it seems to me,” Grandma explained. “She’s also partially blind from the accident, so these large, bright marbles might be easier for her to use.”
When they got to the house, June B. was sitting in a wheelchair. Her left arm was in a cast, and her right leg was in a cast. Her head was bandaged, and so was her nose.
“Come in, come in,” she called. “It’s so nice of you to come.”
“I brought my granddaughter, June B.,” Grandma said. “This is Jena.”
“I’m glad to meet you, Jena. Thank you for coming.”
“I brought a game.”
“I love games! Sit right here and we’ll play it.”
Jena played three games of Irritation with June B. while her grandmother cleaned the house and prepared some lunch. The games took time because June B. had to bend way over the board to see where each of the marbles was and make a decision where to move.
“There you go,” June B. said when she won the third game in a row. “You’re nice to let a blind lady win.”
“But I didn’t let you win.”
“I know—I’m just more ‘irritating’ than you. Would you help me take a bath now?”
“Well, I, ah …”
“There’s a bucket in the bathroom. Fill it half full of warm water and bring me a washcloth and the soap. I sit right here and scrub most of me. I only need help with my back and feet.”
Jena helped her grandma in the kitchen while June B. bathed. When she needed help, she called to them.
Grandma Hunt gently washed June B.’s back. “Would you like to bathe her feet?” Grandma asked.
“Well, I, ah … sure.”
Jena couldn’t believe her feelings as she knelt and gently lifted June B.’s left foot into the bucket. Ever so carefully she rubbed soap onto her hands and then rubbed the lady’s foot and toes. She lowered the foot into the water again and rinsed it carefully. Then she dried it with a towel.
Before Jena was halfway through, she started crying softly. Now she knew what Jesus Christ must have felt like when He helped others. And now she understood that Heavenly Father wanted her to meet many new friends. She could help them. And they could help her.
“Can I come and play a game with you tomorrow?” Jena asked softly.
“I’d love that!” June B. said. “And I promise, I won’t be so ‘irritating’ tomorrow.”