“Christmas bells, ringing, singing,”* James sang out with gusto. Alan and his friends laughed, covering their mouths to smother their chuckles so that they wouldn’t get into trouble. Alan poked his friend Trevor to get his attention, then pretended that he was James. He held one hand in the air and dramatically mouthed the words to the Primary song as if he were an opera singer.
James was the loudest singer in Primary. That might not have been so bad, except that he could not sing on key. His voice wavered up and down like a sick bird, never matching the notes being played on the piano.
Even the Primary chorister had hinted that she wanted everyone to blend their voices as they prepared for their ward Christmas party. Every year, the Primary children dressed up like people in ancient Bethlehem and sang Christmas carols at the ward dinner.
“Mom,” Alan complained when he got home, “I’m tired of singing in Primary. I’m almost twelve, and I don’t want to stand in front of everybody with a piece of sheet on my head and pretend that I’m a shepherd.”
“This is the last time you’ll have an excuse to wear a sheet on your head,” Mother joked. “Besides, it’s supposed to be fun!” She grabbed her basket of clothes and hurried into the laundry room before Alan could complain any more.
“Fine. Just leave me here to suffer alone,” Alan moaned. “How can I get out of this?”
During the week, Alan came up with a plan. On Sunday morning, he found the Primary chorister setting up for Singing Time. “Sister Harmon, I was wondering if I could help with the Christmas party in another way.”
“Another way?” Sister Harmon asked, a little puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“Instead of singing, I thought that maybe I could open and close the curtains.”
“With all the musical preparations, I didn’t think about the curtains,” Sister Harmon admitted. “I think I’ll take you up on your offer.”
Alan was relieved. Now all he’d have to do was show up, pull some curtain ropes, and then dine on the Christmas feast.
Friday evening came, and the Primary children met an hour before the program. The Young Men and Young Women were busy preparing and decorating the tables, and the Relief Society sisters were finishing the food preparation. Alan entered the cultural hall in his school clothes as the other children fidgeted with their costumes. He found his place behind the tall, orange curtain and peeked out at all the bustle. He felt a little guilty that he wasn’t doing all that he could to contribute to the program. But at least I am helping out with the curtains, he thought.
Alan watched Sister Harmon arrange the Primary members according to height. His two buddies were placed between James and Stephen. Poor Trevor, Alan thought, he has to sing next to James. He should’ve brought earplugs. He chuckled out loud at the thought.
Then Alan noticed Stephen calling to Sister Harmon. Stephen was in their Valiant class, and even though he was blind, he could do almost everything the other Valiants did. Alan watched him talking to Sister Harmon now and wondered how he did everything so well.
Sister Harmon spoke to Stephen a moment and then started rearranging the line. She moved Trevor one spot over and placed Stephen next to James. What’s she doing? Alan wondered. Did she notice us laughing at James before?
Alan watched from behind the curtain as people filtered into the cultural hall. They shuffled down the rows of tables until all the seats were filled. When the lights dimmed, Sister Harmon motioned for Alan to open the curtains. He pulled on the cords, using the whole weight of his body until the curtains brushed to a stop at the end of the rail. That was a lot harder than I expected, he thought.
The Primary choir began singing. As usual, James was loud and out of tune. As the program continued, a few of the Primary children took turns going to the microphone between songs. They each shared something they had learned in Primary about the Savior during the year. From the side, Alan noticed that most of them were very nervous.
When Stephen, the oldest Valiant, went to the microphone, he wasn’t at all nervous. “This is my last year in Primary, and it’s been the best because I’ve learned more about the Savior than ever before,” he began. “I have learned that Jesus Christ suffered my pain, but that He also feels my happiness. I feel a kind of happiness that maybe no one with sight can feel. Others help me all the time. I can’t see these acts of service, and I know that other people usually aren’t watching and don’t see them, either. But that is how Jesus served others—without any thought of reward.
“Each year on Christmas day, we celebrate Jesus coming to the earth as a baby. But I especially celebrate and look forward to the day when He will come again. After He does, I will be perfected if I have lived righteously. And I will see Him.” Stephen almost whispered the last two words.
Alan watched Stephen walk to the back of the choir. As he reached his spot, James grasped Stephen’s hand. When Sister Harmon raised her arms to lead the children in singing, James gently squeezed Stephen’s fingers, telling him when to begin singing through touch, just as Sister Harmon told the rest of the children through sight.
Alan continued to watch. The older children read the song from papers. Stephen couldn’t read those kinds of papers—he stood next to James and “read” James’s voice. James’s loud singing guided Stephen’s own.
Alan, still crouched behind the curtain, began singing. Loudly.