It was the first day of school on a hot, late-August day in New Mexico some years ago. I excitedly entered the school, looking for my friends and hoping that they would be in my fifth grade class. As I walked through the door of my new classroom, I immediately noticed that Mrs. Moore had attached every student’s name to an assigned seat. My name was attached to a desk near the front of the room and next to the bulletin board. The bulletin board was brightly adorned with “Welcome Back to School” and other decorations, as well as important fifth grade information.
Two small cards on the board, hanging almost evenly with my desk, caught my attention. The top one read: The Golden Rule: Do unto Others As You Would Have Them Do unto You. The bottom card asked: What Would Jesus Do?
Although the contents of the bulletin board changed monthly, these two cards always remained in the same place. I don’t know who put them there, but it seemed that during moments of daydreaming, my mind was drawn to them. I had heard the Golden Rule and could think of a few times when I had even put it to use with my little brothers. The question “What would Jesus do?” was not something I had ever thought much about before.
I had been baptized a couple of years earlier, and I had heard the stories of Jesus from my parents and in my Primary classes since I was little. I knew about Jesus Christ and what He did, but now as I thought about that question, I asked myself, What does it have to do with me? I knew that He was and is the Savior. Wise Men visited Him when He was a baby. He fed five thousand people with just five loaves of bread and two fishes. He calmed a raging sea. He healed people and brought the dead back to life. He died for me and was resurrected. But I’m just a ten-year-old girl. How could I ever do anything He might do?
A couple weeks into the school year, a class party was planned. I was on the food committee, and each member brought some sort of treat. There were several small watermelons, a sheet cake, and other treats. One boy brought lots of party sandwiches. We all enjoyed the party on a hot day in September. When the party was over, my committee stayed afterward and packed up the leftover food. There were several half-eaten watermelons, about ten pieces of sheet cake, and some sandwiches. We were instructed by Mrs. Moore to take it all home with us.
Even though we were late leaving school, we stopped to talk at a bench on the school grounds. Excited by the success of the party, we began planning the next one. Our excitement built until we were running and jumping off the benches and over each other.
One member of the group yelled out a reminder that we were all going to be late getting home. We continued running and jumping, but we picked up the party leftovers and went around the corner to the front of the school. There was no one in sight. No teachers’ cars or principal anywhere. We were late!
Then it happened. Splat!! Right in front of my feet landed a watermelon. The rind was broken, and the juice was spilling onto the sidewalk. Over my head flew a piece of cake. Something hit me right in the small of my back—a piece of watermelon. Its juice ran down my back, and the seeds stuck to my blouse. I immediately flung the half-eaten watermelon back at the friend who had struck me. Then I picked up a piece of cake from the ground, now soaked with watermelon juice, and flung it at another friend. The boy with the sack of sandwiches was swinging the sack madly as a shield. The sack finally burst, and became a thousand crumbs scattered in the watermelon juice. Watermelon rinds were strewn along the front of the school. Someone yelled about how late it was, and we all began running toward home.
When we came to the corner that would take us out of the view of the school, I happened to turn around. Then I saw it—watermelon carnage everywhere! My heart sank. What had we done? It had been so much fun, but I hadn’t realized what the damage would be, and I know that none of the others did, either.
I motioned for the others to turn around. A look of shock came over their faces. I asked if we should go back and at least clean up the big pieces. “No way!” “It’s too hot.” “My mom’s going to be mad if I get home any later.” “It’s the custodian’s job, anyway.” All their answers made sense to me, and I headed home, too.
But when I turned around to take one more look, the question on that card on the bulletin board came flooding into my mind: What would Jesus do?
I immediately answered myself that Jesus Christ would never have gotten into a watermelon fight, to begin with. I didn’t even know if there were watermelons where He lived almost 2,000 years ago. Besides, what the other children had said made sense, and I really needed to get home, too.
When I got home, I found my mother busy with one of my younger brothers. I was able to quietly change clothes and brush the watermelon seeds from my hair. As I was doing this, “What would Jesus do?” reentered my mind. I pictured the custodians out early in the morning, cleaning up the mess. They shouldn’t have to do that. I thought of the principal, Mr. Nance, picking up watermelon rinds and that bread sack. He shouldn’t have to do that, either. I somehow imagined that the sixth grade crossing guards might even have to clean up the mess on the crosswalk. I knew that they shouldn’t have to do that. At that moment I knew what Jesus Christ would do.
Although I knew what He would do, I still persuaded myself that it was too hot to be out on the cement and pavement, that it was too hard a job for one ten-year-old girl. But I thought about it again and again.
Finally I went and told my mom that I needed to go back to school for something. I quietly took the broom, dustpan, and a towel and got on my bike and rode toward the school.
As I got to the corner by the school, I hoped the scene had miraculously disappeared. But there it was, exactly as I had remembered. A watermelon war zone. I parked my bike and began sweeping and soaking up juice and seeds.
Two of my watermelon-flinging friends rode up on their bikes and asked me what I was doing. I timidly told them I was cleaning up the mess, hoping that they would offer to help. They only laughed and rode away.
I was carrying the watermelon rinds to the garbage can across the street, when a car approached with a woman and a small child inside. As they got close to me, the car slowed down. The woman had a look of complete bewilderment on her face. I began working faster. I wondered if I was doing the right thing—no one else seemed to think so.
But the job was finally done. Only a trace of the juice was left, along with some seeds, cake, and bread crumbs that had been baked into the hot asphalt after being run over by cars.
The next morning as I walked to school with my little brother, we saw things happening as they did every morning. The crossing guards were there. The flag was being raised. Teachers and the principal were walking the grounds. The custodians with their brooms were happily greeting everyone. Only a trace of watermelon seeds stuck to the pavement, unnoticeable to the untrained eye.
I entered my classroom. None of my classmates spoke of the watermelon incident or how the mess was cleaned up. When I sat at my desk, I looked at that card on the bulletin board—What Would Jesus Do?—and I knew then what the question had to do with me, a ten-year-old girl—and every other person, regardless of age. I knew that I could do what Jesus would do, even though it might be hard and other people may not understand.