The energetic little girl hurried past Micah and his friends toward the carnival’s train ride. Some in the crowd stared at the brace on her leg. A couple of Micah’s friends mimicked her limp and laughed.
“Hey, don’t, you guys,” Micah told them firmly. “That’s mean.”
Jason shrugged. “So what? We’re not hurting anyone. She can’t even see us.” He went on limping.
“Yeah, she’s too busy running for the train,” Matthew chimed in, swinging his leg stiffly.
“What’s it to you, anyway?” Jason asked. “We’re not making fun of you.”
Micah looked down, trying to find the right words. “A few years ago it was me that people like you stared at and laughed at.”
“How come?” Matthew asked. “I never saw you wear a brace.” He and Jason stopped limping and listened.
Micah shook his head. “I never did, but I did have an accident. I guess you’ve forgotten.”
Matthew looked puzzled. “How old were you?”
“I was six.”
“Matthew wasn’t living here then, Micah,” Jason reminded him. “But I remember now—it was at the rodeo.”
Micah nodded. “Yep. One minute I was just sitting there on the fence, watching the rodeo. The next, I was flat on my face, eating dirt.”
Matthew stifled a laugh. “What happened?”
“I was getting down to ask my dad for a hamburger, but my feet somehow got tangled up in the fence slats. I just flipped over and landed on my face.”
“What did it do to you?” Matthew asked, still trying to not laugh.
“Nothing, as far as I could tell. I just got up, ran over to where my Dad was sitting, and asked him for a hamburger. He kept staring at my face, and then he started asking me to smile and frown and stuff. When I fell down, I must have hit an important nerve in my cheek, because the whole left side of my face wasn’t moving.”
“Weird!” Matthew exclaimed.
“It was pretty funny at first,” Micah said. “But when we went to the doctor, he said that the nerve probably wouldn’t heal for six months and that it might not heal completely at all.”
“I remember when it happened,” Jason put in. “My mom sat me down and told me to not make fun of Micah. It was hard sometimes, because he really did look weird.”
Micah nodded. “I probably would have laughed at someone else, but there were a lot of things about it that weren’t funny. I couldn’t close my eye. I had to tape it shut at night so I could sleep. The doctor was afraid I might get an ulcer on my eye, so I had to keep putting eye drops in. I couldn’t use my mouth and tongue right, so I said some things funny, and anything I drank spilled out of the side of my mouth.”
Matthew pulled a face. “Gross! How embarrassing! But did any of the kids laugh at you?”
Micah’s face reddened. “Lots of them. Not everyone was like Jason and his mom. Most of the kids laughed and mimicked me. Even when I cried, some kids kept right on making fun of me.”
“I guess that would be pretty hard,” Matthew admitted. “But you look OK now.”
“Yeah,” Jason added, “I’d forgotten it even happened.”
Micah shook his head. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget how it felt to want to be just like everyone else and to not be able to. The hurt from people laughing at you is pretty tough to get over, too. I don’t like to make fun of people—even if they can’t see it. It’s just wrong.”
The boys reached the train ride as the little girl with the brace was getting off. A couple of girls about Micah’s age stared at her but didn’t say anything until she was out of hearing. Then they started making jokes.
“She can’t help wearing that,” Matthew told them.
“What if something like that happened to you?” Jason added. “How would you feel?”
The girls blushed. “Sorry,” one of them said. “Is she your sister or something?”
“I don’t know her,” Micah told them, “but I know that she has feelings.”
“Next time we’ll be kinder,” another girl promised.
“Good for you,” Matthew said. “So will we.”
Never make fun … of another. … The scripture states that “as [a person] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). …
There are many others whose problems are more serious than yours. Reach out to serve them, to help them, to encourage them. There are so many boys and girls who fail in school [only because they need] encouragement. …
Share and the world will become a sweeter, more delightful place for you. … A small kindness can bring a great blessing to someone in distress and a sweet feeling to the one who befriends him.
President Gordon B. Hinckley (Ensign, March 1997, pages 59–61.)