“How many pennies are equal to a nickel?” Mrs. Connor, the kindergarten teacher, asked.
Christopher’s hand shot into the air, but Mrs. Connor acted as if she hadn’t seen him. She called on Tony, who wasn’t even raising his hand. Tony fidgeted in his seat, staring at the floor. “Five?” he asked doubtfully.
“That’s right! Good job, Tony.” Mrs. Connor walked over to Tony and mussed his hair a bit. That was something she did when she was happy with you. Tony smiled with relief.
Christopher sat poised for action as the next question was asked.
“How many pennies are equal to a dime?”
Christopher raised his hand high above his head, but Mrs. Connor called on Caroline.
“Next question: How many pennies equal a quarter?”
Christopher waved frantically. “I know, I know,” he chanted in a half whisper.
Again he was overlooked. Disappointed, he slumped back and gave up. He didn’t even raise his hand for the next two questions, though he knew that the answers were fifty and one hundred. “Why doesn’t she call on me?” he wondered. “She must not like me.”
She was calling on him! His heart leapt with excitement. He sat up and faced the teacher, ready to answer any question she might ask.
“How many pennies are equal to five dollars?”
“Wow!” Christopher thought. “That’s a new question.” He paused, thinking hard. Then he saw how it worked. “Five hundred,” he answered.
“Very good, Christopher! How did you know that?”
“I have an electronic brain—just like my dad!”
Mrs. Connor smiled. “Well, I guess you must.”
Christopher grinned as the class moved on to the next subject. Mrs. Connor still liked him. He was smart. He was happy with himself.
When the final bell rang that afternoon, Christopher quickly stuffed his homework into his backpack and ran for the door. He couldn’t wait to tell his mom that he had answered the hardest question. Maybe he would even call and tell Dad.
Mom was waiting just outside the kindergarten room. “Hurry, Son,” she called. “We need to get you to soccer practice.” Christopher had forgotten about practice, but he was eager to go. It was his first year playing soccer, and he was looking forward to his first game on Saturday.
“How was school?” Mom asked in the car.
“Great! Mrs. Connor asked me how many pennies were in five dollars, and I knew that the answer was five hundred.”
“That’s wonderful, Chris. How did you know that?”
Christopher shrugged. “I guess I’m just the smartest person there is—except for Dad.”
“Oh, Christopher.” Mom was using her worried voice. “That kind of attitude will get you in trouble. I’m glad you do well in school. You are very blessed, but that doesn’t mean you’re better than anyone else.” She stopped talking, seeing that he wasn’t really paying attention.
Christopher was thinking about Saturday’s game. He imagined himself powering past the other team, scoring goal after goal. He could almost hear the crowd cheering him on to victory.
Saturday morning, Christopher got up early and dressed in his soccer uniform—shin guards and all. The game was at 11:00, and he wanted to be ready. At 10:30 he was sitting in the car, water bottle in hand, wishing Mom and Dad would hurry.
“There’s my coach!” Christopher shouted as they neared the school yard. The grassy playground was divided into six small soccer fields. Christopher ran ahead to join his teammates as they took turns kicking the ball into the net. The excitement level was high.
The referee called the two teams to the center of the field for the coin toss. Christopher looked at the player across from him and was surprised to see Tony. “Hi, Tony!” he said. “I didn’t know you played soccer.”
“Oh, hi, Chris,” Tony answered, equally surprised.
Tony’s team won the coin toss and chose to kick off. Christopher was surprised to see Tony lining up to kick the ball. A team’s best player usually did that. At the signal, Tony nudged the ball gently, and one of his teammates kicked it back to him. Then Tony took over, dribbling the ball down the field and blasting a shot into the net. Christopher’s team tried to stop him but couldn’t. Just that fast, the score was one to nothing!
Christopher was amazed. Tony was the best soccer player he’d ever seen!
Now Christopher’s team got to kick off. Taylor, the best player on the team, ran and kicked the ball with all his might. Christopher ran along with Taylor, surprised at how different a game was from practice. In practice you could take your time, plan your passes, and move steadily down the field. In a game everything happened quickly. There was no time to stop and think. Christopher stayed with the mass of players kicking the ball back and forth, and managed a few good kicks. When the referee signaled the end of the first half, the score was five to one. Christopher’s team was losing.
Tony continued his stunning performance in the second half. Christopher did pretty well. He almost scored a goal, but the ball bounced off the goalpost. The final score was eight to two.
The two teams lined up to give each other high fives. Christopher stopped when he reached Tony. “Congratulations!” he said.
“You’re an awesome player. Where did you learn to play like that?”
“From my dad. He’s the greatest soccer player ever. He plays with me every night.”
“I wish I was as good as you,” Christopher said. “You scored more goals than my whole team!”
Tony smiled. He held his head high as they left the field.
Christopher was quiet on the ride home.
“What are you thinking about, Son?” Dad asked.
“About Tony,” Christopher answered. “He’s in my class at school, and he can’t answer math questions very well. I always thought he was, well, sort of dumb. But he plays soccer way better than I do, and I’m the smartest one in my class. How can that be?”
“Everyone is different, Chris,” Dad began. “We all have different talents. What’s important to remember is that we should always do our best. You may never be as good at soccer as Tony is, and he may never be as good at math as you are. But if you both try hard and do the best you can, both of your parents will be proud of you. We’re Heavenly Father’s children, and He doesn’t demand that we all be math whizzes or score ten goals. He only asks that we do the very best we can with the talents He’s given us.”
Christopher thought for a moment. “But what if our best isn’t good enough?”
“That’s the point, Son,” Dad explained. “Our best is always good enough.”
“Joy cometh in the morning when personal talents are developed. Each of us is blessed with different potential. I don’t think I could get up early enough to become a portrait painter. But I have appreciated teachings since my earliest childhood from parents who knew the joy that good music brings.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
From an October 1986 general conference address.