“Today we’re going to start raising butterflies,” our den mother, Sister Sills, said.
“Butterflies!” whooped my brother, Danny. He jumped up and ran in a big circle, waving his arms as if they were wings.
“Danny,” I hissed. “Sit.”
Danny stopped and looked around. Everybody else was sitting down, so Danny sat down, too. But he kept flapping his arms.
Sometimes it’s really embarrassing to have Danny for a brother. He’s actually two years older than me, but he was born with Down’s syndrome, so he doesn’t do everything at the same age as everyone else. Danny just waits until he’s ready. That’s why he’s in my Cub Scout den.
I love him, and I try to help him, but sometimes I get mad because he’s so slow at everything. Danny never complains when I do things without him, but he looks sad. I don’t like him to be sad, so I try to be patient with him.
Sister Sills explained how we were going to raise our butterflies. Then we made butterfly houses—shoe boxes with plastic windows and air holes. We also filled clear plastic cups with chopped green leaves that Sister Sills called “caterpillar food.” We called it “green goo.”
The caterpillars were so small that Sister Sills used a paintbrush to put them into our cups. We put a lid with air holes on the cups.
“That’s a butterfly?” Danny asked.
“It will turn into a butterfly, Danny,” Sister Sills told him. “Then it will fly.”
“Wow!” Danny exclaimed.
We each took two caterpillars home. Those little things ate and ate. We had to add more chopped leaves. I couldn’t believe how fast they grew. Finally they hung upside down from the lids of their cups and shed their fuzzy skins. It was like watching someone wriggle out of a very tight snowsuit. Underneath was a smooth, green chrysalis (a covering that shelters the caterpillar while it turns into a butterfly).
We moved the lids with the chrysalises attached to them to our butterfly houses and waited and waited for nearly two weeks. Danny was the first one to notice when something happened. “I got a butterfly!” he squealed. Then he ran around the room flapping his arms. This time, I just let him.
During the next day, all four butterflies emerged. We watched them exercise their new wings, and we fed them sugar water sprinkled on flowers for three days. Then we took them outside to set them free.
At first, the butterflies didn’t know what to think of the sunshine and the wind. Then one took off, and then another and another. We watched them flutter around our yard until they were out of sight.
When we looked back down, there was still one butterfly left. I gently picked him up on my finger. “Fly,” I ordered. But the butterfly stayed perched right where he was.
“I don’t think he can fly,” Dad said, looking closely. “He’s missing part of his wing.”
Mom bent down to look. “He has only four legs,” she said. “He’s supposed to have six.”
“So what do we do now?” I asked.
“I think we’d better keep him,” Dad said. “He’ll get eaten by a bird or something if we leave him out here. He probably won’t live very long, anyway.”
“I’ll take care of him,” Danny said.
I wasn’t sure about that. Sometimes Danny breaks things because he has a hard time being careful. I didn’t think he could take care of something as tiny as a butterfly without squishing it. But Dad said, “Let him try.”
Every day, Danny fed the butterfly. And every day he took it out for a walk. “Butterflies don’t need walks,” I said.
“My butterfly does,” Danny said. “He needs to learn to fly. Sister Sills said so.”
“That butterfly is never going to learn to fly. He’s missing half a wing,” I pointed out.
“It’s OK,” Danny said. “He’s trying.”
That’s what Danny always said when the poor butterfly waved its wings. I couldn’t believe how patient and gentle he was. Every day he took the butterfly outside on his finger to exercise its wings. Sometimes it stepped out onto a flower to eat.
Then one day, in a puff of wind, the butterfly flew off Danny’s finger and circled the apple tree twice before landing in the grass. There it fluttered helplessly until Danny picked it up. But as soon as he did, it spread its wings and tried again.
“He flew!” Danny exclaimed. “He flew! He tried and tried, and he flew!” I’d never seen Danny so excited.
Danny took the butterfly outside to fly every day until it got old and its wings lost so many scales that you could see right through them. Finally it died. Dad helped Danny bury it. I was afraid Danny would be really upset, but he wasn’t. He was smiling. “Heavenly Father will give my butterfly new, strong wings,” he said, “because he tried!”
I still get impatient sometimes when Danny is slow or he forgets how to behave or he does something really silly. But when I do, I remember how kind Danny was to that poor butterfly and I say to myself, “It’s OK—he’s trying.” I figure if I work really hard, I can be as patient and kind as Danny.
“One who is kind is … gentle with others. He is considerate of others’ feelings and … has a helpful nature . … Kindness is extended to all—to the aged and the young, to animals . …
“We become more Christlike as we are more … kind, more patient.”
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994)
From an October 1986 general conference address.