On Monday morning, Jonathan sat between Rob and Braden as the bus bumped along toward school. His friends were being really funny that morning, and Jonathan was laughing so hard that his sides ached.
Suddenly Rob joked about something that wasn’t very nice. Braden broke into hysterics and answered with another joke that was even worse. Then he threw in some bad language.
Jonathan squirmed. The bad language and jokes were happening a lot lately. He glanced at Sara, who was sitting across the aisle. She was the only other member of the Church in sixth grade. She looked back at him, her bright brown eyes wide. Jonathan looked away. Sara probably thought he talked that way, too. He looked up and saw the bus driver staring directly at him in the rearview mirror. She shook her head and mouthed the word no.
Jonathan looked down. His stomach churned like it did when he was about to throw up.
The bus pulled into the school yard, and children started to pile out. Jonathan was thankful for the fresh air that rushed in. As they stood in the aisle, Braden pushed from behind and laughed. Usually Jonathan would have pushed back or poked Rob in front of him. But not today. He didn’t feel like laughing or pushing. When he and his friends got to the front of the bus, the driver frowned and pointed for them to sit down.
“Busted!” one boy said as he walked past.
After everyone else got off, the bus driver set the air brakes with a loud spisshhh and turned around. No one said anything funny. No one laughed.
“I didn’t care for the way you were talking,” the bus driver said. “Would you talk that way in front of your mothers?”
The boys squirmed. None of them answered.
By the time the bus driver let them go, they had missed most of the free time before school.
“I hope she doesn’t call my mom,” Rob said.
“I don’t care if she calls mine,” Braden said. “My mom doesn’t care.”
Jonathan thought about his mom. What if she heard the way his friends talked? She would feel so sad. What if she thought he talked that way, too? He shuddered. It was bad enough that Sara and the bus driver thought so.
Jonathan sighed as he walked into his classroom. What a rotten way to start the day.
After math, Mr. Price said, “Everyone take out a piece of blank paper and fold it four times. We are going to make some new friends.” Jonathan knew what that meant. They were going to learn new vocabulary words. He folded and unfolded his paper and got ready to write a new word on each of the sixteen little squares. Then they would play bingo with the new words. He liked his teacher’s way of introducing new words by playing fun games with them. Mr. Price said that each time you learned a new word, it was like making a new friend.
A new friend! An idea began to grow in Jonathan’s head. As the class practiced their new words, the idea grew stronger. He would make a new best friend who liked good words and didn’t use bad words. But who?
At lunchtime Jonathan looked around. There were a lot of kids in his school. Surely he could find one new friend. He looked at a table where a bunch of kids from his sixth-grade band class sat. Most of them liked bad jokes, though. That wouldn’t help.
He looked across the cafeteria at some kids from another classroom. They were really nice guys, and he’d never heard any of them use bad language. But every seat at their table was taken. No one there would be looking for a new friend.
Finally he saw Sara sitting with her friends. She did not use bad words, and neither did her friends. But he couldn’t sit with them. They were all girls.
Sara stood up and carried her empty tray toward the kitchen. Jonathan stopped her. “Hey, that wasn’t me swearing on the bus.”
“I didn’t think it was,” Sara said. “But I wondered.”
“Well, I just want you to know I don’t talk like that. Actually, I’m looking for a new best friend who doesn’t talk like that either. Rob and Braden are still my friends, but when I’m with them I get blamed for what they say.”
“Who is your new best friend going to be?”
Jonathan looked around the cafeteria. Kids were everywhere—eating, talking, and laughing. “I don’t know,” he said.
That night he sat on the side of his bed and told Mom about his problem. As he talked, another good idea came into his head. “Heavenly Father knows who my new best friend is,” he said. “I’ll ask Him.”
Jonathan knelt by his bed and said his prayers, talking to Heavenly Father about his problem just like he had talked to his mom. Every night that week he asked Heavenly Father if there was a nice boy in sixth grade who could be his new best friend. Each day at school he searched and wondered who it could be. It seemed as if everyone had all the friends they needed.
On Monday after math, Mr. Price said, “Everyone get ready to make some new friends.” He wrote ten words on the board and gave several definitions for each word. “Choose someone in the class to discuss the words with,” he said. “You must each use every word in five different sentences. The first team to use all ten words is the winner.”
Rob picked Braden, and they started talking really fast, intent on winning the prize. Jonathan looked around. He had no idea who to pick. He noticed that a boy named Dale was looking around also. The two had never really spoken, but they both needed a partner, so they smiled and sat down together.
“The first word is keen,” Jonathan said. “My hockey skates are very keen.”
“So are mine,” Dale replied, “but I’m not too keen on the gash I got from another player’s skate after I fell on the ice.”
“I didn’t know you played hockey,” Jonathan said. “I’m guessing that someone was keen to get to the puck ahead of you.”
Dale nodded. “You obviously have a keen mind. It was a keen battle, but my team won.” He held up a bandaged left hand. “But the wind was keen that night, and my hand ached all the way home from the rink.”
Jonathan laughed out loud. This was fun. Then he realized that he had never heard Dale use a bad word.
“Your story has given me keen pleasure,” he said.
Dale gave him the kind of smile a friend gives a friend. “That’s keen,” he said. “Really keen.”
Rob and Braden finished first and won the contest, but Jonathan knew that he had won something much better.
[Be a Friend]
“At no time will we be more Christlike than when we are a friend.” Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, “Friendship: A Gospel Principle,” Ensign, May 1999, 65.